Power rankings mirror Pac-12 media’s expectations for ASU, Arizona
Low preseason expectations for the Arizona State football team aren’t limited to members of the Pac-12 media.
A scan of preseason conference power rankings and standings projections for the 2018 season also puts the bar low for the Sun Devils under first-year coach Herm Edwards.
This, after ASU was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South by the conference’s media.
Meanwhile, a bit more is expected out of Kevin Sumlin’s Arizona Wildcats. They were selected by Pac-12 scribes and reporters to finish third in the division.
Here are a few takes regarding where each team is projected to finish in the conference that includes a total of five new head coaches.
Arizona — 5th in Pac-12
It should be exciting to watch Kevin Sumlin work his quarterback magic with the incredibly elusive Khalil Tate, who was fifth in the conference with 1,411 rushing yards last season. Sumlin, who will keep Tate’s legs moving, will be tasked with getting more out of his quarterback’s right arm. Arizona’s new coaching staff benefits from 17 returning starters, including nine on a defense that is poised to be one of the most improved in the conference.
Arizona State — 11th in Pac-12
No one really knows what to expect from ASU’s marriage with Herm Edwards. He hasn’t coached in nine years and has no collegiate head-coaching experience. It’s also an uphill climb with the lack of overall talent on this roster. Manny Wilkins is back at quarterback, as is one of the nation’s best receivers in N’Keal Harry. Danny Gonzales is one of the best young defensive minds, but it’ll take a while for him to fully run his tricky 3-3-5 scheme.
Arizona — 6th in Pac-12
It’s intriguing to consider the fit between new coach Kevin Sumlin and quarterback Khalil Tate, who stands just behind Love among the league’s Heisman contenders. Sumlin has used a wide-open offense before; that suggests the relationship will be a fruitful one. Yet there are still holes on this roster that Sumlin must address on the recruiting trail. In addition, question marks abound on a defense that must get out of the bottom third of the Pac-12.
Arizona State — 10th in Pac-12
Are you excited? I am. And you should be, too. If nothing else, Herm Edwards’ tenure promises to be interesting. That’s good enough. Whether ASU can be a factor in the South is another matter. While the personnel is strong in spots, particularly at receiver, the Sun Devils remain one of nation’s great enigmas due to Edwards’ inexperience on the college level.
Arizona — 3rd in Pac-12 South
Khalil Tate burst on the scene last year and was electrifying. Teams seemed to catch on at the end of the year, however, as the Wildcats went just 1-4 over their final five games. Arizona has 16 returning starters and coach Kevin Sumlin knows how to utilize an exciting quarterback (Johnny Manziel won Heisman under Sumlin at Texas A&M). The Wildcats are the only original Pac-10 team that has not been to the Rose Bowl, but with a wide-open Pac-12 South, Arizona has the tools to make a run at it in 2018.
Arizona State — 5th in Pac-12 South
Herm Edwards will make things interesting in the desert. The cupboard is not bare as Arizona State is No. 40 on my experience chart and the offense returns quarterback Manny Wilkins, wide receiver N’Keal Harry and a veteran offensive line. Arizona State does draw the top three teams out of the Pac-12 North and my seventh-toughest schedule overall. Not many expected a bowl last year and Herm always “plays to win the game!”
Arizona — 6th in Pac-12 (Tier 2 of 4)
(Editor’s note: On Tier 2) Also known as the three teams that will challenge USC in the South. Utah’s easily got the highest floor of the three, but Arizona’s got Khalil Tate, and UCLA’s got Chip Kelly and remnants from plenty of strong recruiting classes. They’ve therefore got higher upside. All three of these teams have top-25 potential, and I figure one will reach it.
Arizona State — 11th in Pac-12 (Tier 3 of 4)