ASU 2012 spring football over – time to buy your season tickets

ASU’s spring football camp is now over, and it was obvious to all observers that things have changed. Discipline, teaching, and hustle defined the practices. A clear break from the Dennis Erickson regime. Nothing has been proven on the gridiron just yet, but the trend is exciting Sun Devil Nation. Time to buy your season tickets.

ASU’s athletics graduation rate at all-time high; UA last again

For the fourth straight year, ASU has improved its Graduation Success Rate, reaching an all-time high. It now sits one point shy of its 80% goal (established when the GSR was created) and only 4 points from second place in the conference.

“The graduation success rate is the most significant measure of student athlete academic achievement that exists, ” said Jean Boyd, Associate Athletic Director for the Office of Student-Athlete Development. “This is the fourth consecutive year that we have improved in our Graduation Success Rate. The 79-percent ranks us in the Top 5 of the Pac-12, which is an elite academic and athletic conference. We are just one percentage point away from our goal of reaching 80-percent and are working hard to reach that goal.”

In addition, ASU’s football team ranks third in the conference, trailing only Washington and perennial leader Stanford. UA, which has often unfairly denigrated ASU’s academics while performing much worse, again manages to rank dead last.

ASU has been helping to set the national lead in academic support services and innovation in the last few years, owing much of its success to Jean Boyd and a renewed athletic department commitment to academics. Kudos to another year of solid improvement.

2011 PAC-12 football schedule

This isn’t the most timely post, as the schedule for the new PAC-12 conference was released nearly two months ago. Nonetheless, here’s what the first season of PAC-12 football will look like:

2011 PAC-12 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE

Thu, Sept. 1
Montana State at Utah

Sat, Sept. 3
Northern Arizona at Arizona
UC Davis at Arizona State
Minnesota at USC
UCLA at Houston
California (game to be scheduled)
San Jose State at Stanford
Oregon vs. LSU
Oregon State (game to be scheduled)
Eastern Washington at Washington
Idaho State at Washington State
Colorado at Hawaii

Sat, Sept. 10
Utah at USC
Arizona at Oklahoma State
Missouri at Arizona State
San Jose State at UCLA
California (game to be scheduled)
Stanford at Duke
Nevada at Oregon
Oregon State at Wisconsin
Hawaii at Washington
UNLV at Washington State
Colorado (game to be scheduled)

Sat, Sept. 17
Stanford at Arizona
Arizona State at Illinois
Syracuse at USC
Texas at UCLA
California (game to be scheduled)
Oregon (game to be scheduled)
Washington at Nebraska
Washington State at San Diego State
Colorado vs. Colorado State
Utah at BYU

Sat, Sept. 24
Oregon at Arizona
USC at Arizona State
UCLA at Oregon State
California at Washington
Colorado at Ohio State

Sat, Oct. 1
Arizona at USC
Oregon State at Arizona State
UCLA at Stanford
Washington at Utah
Washington State at Colorado

Thu, Oct. 6
California at Oregon

Sat, Oct. 8
Arizona at Oregon State
Arizona State at Utah
Washington State at UCLA
Colorado at Stanford

Thu, Oct. 13
USC at California

Sat, Oct. 15
Arizona State at Oregon
Stanford at Washington State
Colorado at Washington
BYU at Oregon State
Utah at Pittsburgh

Thu, Oct. 20
UCLA at Arizona

Sat, Oct. 22
Utah at California
Washington at Stanford
Oregon at Colorado
Oregon State at Washington State
USC at Notre Dame

Sat, Oct. 29
Arizona at Washington
Colorado at Arizona State
Stanford at USC
California at UCLA
Washington State at Oregon
Oregon State at Utah

Sat, Nov. 5
Utah at Arizona
Arizona State at UCLA
USC at Colorado
Washington State at California
Stanford at Oregon State
Oregon at Washington

Sat, Nov. 12
Arizona at Colorado
Arizona State at Washington State
Washington at USC
UCLA at Utah
Oregon State at California
Oregon at Stanford

Sat, Nov. 19
Arizona at Arizona State
USC at Oregon
Colorado at UCLA
California at Stanford
Washington at Oregon State
Utah at Washington State

Sat, Nov. 26
California at Arizona State
UCLA at USC
Oregon State at Oregon
Washington State at Washington
Colorado at Utah
Louisiana-Lafayette at Arizona
Notre Dame at Stanford

Sat, Dec. 3
Pac-12 Championship Game

Coulda, woulda, shoulda: ASU Football 2010


The media picked ASU to finish 9th in the conference in 2010.

