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ASU football: Todd Graham & Sun Devils must readjust expectations after UCLA debacle

For more on the Sun Devils, go to House of Sparky.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona State got absolutely hammered by UCLA. What concerned you the most about the performance of the Sun Devils?

Josh Estes: Many Sun Devil fans should step back from the ledge after last night's abysmal performance. ASU had a QB getting his first collegiate start and has a defense littered with true freshman--it's not shocking that UCLA (who finally looked like the team people thought they could be) put up points. Erickson's last few years of recruiting and Graham's first two classes finally caught up with the Sun Devils. The tackling was atrocious, and that is what was most concerning. It's not as if the Devils were not in position to make plays, they just couldn't finish. That's troubling for ASU fans.

Sam Barbee: That defense looked really bad. It's a young unit with lots of room to grow, but it can't get any worse than it was Thursday night. But the special teams didn't look good. The offense struggled, too. Arizona State has a long way to go to get back to where they were last year.

Roy Stenlund: Everything needs work right now for ASU. The defense was porous, the offense turned it over too many times, and the special teams gave up easy points. Not good right now for the Sun Devils.

Trace Travers: The defense got burned like they were at an arson convention. Having three 80 yard plays allowed to the UCLA offense is bad news for the Sun Devils. The offense didn't do any favors in giving the ball up four times, and even special teams gave up a touchdown. Just a bad day in general.

Were there any silver linings that ASU could take away from yesterday's performance? Which players stood out to you in defeat?

Josh Estes: Silver lining -- Mike Bercovici. Yes, he did turn the ball over, but both INT's fall on the shoulder's of the receivers as well. Bercovici showed flashes of a Brett Favre gunslinger mentality and would then follow those with breakdowns. Expected for a QB's first collegiate start against a great defense. If he can be consistent and continue to get comfortable as QB1, he may surprise some people while Kelly is out.

Sam Barbee: My goodness, who else would have the confidence to throw the ball 68 times in a guy's first Pac 12 game. But with Taylor Kelly coming back from injury soon, it's hard to know who will start when the senior comes back. I think it should be Kelly, but Mike Bercovici turned some heads.

Roy Stenlund:  Mike Bercovici and the offense is the silver lining for Arizona State. They rolled up 626 yards of offense. Cut out those turnovers, and you have a close game.


Trace Travers: Mike Bercovici threw some sharp looking passes and moved the offense steadily. 488 yards passing is no small feat unless you're Connor Halliday. His passes had some major zip and he managed to make the right decision more often than not, which bodes well for however long Taylor Kelly is out.


What is your opinion of Todd Graham's performance so far this season? What are the strengths and weaknesses you've seen from him this year?

Josh Estes: People may not like Todd Graham the person or the job-hopping persona perpetuated by the media, but he is a solid coach. I don't think you can judge his, and his staffs, performance based off a quick reaction of last night's game. They made questionable calls, yes...but they also won the Pac-12 South last year. It's still the same staff. I think we will know a lot more about Graham and Co. in the next few weeks, when the Devils try and bounce back from this blow out. It's clear the Devils' defensive scheme is not manufacturing the kind of pressure necessary to be effective, so if Graham and DC Keith Patterson can adjust schematically that would be a good sign moving forward and indicative of them as coaches.

Sam Barbee: The hardest part about winning is expectations. The Sun Devils were pretty good last year and expectations coming into the this season were rather high. I agree with Josh that you can't call him a bum for one bad game, but sometimes these things can snowball and become larger problems. That said, I don't think it will, but they have USC and Stanford in their next two games, so things might get worse before they get better.

Roy Stenlund: Todd Graham has been a very good coach at Arizona State. When he took over after Dennis Erickson the team was an underachieving mess. He turned them into contenders very quickly.

Trace Travers:  He's way better than Dennis Erickson and has cut out the stupid penalties that had plagued them under the previous regime. This was just a bad game for them, but I'd have faith in Graham.


What type of team do you envision the Sun Devils being this year? Can they still contend for the Pac-12 South or should they set their sights lower?

Josh Estes: With the loss of Taylor Kelly, I feel like it will be very similar to Graham's first year in Tempe, 7-5 with a lower tier bowl victory. And I still feel the same way after last night's game. The young defense has a high ceiling and should get better with each game, and the offense won't face a much tougher defense than what they saw last night with the Bruins, outside of Stanford and Notre Dame.

Sam Barbee: ASU's next five games: at #18 USC, vs #18 Stanford, at Washington, vs Utah, vs # 8 Notre Dame. That's murderer's row. They're going to have to get better really fast if they want anything better than a mediocre record.

Roy Stenlund: This is the Pac-12 and anybody can beat anybody. I wouldn't count Arizona State out quite yet. They could still end up winning 9 or 10 games.

Trace Travers: Anywhere from 7 to 9 wins, you don't pile up 626 yards on accident. They may not be contenders for the Pac-12 South without Kelly, but they can contend with every team left on their schedule.