Pac-12 South title or bust? Breaking down ASU’s 2021 football schedule
The Pac-12 released its 2021 football schedules Tuesday morning, giving us an idea of what lies ahead for each team.
For head coach Herm Edwards and his Arizona State Sun Devils, the 2021 campaign will feature two home non-conference games, a road clash with BYU and nine conference games against familiar foes.
The Sun Devils host the likes of Colorado, Stanford, Washington State and Arizona in conference play, with road games against UCLA, Utah, Washington and Oregon State.
Perhaps the biggest break for ASU lies in who they won’t play in 2021. It avoids facing an Oregon Ducks team that is likely to be ranked heading into the season.
Here’s a full breakdown of ASU’s 2021 football schedule:
The Sun Devils begin the year with a Thursday showdown against FCS opponent, Southern Utah.
The two teams meet at Sun Devil Stadium on Sept. 2, facing off against each other for the first time.
The Thunderbirds lost the first outing of their six-game spring FCS season. They went 3-9 in 2019.
ASU hosts UNLV nine days later, with the two programs meeting for the second time in school history.
Facing off in 2008, UNLV beat the then-15th ranked Sun Devils, 23-20, in Tempe.
The Sun Devils wrap up non-conference play in Provo, Utah, against BYU on Sept. 18, meeting the Cougars for the 28th time.
The clash between ASU and the Cougars is the first meeting between the schools since 1998, when the then-14th ranked Sun Devils lost 26-6.
Opening Pac-12 stretch
ASU starts conference play with a quartet of games in succession before its lone bye week of the year.
That stretch includes the team’s conference home opener against Colorado on Sept. 25, followed by a road game at the Rose Bowl against UCLA on Oct. 2.
The Sun Devils have fared well against the Buffaloes since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011, going 6-3 against them during that timespan.
Their success against the Bruins has not been as fortunate, with the Sun Devils losing three of their last four games against UCLA.
From there, ASU faces off against Stanford in Tempe on Friday, Oct. 8, then travels to Salt Lake City to play Utah on Oct. 16.
The Sun Devils have lost six of their last seven contests against Stanford. ASU’s lone win during that timeframe came in 2014, when the then-No. 17 ranked Sun Devils beat the then-No. 23 ranked Cardinal, 26-10, in Tempe.
ASU has gone 6-3 against Utah since the Utes joined the Pac-12 in 2011, with two of those losses coming at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Sun Devils have had the Cougars’ number of-late, beating Washington State in five of their last seven matchups, including a 38-34 victory in Tempe when the two sides last met in 2019.
Grueling final stretch
From there, the Sun Devils enter what will likely be their toughest slate of games, starting with a home contest against USC.
ASU has struggled against USC, losing five of its last six against the Trojans dating back to 2015.
The two sides met in the opening contest of the COVID-19 shortened 2020 regular season, with USC coming from behind to beat the Sun Devils, 28-27, in Los Angeles.
The Sun Devils last beat USC, 38-35, in 2018 when wideout N’Keal Harry took a Trojans punt 92 yards for what turned out to be the game-winning score.
The road to a Pac-12 South title for the Sun Devils likely rests with their ability to beat the Trojans.
USC features Heisman Trophy candidate and former Desert Mountain quarterback Kedon Slovis, in addition to the No. 1 recruit in 247 Sports’ database for the 2021 recruiting class, defensive lineman Korey Foreman.
From there, the Sun Devils will head to Seattle to play a Washington Huskies squad that has been tabbed as the favorite to win the Pac-12 North by the likes of The Athletic and Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News.
The Sun Devils have gone 5-2 against the Huskies since 2010, with both loses coming inside Husky Stadium in 2016 and 2018.
The Huskies, like the Trojans, also feature an experienced quarterback, with Dylan Morris coming off a freshman campaign where he threw for 224 yards per game and four touchdowns.
Morris will likely be joined in the backfield by junior running back Richard Newton, who showed what he could do in limited action in 2020, averaging 5.3 yards per carry for the Huskies.
From there, it’ll be deja vu all over again come Nov. 20 when ASU faces Oregon State in Corvallis for the third-straight year.
The Sun Devils have split the team’s two games against the Beavers inside Reser Stadium, beating OSU 46-33 in 2020, while falling by a 35-34 score in 2019.
The 2021 season comes to an end with a home showdown against the Sun Devils’ rivals to the south.
First-year Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch will look to get the Wildcats back into the win column against the Sun Devils, a year after the Wildcats were shellacked 70-7 by Edwards’ team.
ASU has now won four consecutive contests against Arizona, and eight of the teams’ last 11 games in total.