The Arizona State University Sun Devils enter the 2018 college football season with the most unique coaching situation at the collegiate level. Herm Edwards has left his job with ESPN as an NFL Analyst to take over sideline duties for the Sun Devils.
Herm Edwards only coaching or coordinator experience came with the New York Jets from 2001-2005 and the Kansas City Chiefs 2006-2008. He went to the playoffs four times in eight years, which is quite respectable. However, in the four seasons he missed the playoffs he combined for 16 wins (4 wins per season).
On a mission to change the team culture, Herm has already threatened scholarship athletes they would be cut from the team, installed predawn workouts, and according to reports kept players out of the training room with fake injuries. Needless to say, it will be interesting to follow ASU football.
Herm attempted to retain ASU’s offensive staff, but the previous Offensive Coordinator left for a head coaching position at Louisiana Lafayette. Since Herm played Cornerback in the NFL for ten seasons, offense will be the area he needs the most assistance. The Offensive Coordinator is currently Rob Likens who has held six previous Offensive Coordinator positions.
Before ASU, Likens was orchestrating the Cal Berkeley Golden Bears offense with Jared Goff. In 2014 as a first year Offensive Coordinator the Bears set single season school records for passing yardage, completions, and attempts (thesundevil.com). However, after his success at Cal Berkeley, Likens failed as the Offensive Coordinator at Kansas University.
Herm Edwards is surely going to have a strong influence on the defense design. However, for some additional help Herm hired one of the most exciting candidates in College Football in Danny Gonzales. Last year in his first year as a Defensive Coordinator at San Diego State, Danny helped the defense finish 11th in the country in total defense at 303.5 yards per game.
With new coaching changes, expectations have been tempered for a surprising six game winner last year. The Arizona State Sun Devils win total is currently set at five with a vig of -125 for the over and -105 at 5Dimes. Keeping in line with the win total, the futures prices for Pac 12 Conference winners is +3300 and National Champs at +150000.
|9/15||@ San Diego State||+16|
The Offense will be led by Manny Wilkins playing Quarterback. The exciting Redshirt Junior finished 22nd in the nation in Passing Yards and completed 63.4% of his throws for 20 TD’s to 8 INT’s. Manny has the honor of throwing to one of the best wide receiving corps in the nation.
N’Keal Harry will be a player to watch all year after finishing with 1142 YDS and 8TD’s. Having continuity with the Quarterback and his Wide Receivers is crucial in helping the transition of the new coaching staff.
Nearly all other offensive skill players are returning with the exception of Running Back Kalen Ballage who was drafted and Demario Richard (graduation). Last year these two combined for 1,696 rushing yards. Eno Benjamin is the only other player to receive carries, but as a four star recruit he may be ready for the job in his Sophomore campaign.
Arizona State salvaged last season in large part because of a two game stretch of defensive dominance. After their bye in week six the Sun Devils beat Washington and Utah in back to back weeks. Both teams combined to score 17 total points and it felt as though the defense was legit. However, one week later USC came in to town and delivered a 48 point haymaker.
Maybe it is a good thing the Sun Devils are only returning six starters on the defensive side of the ball. Inconsistent defense has been the downfall of the Sun Devils for a long term now having not ranked in the S&P+ top forty in the last eight years. While the Linebackers and Defensive Lineman will be mostly new faces, the Cornerbacks and Safeties bring experience to an unproven unit. Chase Lucas returns after breaking up 10 passes as a freshmen, and Senior Safety Demonte King will look to stay healthy after only playing six games last year.
It is hard to know what to expect out of this team defensively. Logic says that Herm Edwards and Danny Gonzales should be able to have this team in condition and giving high effort. However, in a strong Pac 12 that may not be enough to win more than 5 out of the teams 12 regular season games.
The schedule begins easy with Michigan State and Washington being the two toughest of the first six they play. However, after the Bye week, Arizona State has to play Stanford, USC, Utah, and then finishes on the road at Oregon and Arizona. That is one of the toughest second half schedules in the conference.
My Pick: Over 5 (-125)
I like the situation Herm Edwards is walking into. He made a smart hire in Defensive Coordinator Danny Gonzales and he has a QB starting for his third straight year. Any play on this win total will be a season long sweat. The win total may not be reached until the end of the season, but the first six games decide everything for ASU.
