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.

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