Sunday, February 14, 2016

2015 Look Back/2016 Look Ahead: Arizona State

Arizona State Sun Devils
2015 Record: 6-7 (4-5 PAC-12 South)
Bowl: Cactus Bowl, Lost to West Virginia 43-42

What Went Right: Offense has never been a problem under Todd Graham at ASU, as the Sun Devils scored 34.6 points per game. ASU picked up 305 1st downs, compared to 271 that they gave up, and averaged 4.33 yards per carry in the run game. The passing game flourished on TD/INT ratio, as they tossed 30 TDs on the season to 9 picks. The punting game was strong, averaging 42.77 yards per try, 
One also needs to take these numbers with somewhat of a grain of salt. In an age where Sirius College Sports Nation personalities try to sell us on teams like Oklahoma State playing great defense (they don't), offensive numbers are bloated like a corpse being dragged out of a river. Offenses like we see today were a blip on the radar 20 to 30 years ago, and were limited to leagues like the old WAC, where defense was a mere suggestion in the days of Steve Young at BYU. 
What Went Wrong: Lack of defense was ultimately the downfall of the 2015 Arizona State season, as they gave up 30 or more points 8 times, including 43 to West Virginia in a one point bowl loss. You simply should never have to score 40 points per game just to secure a win, and that was largely a major issue in Tempe. ASU did come up with big plays here and there, as evidenced by having 15 picks to just giving up 9 on the season, but these plays were not enough to ensure that they did not give up over 6000 yards in 13 games, a staggering number. Because so many games were incredibly tight, ASU was never able to develop a QB behind senior Mike Bercovici, and therefore enters 2016 without much of a developed option at all. ASU also failed to have a defender eclipse 100 tackles for the year. I do give credit to LBs Salamo Fiso and Antonio Longino, as they were forces off the edge with more than 20 TFLs each, but there wasn't much else going on. 
Top Stars: QB Mike Bercovici, RB Demario Richard, WR Devin Lucien, WR Tim White, P Matt Haack, DB Kareem Orr, LB Salamo Fiso, LB Antonio Longino
Look Ahead: There are problems on the horizon. ASU loses a boatload of productivity on offense, starting at QB, where not one backup got credible playing time last season. They are starting over from nothing. Three of the top four WRs are departing as well, leaving the passing game in a state of flux. The running game could use some depth as well, as only two backs received more than 100 carries on the season, but both return. On Special teams, Haack returns at Punter, which is important, but Zane Gonzalez was a bit of a mess in 2015, hitting on only 76.5% of his tries. 
Defensively, ASU has got to shore themselves up, because if they give up 33.5 points per game once again, they will be no better, and could actually be worse than 6-7. Three of their top five tacklers are gone, and Longino is one of them, leaving Fiso on his own moving forward. If you thought this season was uneven, at best, next season could be a bit of a train wreck if some young players don't step up big.
The good news is that the Devils have a soft non con schedule, with games against Northern Arizona, Texas Tech, and UTSA on the slate. The conference schedule, however, will be unforgiving. 
2016 Prediction: 5-7. No Bowl

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