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Sun Devils Will Embrace Tough Opening to 2022 Football Season

Arizona State will take on three tough opponents within the first five weeks of the season.

It's not about how you start, but rather how you finish.

That's the motto Arizona State will embrace as the regular season continues to draw closer thanks to a tough beginning of the year. 

After opening against Northern Arizona at home, the Sun Devils pack their bags for a road trip at Oklahoma State the following week. 

The Cowboys field a strong team, acting as dark-horse favorites to ultimately compete for a Big 12 title and slide into the College Football Playoffs. Athlon Sports currently has them ranked nationally as the No. 17 team heading into the regular season. 

In 2021, Oklahoma State reached No. 5 in the AP polls following an upset victory over Oklahoma late in the season. After narrowly losing 21-16 to No. 9 Baylor the next week in the Big 12 title game, the Cowboys responded with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame to conclude their season.

Arizona State returns home to Sun Devil Stadium in Week 3 to play Eastern Michigan before hosting defending Pac-12 champion Utah the following Saturday. ASU looks to enact revenge on a Utes team that overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit in their 2021 meeting to eventually emerge victorious over Arizona State. 

For Utah, the win kept its conference title hopes alive while the loss sent the Sun Devils into a spiral they couldn't work their way out of. The Utes handed ASU one of three defeats in a five-game stretch that threw Arizona State out of the driver's seat of the Pac-12 North after beginning the season 5-1.

There will be no time for the dust to settle at ASU, as the Sun Devils travel to USC the following week to take on a Trojans team that has seen their expectations rapidly increase since the arrival of head coach Lincoln Riley and all the recruits/transfer portal players that followed. 

From a national perspective, USC is expected to contend for a national title sooner rather than later. While the growth and implementation of Riley's regime could take some time, the Trojans intend to make some noise as soon as this season. 

Arizona State fans will be quick to remember that star linebacker Eric Gentry left the program for USC in the offseason, a move that was heavily tied to NIL money. 

In his rankings that judged each Pac-12 school based off their schedule difficulty, The Mercury News' Jon Wilner placed Arizona State in the middle of the pack at No. 6. 

"Circumstances make the schedule more difficult than it might seem initially: The Sun Devils and their rebuilt roster have three early dates with teams (Oklahoma State, Utah and USC) that should be in the top 15 of the AP preseason poll," said Wilner, who also pointed out Arizona State is the only school within the conference to end the season with four of the final six games on the road. 

Not many believe the Sun Devils will be competitive this season. Losses across the roster on top of questions surrounding the coaching staff and an investigation that still hasn't concluded outweigh the good Arizona State has managed to create since competing in the Las Vegas Bowl. 

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Yet, ASU is confident in its locker room, and a string of tough early tests to start the season will provide the perfect opportunity to show not only the rest of the world but themselves that reports of Arizona State's demise have been greatly exaggerated. 

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