Tuesday, October 8, 2013

And now the season begins

Prior to the start of the season, I predicted a 6-3 conference record for the Devils, and an 8-4 overall record. So far the season has gone exactly to form. The USC game was far more important than any of the others, and we won that one.

So here we sit on October 8: 1-0 against the Pac-12 South, 1-1 in the Conference. We still control our own destiny. According to Sagarin, we're the 20th ranked team in the country having played the nation's 7th toughest schedule. Wisconsin (18) and ASU are the only two-loss teams in the top 20.

The biggest concern at this time isn't so much the Devils (we are pretty much who we thought we are) as the other teams remaining on our schedule. Colorado is still weak, but they're improving. The road games at WSU and Utah will not be easy, and the home games versus Washington, Oregon State and UNRB are all dangerous. And that's not to mention the big game at the Rose Bowl on November 23. So while my 6-3 conference prediction is still very attainable, it's also not hard to see us ending the year at 4-5.

One stat that is very much NOT in the Sun Devils' favor: ASU lost the conference opener at Stanford. In 35 seasons of Pac-10/Pac-12 play from 1978 through 2012, ASU has lost the conference opener 19 times. In those seasons the Sun Devils have gone a combined 63-82-2 in conference games (a 43.5% win percentage). However, in the 14 seasons in which the Sun Devils won the first conference game, the composite record is 69-45-0 (a 60.5% win percentage). We tied our opener in 1983 and 1986 and finished a combined 9-4-2 in those seasons.

Since 1982, ASU has only once (in 1999) lost the conference opener and finished with a winning conference record. Conversely, 1994, 2008 and 2011 were the only seasons where the Sun Devils won their conference opener but finished below .500 in the Pac-10/12.

So if ASU does finish this season at 5-4 or better in the Pac-12, it will be just the second time in 30 years that we've bucked this trend.

Note: this article updates my original research from 2008.