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Pac-12 writer predicts tough season for ASU Sun Devils

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham reacts during the first half of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Up until last season, head coach Todd Graham’s tenure at Arizona State had a consistent theme.

That theme was growth.

In each of his first three seasons in Tempe, Graham’s Sun Devils improved on their record from the previous season, going 8-5 in 2012, 10-4 in 2013 and 10-3 in 2014.

The 2015 campaign was a lot more bumpy. ASU went 6-7 and lost to West Virginia in the Cactus Bowl to cap its first losing season since 2011, which was Dennis Erickson’s final year as head coach.

San Jose Mercury News Pac-12 writer Jon Wilner thinks 2016 will be even more rough for Arizona State.

In an article predicting the game-by-game results for Arizona State this season, Wilner projects a 3-9 finish, with only one of those wins coming in Pac-12 play.

While recent history suggests Colorado will occupy the bottom, I see no reason to believe Arizona State, which went 6-7 last season, is ready for a turnaround.

Quite the opposite, in fact: Teams on downward trajectories with rookie quarterbacks and rebuilt offensive lines are always candidates for cratering.

Wilner projects the Devils to win their opener against FCS in-state foe Northern Arizona, but also believes they’ll lose their Week 2 home game against Texas Tech before rebounding on the road against UTSA to close out their non-conference schedule.

Most Sun Devil fans feel, at least right now, pretty confident about the Pac-12 opener against Cal in Tempe on Sept. 24. After all, the Golden Bears are facing life after record-setting quarterback Jared Goff and are thin at wide receiver. Wilner thinks otherwise, predicting a Cal victory.

“The game that makes it clear it will be a long year for the Sun Devils,” he writes.

In fact, he’s got the Sun Devils losing the next two conference games as well — Oct. 1 at USC and Oct. 8 against UCLA before rebounding for a Pac-12 win against perennial South doormat Colorado.

Then, according to the writer, it’s life in the loss column the rest of the way. He projects defeats coming at home to Washington State, on the road at Oregon, Utah (although Wilner incorrectly has this game listed as a road defeat — it will be played in Tempe), Washington and Arizona.

“Home team has won the past three Territorial Cups. Make it four. Devils AD Ray Anderson declines to comment on Graham’s job security,” Wilner writes on ASU’s last game against arch rival Arizona.

Should Wilner’s projections prove to be prophetic, ASU would suffer its worst season since going 3-8 under Bruce Snyder in 1994.

The Sun Devils will have their first chance to silence critics like Wilner when they host NAU Sept. 3 at Sun Devil Stadium.

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