In frustrating fashion, ASU has improved on that prediction, but not by much. ASU could finish as high as 5th in the conference depending on how it does against Arizona on Thursday. It won’t finish worse than 8th, but could also ring in its third consecutive losing season—something Sun Devil faithful haven’t borne in their lifetimes.

My preseason prediction was pretty close—we’ll end the season with either 5 or 6 victories and fall just short of a bowl game. It’s another disappointing record for a team that was supposed to be on the cusp of competing annually for conference championships by firing Dirk Koetter.

Instead, the team has seen unprecedented losing streaks and the first back-to-back losing seasons since WWII. While the team clearly has upgraded its talent—particularly its speed—in the last few years and shared a conference championship in 2008, it’s also suffered from its share of near-misses.

In 2009, the Sun Devils lost 4 games by a combined 13 points without its Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Thus far in 2010, ASU has lost 4 games by a combined 9 points with a suddenly-mediocre Lou Groza Award-winning kicker. Adding to frustration of fans, ASU had a chance to pull off upsets of Wisconsin, Oregon and Stanford but came up just short, often on weird or unusual plays.

In spite of the reassurances from the athletic department, Dennis Erickson is on the hot seat of fans. Many believe that he’ll need at least an 8-win season in the new PAC-12 next year to retain his job. Given the youth of the team (how many teams have you heard of that only start one senior?), the close-but-not-quite losses, and the resulting turmoil a coaching change can have, I’m willing to give him another year. But he has no excuses for next year.

Missing an ASU home football

For only the second time in my 23 years as a season ticket holder, I will not be at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday to watch the Arizona State Sun Devils take on the USC Trojans.

Even though USC will likely be huge favorites, it won’t be an easy game for me to miss.

Trust me.

Instead, I’ll be at the Rendezvous of Friends in Santa Fe, an annual gathering the organization I work at hosts for Friends groups from across the West. While I’ll be working during the game, it’ll be recording back home, I’ll get frequent score updates on my iPhone, and I’ll definitely be doning some maroon & gold.

Go Devils!

5 Observations from ASU’s 50-3 win over Idaho State

1. The Defense will lead the team. It’s painfully obvious that the offense is not the strength of the 2009 team. The defense will clearly carry the team – something we’re not used to seeing from an ASU team. However, for all of the ways that Erickson has failed to field a really competitive offense (at least since Ryan Torain went down), he’s done a stellar job of upgrading the defense. This is the fastest defense we’ve seen from ASU in quite a while.

2. Danny Sullivan and Dimitri Nance shouldn’t be the starters. Both have been in the program long enough to get the nod if talent levels are the same. However, at least on the field tonight, neither were tops in their respective positions. Nance had a difficult time finding the hole but looked better than he actually was given the competition. The other backs wowed on several plays; they’re the future and we need them to play.

Also assisted by a lesser opponent, Sullivan ended the night with somewhat respectable numbers, despite looking much worse in person. He seemed either quickly flustered in the pocket or slow to react to oncoming pressure. He zipped the balls when a bit more touch was necessary, making several attempted catches much harder than they needed to be. Brock, on the other hand, seemed very composed in the pocket and completed several passes in spite of pressure that would have resulted in a sack with Sullivan. His touchdown pass was a top-quality pass, anticipating the hole and lofting it perfectly in between two-deep coverage. He is clearly the future and it would be best for Sun Devil football to get him as many reps this season as possible.

3. Mike Nixon is still a stud. He’s smart – football smart, and very mature. He’s not the fastest, not the strongest, not the largest, but he just makes plays after plays. He has that Tillman/Archuleta quality of just being in the right place and doing the right thing at the right time.

4. Vontaze Burflict is the real deal. First play from scrimmage, he lays a big hit on the quarterback. Second play, he recovers a fumble. Let the hitting begin, this guys going to be catching the eyes of lots of people. He is a stud.

5. There’s a lot to be tightened up. And it all starts with the pregame, which the stadium crew flubbed. The kick return coverage seemed effective, but at times, dangerously close to losing the returner to a long long gain. Receivers dropped countless passes. Hell, even Weber missed a short FG attempt. In order to win some PAC10 games, we’ll need to tighten things up.