With 10 seconds left in the first half last Thursday, Arizona State was down just 3 to UCLA, driving deep in enemy territory, set up to score and at least tie the game before half. One poor decision later and the spiral of destruction began. As the record setting student section began to file systematically out of Sun Devil Stadium, one could almost feel the collective thought process that our season was over. Our #UnfinishedBusiness of reaching a Rose Bowl will go incomplete, at least for another year. With one inopportune loss in September, the ability to control our own destiny on the road back to the PAC-12 Championship flew out the window, which a student section, more known for it's alcohol consumption than it's football smarts, seemed to come to grips with.
But with eight opponents left in the 2014 season, a lot could change. If you need proof, ask USC, who flew to the top of the Pacific 12 totem pole and in a week's time, fell back to the bottom of the barrel after a loss at Chestnut Hill. No matter what the experts and the analytics say, there's a reason they play the games. Whether you're an optimist or pessimist, here's the answers to questions you can't get off your mind.
1. Is there any chance we rally and make it back to the PAC-12 Championship game?
Full: One benefit of having a loaded schedule, especially one that would make the SEC shiver, is if we can win out, we'll have a real shot at making it back. With the last two-thirds of our conference murder's row coming up, we could get back on track with two big wins. USC hasn't been able to slow down anything even remotely close to a running game and well Stanford has that whole red zone concept that they still aren't clear on, so are two upsets in a row completely out of the realm of possibility? If I understood the theme behind Angels in the Outfield (which is harder than one might think considering their voices don't match their mouths), "it could happen."
Empty: One downside of having a loaded schedule, especially with three top 25 teams in a row, can end your hopes for a major bowl very quickly. If we lose to USC (a more talented, different team under Coach Sarkisian) AND Stanford (who seems to have our number every time we play), you can just pencil us in for the Sun Bowl. I'm just saying El Paso is nice that time of year... Could you smell the overwhelming sarcasm?
2. When is Taylor Kelly going to return?
Full: Todd Graham was quoted as saying, "Taylor Kelly's going to play a lot faster than people think." Now I'm not sure if the tears blurring my view and pouring down my face are from pure jubilation or unfathomable sadness stemming from Thursday's loss, but to me that reads "Taylor Kelly's gonna play, absolutely not show any signs of injury at all, and you should bet your kid's tuition on it." Positive visualization people.
Empty: Bring this whole post back to reality, CTG said yesterday TK is "pretty questionable" for USC and with pictures floating around campus of Taylor STILL in a boot as of Sunday, you can probably downgrade his status to out against the Trojans. Make sure to adjust your NCAA Fantasy line-ups folks.
3. Is this Coach Todd Graham's final season as a Sun Devil?
Full: Whaaaaaaat? The man just donated five hundred THOUSAND dollars to the Sun Devil Stadium renovation fund and is in the middle of the biggest mainstream success of his young coaching career. Why would he ever leave Tempe?
Empty: 1 year. That's how long CTG lasted at Pitt before booking to the desert like the Road Runner. Two and a half years later, Coach Todd Graham seems to be on the back end of his break through success with the Devils. Mark May put our coach on blast last winter for being a tad bit to eager to interview for the Longhorn job, a job he contractually had no chance of getting. With the Florida and Michigan jobs most likely opening up after the inaugural CFB Playoff (if not earlier), it's hard to imagine someone who's done so much with a so-so Big 5 program to be overlooked. Expect Todd Graham to run for the hills, with OC and "Deputy Head Coach" (yes, that's actually his title) Mike Norvell to take over.
4. What will the Sun Devil's final record be?
Full: After that loss to a team in blue and gold we dare not name, there is no way the Devils don't come fired up against USC. With a chip on their shoulder, expect the Devils to roll a reeling USC team. And Stanford? They couldn't score points if it bit them on the rear-end (Disney Channel G-rated folks). If you're gonna stumble in a marathon, you at least have to sprint through the finish. Fingers crossed with ear plugs in screaming, "La la la," to drown out the reasonable ASU faithful, I don't think a 10-2 finish is out of the question.
Empty: Simply put, our defense is not what it was last year. Without the 2013 D-Generation, I don't see our season making a spectacular rally. A win AT USC seems far-fetched, but not impossible with their track record of handling the run, and Stanford's red zone troubles are some of the worst in recent memory, but both are better teams talent wise. I feel like our losing streak will hit 3, before we leave our Pacific 12 murderer's row. Expect the Devils to finish 7-5 with addition losses to Notre Dame and Washington. It's gonna get worse before it gets better Devils, buckle up.