Optimism is running high in Tempe as the college football season comes upon us.
The Arizona State football team ended last year on the highest of notes by beating the “team down south” in Tucson, then following up that win by trouncing Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Pac-12 Player of the Year Will Sutton returns to anchor an opportunistic defense that has high expectations this season.
The offense is returning many key players from last year’s team led by quarterback Taylor Kelly and running backs DJ Foster and Marion Grice.
The Sun Devils seem to be poised to make a run at the Pac-12 South championship.
Unfortunately it will still be some time until you can see your favorite Arizona State football players unless there was some sort of video game you could play…
NCAA 14 is out for all video game and college football lovers. I decided to simulate a season to see where Arizona State ended up. Could they make the Rose Bowl? Would they fail to meet expectations? I decided to find out for myself.
Week one went as planned as the Sun Devils defeated Southern Free Win State (Sacramento State) 38-6. Unfortunately, this is the last win for a few weeks.
Many are looking at the next four games between Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame as the make-or-break stretch for the Sun Devils. We can only hope the real season goes better than the virtual season.
The Sun Devils lose all four games with the defeats to Stanford and USC coming by double digits. Their game against Wisconsin was never close until Kelly hooked up with Kevin Ozier for a late touchdown pass to get the game within five at the end.
Their best chance came against Notre Dame at Cowboys Stadium. Kelly threw four touchdowns on 253 yards with an interception. The interception was costly.
Protecting a 28-24 lead, Kelly threw a late fourth quarter interception to Fighting Irish senior Lo Woods who took it back 74 yards to give Notre Dame a 31-28 win.
Only in a video game simulation does Kelly throw a game breaking pick-six when holding a lead with 2:14 left in the game.
Breath Sun Devil fans… it is just a video game simulation.
After the heart-breaking loss to Notre Dame, the Devils come home for an easy game against Colorado.
ASU lost 34-31.
I feel like I need to repeat something I just said. What was it again? That’s right, it is just a video game simulation!
No. 23 Washington came into Tempe looking for an easy win, but the Devils had different plans. The one-two punch of Grice and Foster combine for 175 yards and three touchdowns in the 45-35 upset win over the Huskies. Sutton led the defense with 10 tackles and three sacks.
After a week 9 bye, kicker Alex Garoutte went onto the field with the game on the line against Washington State.
If this was real life then you all know the final outcome, but this is a video game and the unthinkable happened! Garoutte hit a go-ahead field goal in the final minute to give ASU a big 26-24 win on the road.
After an easy win against Utah, the Sun Devils dropped a tough one to Oregon State. The Sun Devils scored two touchdowns to erase an 11 point deficit, but OSU kicked a field goal late to win 17-15. The loss dropped the Devils to 4-6 and on the brink of not making a bowl with a road game against 20th ranked UCLA lurking.
I think it is safe to say the virtual Devils failed to meet their expectations.
At UCLA, Kelly finally breaks out with four touchdowns and 256 yards in a 40-24 blow-out of the Bruins. The win gives fans hope of making a bowl game.
Up next is the “team down south” with the Territorial Cup and a bowl game berth on the line.
The game went south for the team down south early. Kelly threw for 409 yards and five touchdowns as the Sun Devils win a laugher by the score of 45 to 17. Coyle caught three touchdowns with 107 yards in the win.
I promise on Danny White’s retired jersey that I simulated that game only once.
With the win, ASU got invited to the Las Vegas Bowl to take on San Diego State. Kelly throws for at least four touchdowns for the third straight game as the Sun Devils win 42-20.
After the game Kelly goes on to say he is taking his talents to the NFL.
ASU fans rejoice.
Kelly got his numbers to a reasonable mark with his hot finish, throwing for over 3,000 yards with 28 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Grice led the ground attack with 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns. Ozier contributed with over 1,000 yards receiving with seven touchdowns.
On defense, sophomore Jaxon Hood led the team on tackles, with Sutton leading ASU with 10 sacks.
Robert Nelson and Lloyd Carrington led the secondary with three interceptions each.
Overall, the Sun Devils finished with a disappointing 7-6 record. After the tough 1-5 start to the season, ASU ended the year on a 6-1 stretch.
The simulation showed us that ASU can manage the second half of the season, so it will be those first four games after their tune-up that will determine if it will be a special season or not in Tempe.
Luckily, those four games can’t go any worse in reality.