All fans can look at their teams’ schedules and identify the stretches that will likely determine whether the season will be a success.
That’s our objective as we examine the schedules of all Pac-12 teams and attempt to identify the toughest two-to-four-game stretches of 2016 for each club.
Up next: Arizona State Sun Devils
Toughest stretch: Oct. 29-Nov. 25
Why: I look at the back half of this schedule and “yikes” comes to mind. And that doesn’t even include back-to-back games against the LA schools at the end of September and first week of October. Really, the final five games are nasty. But since we’re looking at stretches of either three or four games, we’ll pick the final four to close out the season.
After a home date with Washington State (how’s the rebuilt secondary coming along?) the Sun Devils go on the road for three of their final four games. That includes trips to Oregon, Washington and Arizona to close out the year with the Territorial Cup. There’s a home date with Utah squeezed in there.
The Sun Devils split those games last season -- picking up wins over Washington and Arizona, but falling in triple-overtime to Oregon and then falling apart in the second half against the Utes. With their backs against the wall in 2015, ASU was able to win two of its last three to become bowl eligible. If they are in a similar situation in 2016, things are going to get tricky.
Oregon and Washington will likely be ranked teams. And there’s a strong chance Utah will be in the top 25 as well. Arizona’s newly-rebuilt defense will no longer be newly-rebuilt by the time we get to the Territorial Cup, so they’ll be getting a Wildcats defense that will be more seasoned.
This is a difficult schedule that gets progressively harder as the season goes on. And if the Sun Devils hope to win the division -- as they did in 2013 -- it’s going to take a serious surge at the end of the year against some of the league’s quality programs. That’s, of course, assuming they can negotiate the LA schools earlier in the year.