The Todd Graham era is starting off suspiciously like the Dennis Erickson era. Great start, lousy finish.
I know that may be a harsh thing for Arizona State Sun Devils' fans to hear, but after another loss, 38-17 coming to an eminently beatable USC team Saturday, it's time to wonder about ASU and their ability to compete in the Pac-12.
This season started off with the promise of a fresh start, brought in the form of new coach Todd Graham and the much-needed disciplined—but aggressive—approach he bought to Tempe.
But after today's loss, the Devils stand very Erickson-esque 5-5 overall with a 3-4 record in the Pac-12.
Much like last season, the Devils showed much promise early in their schedule but have struggled against the meat of their Pac-12 schedule.
Even if the season ends with wins against Washington St. and Arizona, this season will still be a subdued failure.
That failure will come from the knowledge the program has improved from last year, partially with the change to Graham and the disciplined approach he has brought into the team. Players are accountable for mistakes and errors.
The frustration will come. This has been a down season for the Pac-12, with only one great team in the conference: Oregon.
ASU had the chance to establish itself as the No. 2 team in the conference and change the national perception of Sun Devils football.
Now? Another lost season. Another lost recruiting opportunity. National perception will remain the same. Can't beat Oregon. Can't beat Oregon State. Can't beat USC. Why would a top recruit go to ASU right now?
No signature win this season means nothing to bring potential difference makers into the program for next season. Arizona will have the USC game. The Devils can only point to Illinois and the Cal Bears, hardly impressive.
Arizona State has almost everything that a top recruit could want: spectacular weather, great surrounding area, interested fan base, proximity to California, growing local football community, marquee PAC-12 conference and opponents.
The only thing holding the Devils back at this point is themselves.
The Devils had a golden chance to put themselves back on the map this season. Instead they'll fight irrelevancy until they can start beating some of the elite teams in the conference.
USC vs. ASU game recap used from Greg Beacham at AP Sports