If they can start strong and take three or four of their first six games, then it will be a matter of catching one or two upsets during the rest of the season. After winning six games and a bowl game last year, the win total tells me they slightly over performed last year and the market is down on Herm Edwards as the coach. The counter to that is continuity out of the offense, and Defensive Coordinator Danny Gonzales continuing his success.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
Arizona State enters the 2017 season trying to rebound after going just 5-7 last season, including 2-7 in the Pac-12. It was the first time in five seasons that the Sun Devils missed out on going to a bowl game under Todd Graham. There have been some changes at ASU, as there will be a new offensive coordinator and a new defensive coordinator. The win total for Arizona State for 2017 has been set at five wins at 5Dimes Sportsbook. Let’s see which way we should go in betting the Sun Devils for 2017.
2017 Arizona State Sun Devils Win Total
5 under -125
2017 Arizona State Sun Devils Schedule
Aug. 31 New Mexico State
Sept. 9 San Diego State
Sept. 16 at Texas Tech
Sept. 23 Oregon
Sept. 30 at Stanford
Oct. 14 Washington
Oct. 21 at Utah
Oct. 28 USC
Nov. 4 Colorado
Nov. 11 at UCLA
Nov. 18 at Oregon State
Nov. 25 Arizona
The Sun Devils under head coach Todd Graham are thought of as a high scoring team and that was the case last year as they scored just over 33 points per game. This year’s team will look different, as ASU has a new coordinator in Billy Napier who was Alabama’s wide receivers coach. Napier is expected to go with more of a pro-style offense with the quarterback under center.
The returning starter at quarterback is Manny Wilkins but it could be that Alabama transfer Blake Barnett is better suited to the new offense. The Sun Devils have plenty of talent in the backfield led by running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage. They also have sophomore wide receiver N’Keal Harry who set the school record for receptions by a freshman last season. He should get support from John Humphrey and Kyle Williams.
The offensive line returns plenty of starters but whether that is good news or not is questionable, as the line wasn’t that good last year. Quinn Bailey is a good run blocker but doesn’t pass block well. Cohl Cabral has size but limited experience.
Graham has run his defense for the last 11 seasons but he is turning over the coordinator job in 2017 to Phil Bennett who was the defensive coordinator with Baylor last season. ASU was awful last season with Graham as the coordinator, so perhaps Bennett can change things up. The problem for Bennett is that there are no five star recruits come in to help on defense. The only returning starter in the secondary is Marcus Ball. Armand Perry retired in the off-season and top corner Kareem Orr transferred. The linebackers are decent with Christian Sam, D.J. Calhoun and Koron Crump. The front features senior tackle Tashon Smallwood and Junior end JoJo Wicker.
The Sun Devils have major problems in the kicking game, as they have to replace Lou Groza Award winner Zane Gonzalez. The Sun Devils are expected to go with freshman Brandon Ruiz. The Sun Devils will have a new punter, as Australian Michael Sleep-Dalton gets the job.
Graham is suddenly feeling some heat after a five win season a year ago. He has done a nice job with ASU but boosters get restless fast and another losing season for the Sun Devils could put Graham on the hot seat.
2017 Arizona State Sun Devils Win Total Prediction
The Sun Devils have major questions on both sides of the ball so getting to six wins to go over the total is going to be difficult. Let’s look at the schedule to see how many games they are likely to win.
The Sun Devils should win against New Mexico State and they probably will beat San Diego State. Those are the only two games I see as likely wins. They will likely lose games against Oregon, Stanford, Washington, Utah, USC and UCLA. The toss-up games are the ones against Texas Tech, Colorado, Oregon State and Arizona.
The Sun Devils look to be a four or five win team in 2017. For them to get to five wins, which would be a push, they have to win three of their four toss-up games. It is definitely possible, but not a given. I think the game against Texas Tech is huge, as they can’t afford to lose that game and get to six wins. And don’t forget that we are making the assumption that ASU will win the home games against New Mexico State and San Diego State and last year they split the games against the Aggies and Aztecs.
I think the total of 5 is right on the number for ASU but if I had to lean one way or the other I would go under the total.