The restart is amongst us, as the PAC-12 is back! You play to win the game, and in this case, Arizona State football will be back on the gridiron trying to do just that against seven opponents this season. Or so they hope. That's the plan, at least.
With news becoming official on Thursday that the PAC-12 voted unanimously to restart football this fall, ASU and the whole conference will have to be flawless in their abilities of containing COVID-19, since there will be no extra weeks to make up any games that may have to be canceled. "If [COVID] hits, two teams are out. And that's the luck of the draw. We're going week to week. You're just hoping every week you can play again," ASU Head Coach Herm Edwards said during a press conference Friday morning.
The conference's current blueprint is to play seven games in seven weeks, starting on November 6, with full-pad practice expected to begin on October 8th or 9th. This leaves coach Edwards with plenty of uncertainty if all of the teams will even get to play all seven games, referencing that the NCAA has already had to cancel numerous games this fall.
This also leaves Edwards wondering how his players will look once the season does, in fact, begin due to the lack of practice over the past six months. Especially since the players won't have any resemblance of a training camp, referencing that the NCAA's 20-hour practice rule is in full effect since the school year has already begun for the athletes. "I worry about the stamina of the players. I worry about execution. I worry about how they will handle situations in football," Edwards explained.
On a positive note for the Sun Devils, Edwards confirmed that none of his players considered opting out of the season, which means their roster will be at full strength, unlike some other schools in the conference.
For the seniors, coach Herm considered the 2020 season as a free year for them, since the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to college athletes in all of the fall sports. He compared it to monopoly, calling this opportunity a 'get out of jail free card.' "If you don't like the way you played, you can come back, and you can put more on your resume. If you think your value can go up by playing another year, then you could come back. THIS IS FREE."
According to Edwards, the players will be ready to play with five weeks of preparation. He said making live game substitutions will be difficult, but the second players will be more important than ever. "You have to get ready to play. All of a sudden, your first live competition will be against a team in your conference," he said.
The Sun Devils and sophomore quarterback Jayden Daniels have high expectations this season. Edwards said he loves how calm his second-year quarterback has been and that Daniels is now the face of the team, which wasn't the case in 2019, "Now he's our leader. He didn't do that his first year. He was told not to turn the ball over and manage the game. The expectations are now different."
There will be no room for errors for this Sun Devil team. They won't be able to make up for a bad loss or have time to make up ground in the Pac-12, since they're starting the season in conference play right out of the gates. "Every game's important. When you only have six games being played and five are in your division, they are critical games. That brings more focus for all of the players and [coaches] as well," said Edwards.
Edwards talked about how operating during a pandemic is much more difficult for college football than other sports. After all, there are about 150 players and coaches in the building every day. The Quidel daily and quick tests will help everybody in efforts to contain the spread, but it will still be a tough challenge to tackle. "An invisible opponent (COVID-19) is out there. We're fighting two opponents here. The other one is still alive and kicking. That one I can't see, he's hard to fight," Edwards said.
The decision to reverse the August 11th decision and resume play this fall was important in the bigger picture, as it will now help in avoiding conflict with the 2021 season. Edwards said that it was always the mindset to ensure that the 2021 season wouldn't be affected. And now, with football back this fall, it won't be disrupted.
The excitement for the fall 2020 season will be at an all-time high now that football is back. While there is still plenty of uncertainty around if the Pac-12's game plan will succeed, one thing is for sure, and that's the fact that we will be getting what we wanted all along, and that's seeing our favorite college football players being able to compete and step onto the lush green grass at their respective stadiums. And at the end of the day, Coach Edwards was pleased with how it all played out, "I'm happy for our football players. I'm happy for our conference. I liked the way our conference handled our business."