Arizona State has been the talk of the Pac-12 Conference since the 2010 season ended. New uniforms, new athletic department branding and new goals have been set in Tempe.
High expectations have been set for the Sun Devils, but how realistic are they?
After all, Dennis Erickson's squad only won six games last season and four before that. So, to be honest, not many teams are shaking in their boots when facing the Sun Devils.
That was then, back when the offensive scheme was a constant turnover or sack waiting to happen.
Perhaps offense is the reason why ASU's defense ranked 36th nationally in 2010, due to inordinate amount of turnovers for the Sun Devils.
If defense wins championships, the offense can't give the championship away, either.
Although the Sun Devils defense held the Stanford offense to their lowest scoring output of the season, as well as forcing the Oregon Ducks to punt 11 times, in those same games, ASU's opponents managed to score just enough to earn the victory.
In most cases, a mental error or a boneheaded penalty closed the book on the Sun Devil's fate.
Without a doubt, the player that referees pointed to as the culprit was Vontaze Burfict.
If there is one player in the conference that will bring you to tears, it is Burfict. At 6'3" 252 pounds, he is the fastest sideline to sideline linebacker in the conference, if not the country.
His speed appears scary, but the moment his pads hit the ball carrier, the last thought anyone has is about Burfict's speed.
At times he allows his emotions to take control, but the latter part of 2010 and the 15 workouts during the spring showed the maturation process with Burfict.
In addition, Burfict is only 20-years-old. By the time the first Pac-12 game is played, Burfict will be 21-years-old, and leading one of the nation's scariest defenses.
Burfict is major reason why ASU finished the 2009 season with the best rushing defense, and continued that in 2010.
But if you believe ASU's defense is Burifct and ten other "no namers", you are mistaken. ASU utilizes a 4-3 base defense, and the two linebackers that flank Burfict are just as athletic and physical. Perhaps it is because Brandon Magee, Shelly Lyons, and Burfict have played with each other since they were 15 and 16-years old.
The trio even negotiated their jersey numbers last fall to 6, 7, 8 with little respect for the offenses.
But the Sun Devils are more than just a linebacking corps.
ASU boasts the best pure pass-rusher in the conference with true sophomore Junior Onyeali. In brief action as a freshman, Onyeali earned All-Conference honors, as well as being named Pac-10 defensive freshman of the year, an award Burfict won a year earlier.
If not for senior cornerback Omar Bolden injuring his knee, ASU's defense would consist of the top pass-rusher, linebacker and cornerback in the conference.
However, Bolden appears to be sidelined for at least five months, and may not return at all. Without Bolden, the Sun Devils are without the conference's lone unanimous all-defensive team member.
The depth behind Bolden is certainly not abundant, but Deveron Carr and Osahon Irabor have played in big conference games before with much success. The players behind Carr and Irabor, might raise a few eye brows.
For other teams, Bolden's loss would end hopes of a dream season. In Tempe, eight other returning starters can shoulder the burden in the Valley of the Sun, as well as Burfict taking over the leadership role.
ASU might not be the most publicized team across the country, but if the season that players envision, actually unfolds, Burfict in Co. will be among the best and most feared defensive units in the nation.
Until then, nobody should second guess Burfict.