The Arizona State Sun Devils finished 20th in the final AP Top 25 poll, leaving the team that went 10-4 behind Pac-12 foes Oregon, Stanford, UCLA and USC.
Of course, the Sun Devils beat two of those teams head-to-head, which has led some to express frustration over the finish.
However, the 2013 season is now in the past, meaning it’s time to look ahead to 2014. That’s where ESPN’s Mark Schlabach comes in, as he’s produced his Way-Too-Early Top 25 and has the Sun Devils sitting at 22nd.
The Sun Devils went 10-4 and won the Pac-12 South in coach Todd Graham’s second season, but they finished the campaign with disappointing losses to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game and Texas Tech in the National University Holiday Bowl. Quarterback Taylor Kelly is coming back after throwing for 3,635 yards with 28 touchdowns, but the Sun Devils will lose tailback Marion Grice and two starters on the offensive line. The defense will have to fill a lot of holes this coming season, as they’ll lose star defensive tackle Will Sutton, three linebackers and three starting defensive backs. If junior linebacker Carl Bradford decides to enter the NFL draft, ASU will have to replace nine defensive starters in 2014. The Sun Devils will play nonconference games against FCS foe Weber State and Notre Dame at home, along with a road game at New Mexico next season.
The Pac-12 teams ahead of the Devils are Oregon (3), Stanford (4), UCLA (7), USC (14) and Washington (19). Whether or not the Devils deserve to be higher than those teams is certainly up for debate (and after all, isn’t that the point of producing a list like this on Jan. 7?), but regardless it appears the conference is going to be pretty strong once again.