2010 record: 6-6, 4-5 (T-5th, Pac-10)
2010 bowl: none
2010 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Coach: Dennis Erickson, sixth year; 25-24 overall, 17-19 conference
Offensive coordinator: Noel Mazzone, second year
2010 offensive rankings: 37th, scoring offense (31 ppg); 26th, total offense (431.5 ypg); 25th, rushing offense (189.3 ypg); 41st, passing offense (242.2 ypg)
Defensive coordinator: Craig Bray, fifth year
2010 defensive rankings: 63rd, scoring defense (26.7 ppg); 84th, total defense (400.1 ypg); 49th, rushing defense (140.5 ypg); 109th, passing defense (259.5 ypg)
Returning offensive starters: 7
Returning defensive starters: 6
Location: Tempe, Ariz.
Stadium: Sun Devil Stadium (Grass; 71,706)
Last league title: 2007
2011 schedule: [view]
2011 roster: [view]
2010 statistics: [view]
Snapshot: Earlier this offseason, ASU unveiled its 2011 slogan, the menacing-sounding “Fear the Fork”. If the Sun Devils’ opponents don’t oblige, and given the temperature of the seat on which Dennis Erickson sits, you might be able to stick the slogan in the head coach because he’ll be done.
The good thing for Erickson is one of the keys to any good football team also happens to be — despite the loss to injury of all-conference corner Omar Bolden — one of the few knowns conference-wise for the 2011 edition of his squad: ASU will play defense. And the Sun Devils will play it very, very well with extreme physicality, up to and including linebacker and All-American Vontaze Burfict actually eating the opposition as a means of keeping the other team out of the end zone.
The question marks, though, are littered throughout the offense in general and at the quarterback position in particular. The latter, however, is where I have a certain degree of certainty and why they appear in this Top 25 because, yes, I’m swallowing the Brock Osweiler better-than-sliced-bread talk off of a mere two career starts. Those starts — wins over UCLA and Arizona — were impressive enough and showed enough to believe that will be the overall level of his play in 2011. For Erickson’s sake, he’d better hope that’s the case
Make-or-break game: Oct. 8 at Utah
With the USC ineligible, the first-ever Pac-12 South title could come down to — should come down to — the Sun Devils and one of the two newly-minted members of the conference, the Utes. As the game will be played in Salt Lake City, Utah will have a decided advantage via the venue, if not the talent.
Heisman hopeful: Burfict
The fact that the junior is one of the most God-gifted, intense, productive football players in the country is enough for him to make even a cursory appearance on any of these lists. The fact that he would hunt down any media-type who deigns to exclude him from these types of lists makes his inclusion mandatory. Between you and I, it’s highly unlikely a strictly defensive player will ever win the stiff-armed trophy again. I’m not telling him that. Would you?
Postseason projection: Holiday Bowl