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For ASU, this cupcake actually meant something

The formalities have been dealt with. Now if you’re an ASU fan, it’s time to get to what we came for.

The Sun Devils trounced an unworthy opponent in Sacramento State, leading to more traffic snarls at halftime than at the end of the game. Typically this is the type of game from which very little can be extracted. It’s like judging the meal by the quality of the bread they serve before you order an appetizer and a drink.

Of course, Taylor Kelly looked great against the Hornets; you’d be panicked if he didn’t. Of course, the defense dominated. You bet Jaelen Strong lived up to his name against weaker competition.

But this time, the cupcake-paycheck game mattered because as far as opening acts go this is all you get if you’re Todd Graham. Next week it’s Wisconsin. Then Stanford. Then USC, followed by Notre Dame. No room for even the slightest whiff of weakness against the Sacramento States of the world. It was the one dress rehearsal before opening night and fortunately for the Sun Devils they nailed it.

It’s a familiar path for these Sun Devils; the minute there is the slightest hint of expectation they shrivel. Just last year, after a 5-1 start, there was faint hope they could hang with Oregon and prove they belonged. Forty-three points allowed in roughly a quarter worth of football demonstrated they didn’t.

But — and I know this has been said before — this year just feels different. There’s a star quality attached to this team that has been absent from this program. Kelly had a better completion percentage, more touchdowns, fewer picks and more yards per attempt than Brock Osweiler did the year prior. Will Sutton has been called the second-best defensive lineman in the country by some. He and Carl Bradford want to break Terrell Suggs’ single-season sack record. Marion Grice continues to rack up the numbers.

It’s hard to remember the last time the Devils had this much talent on their roster.

Thursday’s annihilation wasn’t particularly instructive, but it was necessary. Now it’s time to find out if a season that could be special actually is.