ARIZONA STATE FOOTBALL

ESPN’s Schlabach predicts Arizona State to fall flat of breakout expectations

Sep 4, 2021, 1:26 PM
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)...
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach thinks the NCAA investigation into Arizona State could give the Sun Devils more than they can handle.

Before ASU’s 41-14 season-opening win against the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Thursday, Schlabach projected the complete order of finish and gave three bold predictions for each Power Five conference, including the Pac-12.

One of his bold predictions is that the Sun Devils will not be able to live up to their expectations this year, mainly because of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into the program.

Arizona State has been a popular choice to be the league’s breakout team in 2021, but it’s difficult to imagine that actually happening with a looming NCAA investigation into alleged recruiting violations hanging over the program. Three of the team’s top recruiters — defensive backs coach Chris Hawkins, wide receivers coach Prentice Gill and tight ends coach Adam Breneman — are on administrative leave. Edwards compared the situation to his inability to hit curveballs as a kid. This time, it must feel like Sandy Koufax is throwing them.

Schlabach predicted Arizona State to finish in a tie for third place with UCLA in the Pac-12 South. Both teams are predicted to finish the season at 8-4 with a 5-4 record in Pac-12 play.

USC and Utah are both slated to finish 7-2 in Pac-12 play, according to Schlabach. USC’s projected record of 10-2 puts the Trojans atop the Pac-12 South division over Utah’s predicted 9-3 overall record.

Arizona, meanwhile, is projected to finish last in the division with just a 2-10 overall record and only one projected win in Pac-12 play.

Schlabach predicted USC quarterback Kedon Slovis to be the Pac-12’s offensive player of the year.

Despite his prediction on ASU, he likes the top of the Pac-12 as a whole. He even mentioned the Sun Devils as candidates to represent the conference’s possible return to the College Football Playoff.

Pac-12 football, which seemed to be on life support at times the past few years, finally gets a much-needed jolt this season. Any one of five Pac-12 teams — Arizona State, Oregon, USC, Utah or Washington — will catch lightning in a bottle, finish 12-1 and be the No. 4 seed, after a few of the CFP favorites lose a couple of times.

The Pac-12 has missed the College Football Playoff in each of the last four seasons. The conference’s last appearance was in 2016 when Washington lost 24-7 against Alabama in the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

Schlabach predicted Oregon to win the Pac-12 championship. However, he did not predict the Ducks to finish with one loss, instead projecting a 10-2 regular season record.

Penguin Air

Arizona State Football

Michael Matus #91 of the Arizona State Sun Devils looks on before the game against the Washington H...
Jake Anderson

ASU football senior DE Michael Matus out for season due to knee injury

Arizona State Sun Devils DE Michael Matus will miss the entire 2022 season due to a knee injury, head coach Herm Edwards announced on Monday.
18 hours ago
Utah quarterback Cameron Rising warms ups before the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against O...
Associated Press

AP college football rankings: Utah Utes lead Pac-12 in preseason poll

The Pac-12 favorite Utah Utes came in at No. 7 in The Associated Press preseason college football rankings released Monday.
18 hours ago
Offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson #77 of the Arizona State Sun Devils reacts as he runs on to th...
Arizona Sports

ASU’s LaDarius Henderson named to Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award watch list

ASU offensive lineman LaDarius Henderson was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award preseason watch list ahead of the 2022 season.
2 days ago
Quarterback Graham Mertz #5 of the Wisconsin Badgers is sacked by defensive linemen Joe Moore #58 a...
Jake Anderson

D-line has to be ‘catalyst’ if ASU wants to repeat as best defense in Pac-12

The D-line will have to be the "catalyst" for ASU if it hopes to be the best defense in the Pac-12 for a second consecutive year.
2 days ago
Colorado running back Alex Fontenot runs away from Arizona State linebacker Merlin Robertson (8) in...
Arizona Sports

ESPN picks ASU’s, Arizona’s best 2023 NFL Draft prospects

Arizona and Arizona State are on different trajectories heading into the 2022 season, but both teams have potential NFL prospects.
4 days ago
Arizona State Sun Devils tight end Messiah Swinson catches a ball during ASU fall camp practice in ...
Jake Anderson

Arizona State’s offense starting to click, TE Messiah Swinson an X-factor

ASU's offense is finally starting to click as the team completes its second week of fall camp, including the first practice in full pads.
4 days ago
ESPN’s Schlabach predicts Arizona State to fall flat of breakout expectations