There are many reasons as to why ASU wasn’t expected by most to make the AP Preseason Top 25.
The first was potentially by default, as the PAC-12 has obviously postponed football through the rest of the calendar year. However, nine teams from both Power-5 conferences to cancel (the PAC-12 and Big 10) were included in the ranking.
The Coaches Poll, which had been previously released, also had nine teams from the two conferences on their list. Many expected the AP Poll to be very similar to the Coaches Poll, and indeed it was. One sizable similarity was how they ranked the PAC-12.
The Coaches Poll ranked three PAC-12 teams, Oregon (9), USC (17), and Utah (20). The AP Poll did the same in regards to the PAC, except ranking Utah a couple slots lower at 22. The results of the Coaches Poll cast doubt on the AP recognizing the Sun Devils as a Top 25 team, and those fears came true on Monday morning.
There was a buzz this offseason, however, of ASU cracking the Poll. With a promising incoming sophomore QB in Jayden Daniels, talented recruits in the last cycle at skill positions, and a respected coaching staff, it very well could be justified.
The other side, however, is very justifiable as well. Arizona State is returning a few players on offense. They are going to have to start an inexperienced running back and lost their two best skill position players from 2019, RB Eno Benjamin and WR Brandon Aiyuk to the 2020 NFL Draft.
The reason ASU being left off the ranking will leave Tempe with questions is because of Utah being included. All offseason long, the talk around campus was that the race for the PAC-12 South is inching closer and closer into looking like a two-team race between USC and ASU.
Despite Utah being the reigning division champions, they not only lost a ton of talent on offense but also on defense. They’re returning very little talent, and ASU has recently been out-recruiting the Utes. ASU will have a very young team, but this is also the youngest team Utah Head Coach Kyle Whittingham’s coached since becoming the head coach in 2005.
The Poll decided to go with Utah’s recent pedigree over ASU’s potential, which is understandable. After all, the AP did rank them 16th in their final Poll last year. They’ll stick to their guns if they can, and with Utah winning the division in each of the last two seasons, they’ll rank them over ASU who had a real tough time competing for a division title last year.
Something else that kept the Devils off the ranking is a lack of continuity in the coaching staff. The national media is certainly buying into Head Coach Herm Edwards, but it would be silly to not acknowledge Arizona State going with new coordinators on both sides of the ball this year. That’s a tough transition, no matter what.
It’s also been speculated that switching both coordinators in one offseason is even tougher due to this pandemic and having an abnormal offseason program and schedule. Luckily for ASU, they had their spring camp early anyway and finished, but the AP could still recognize a challenge here.
At this point, nobody knows exactly what the Sun Devil football schedule will look like if they can play football come spring semester. However, with ASU receiving the fourth-most votes out of all teams who did not crack the ranking (66), it’s fair to assume they would sneak in if they win consecutive games to start the season, regardless of who they play.
Winning games will speak for how real these preseason concerns truly are for ASU.