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Better Know a 2017 Opponent: Arizona State

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AKA Revenge of the Rosen

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re getting close to the start of the season, so it’s time for a LIGHTNING ROUND! Here is the tentative schedule:

Today: ASU

Friday: USC

Sunday: UCB

And then we can spend a whole week worrying about Noel Mazzone exposing Tom Bradley’s defense for 3 whole quarters before #justNoelthings happens. Should be fun!

LAST YEAR

Let’s all take a moment and congratulate Todd Graham for managing to stay in one spot for longer than 4 years! Last year was Graham’s 5th year in one spot, which means we can finally retire the “Todd Graham is ready to move jobs” jokes forever.

Of course, the Sun Devils also went 5-7 last year, so Todd probably should have considered polishing the ole resume. Especially since Arizona State neglected to automatically add another year on to his contract........

Wait....

Todd Graham has a clause in his contract that automatically grants him a one-year extension as long as ASU does not find probable cause to fire him? Does Dan Guerrero also work for ASU?

Anyway, last year Arizona State was the team that finally broke Josh Rosen, which I don’t blame ASU for one bit. Everyone and their mother knows ASU’s entire defensive gameplan under Todd Graham has been to blitz every single play, and it’s not their fault that in 5 years a Jim Mora-led squad has failed to understand that simple fact.

THE FANS

I know the joke is that Arizona State is an Arizona student’s safety school and vice versa, but I personally think that joke is unfair to actual safety schools like Cal State Dominguez Hills or UC Berkeley (THIS AIN’T EVEN THEIR PREVIEW AND I’M THROWING SHOTS THEIR WAY). And the one thing this school is supposed to be good at, partying, was usurped from them by UC Santa Barbara. Quick shout out to the gang down in Isla Vista for making UCSB THE place to be every Halloween.

I don’t feel very bad for ASU fans in general. They willingly (and I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt here) chose to go to school in the middle of a desert where the most popular major is Alcohol Studies (which for fun we’ll call Hospitality), and then are shocked when no one takes their degree seriously. It might be a bit better if they just owned the fact that they went to ASU specifically because they loved the student body, if you get my meaning.

Blake Barnett chose to transfer to ASU in part because of the level of fan support. Actually, let me quote his father on this one:

So my first impression for ASU, believe it or not, I was extremely impressed with the fan base. They jingled the keys at kickoff. There was a lot of excitement that I had not seen previously in the Pac-12.

The fact that the Barnett family was impressed by some jingling keys means that Barnett should fit right in at ASU.

Oh, and I guess at some point we should talk about how ASU fans throwing up a sexual hand-signal is the most ASU thing ever.

THE COACHES

You know, I do have to give credit to Todd Graham - he does an incredibly good job of identifying and hiring top-tier coaches. Consider that the Todd Graham coaching tree includes Gus Malzahn (HC at Auburn), Mike Norvell (HC at Memphis), Chad Morris (HC at SMU), and Chip Long (new OC at Notre Dame). Ideally you want to hire coaches that other teams want. Is this a dig at Jim Mora’s track record in this regard? Absolutely.

Of course, much like I questioned Rich Rod’s ability to sustain a program at Arizona, it is now time to question Todd Graham’s similar ability. Unlike Rich Rod, though, Todd Graham has never stayed in one place long enough to provide a track record of sustained success. Just like Rodriguez, Graham really shouldn’t have much difficulty recruiting to ASU; the school really doesn’t have much in the way of “academic standards”, and according to Blake Barnett’s dad has some amazing fan support. So the question becomes why the football program isn’t better?

Here’s a fun fact: Since arriving at ASU, Todd Graham has gotten the top recruit in the state only once. That matches the number of times UCLA got the top recruit in Arizona under Jim Mora. I’m not sure what this says, but probably nothing good.

New to Tempe this year is new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, last seen pretending he didn’t know what happened while he was at Baylor. Seems awfully familiar.

THE PLAYERS

Recent transfer Blake Barnett stated that part of the reason he transferred from Alabama was that Nick Saban had called him “nervous” after the USC game. Seems like a real winner right here. If Barnett wins the starting job, if will be interesting to see if he even lasts long enough to be nervous against USC again. I seriously can’t believe Josh Rosen takes guff from anyone when Blake Barnett exists.

Kalen Ballage is still here to be the entire offense.

ASU’s defense was real bad last year, and there aren’t any talented reinforcements coming in this year. I’m really not sure how UCLA managed to lose this game last year.....wait now I remember CATCH A DAMN BALL AND MAYBE PROTECT ROSEN FOR 2 SECONDS THIS TIME!

FEARLESS PREDICTION

If Josh Rosen makes it to this game (which, considering the previous two games are against Washington and Utah, isn’t a sure thing), expect him to throw for a gazillion yards. Or over 400, either works.

Jedd Fisch becomes the first UCLA offensive coordinator to realize ASU will try to blitz every down.

Todd Graham applies for the newly-vacant Texas A&M job.