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2021 Arizona State college football preview: Sun Devils enter season with controversy

Arizona State dealt with plenty of off-the-field issues this offseason, and the distraction could be difficult to ignore.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona State Sun Devils will enter the 2021 college football season after a controversial offseason, and the success of this team will be determined by how they handle the distraction. It’s difficult to take much out of Arizona State’s 2020 season on the field with just four games played, but it will come down to how Herm Edwards handles the culture of the team as they deal with an NCAA investigation.

The program is being accused of ignoring the NCAA’s strict recruiting rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. There appears to be plenty of evidence of misbehavior from members of the coaching staff and while Arizona State had been a popular breakout team for 2021, expectations should be limited if the investigation leaks into the regular season. This is a talented roster, and the Sun Devils will be among the most interesting stories in the Pac-12.

2020 Season Review

  • 2-2 (4th in Pac-12 South)
  • Lost first two games, won last two, beat rival Arizona by 63 points

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 52
ESPN Returning Production: 84% overall (11th): 86% offense (15th), 82% defense (21st)
Returning Talent Index: 1.01, 6th in Pac-12
Returning starters: 9/11 offense, 11/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Jayden Daniels (Junior)

Jayden Daniels played well as a freshman in 2019 and got off to a promising start to his college career. In that year, he played 12 games and completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,943 yards with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions. He is also a dangerous threat with his legs. Daniels has a young group of receivers to throw to, but he has the talent to make a difference at the quarterback position.

Offense (non-QB): RB Rachaad White (Senior)

Arizona State’s rushing attack was incredible in the four games they played in the 2020 season. The Sun Devils ranked second in the sport with 6.4 yards per attempts led by Rachaad White. He carried the ball 42 times for 420 yards with five touchdowns, and Chip Trayanum is another threat in the backfield. The running game should be very god again this season.

Defense: DL Tyler Johnson (Junior)

Tyler Johnson could be one of the top defensive linemen in the Pac-12 as he heads into his junior season. In just four games in 2020, Johnson finished with 7.5 tackles for loss with five sacks. With the amount of talent and experience coming back on this defensive side of the ball, Johnson is set up for another fantastic season.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 21st overall: 25th offense, 25th defense, 52nd special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 18th overall: 23rd offense, 21st defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +10000
To win Pac-12: +450
Win total: 8.5 (Over -105, Under -115)

2020 Against The Spread: 3-1-0
2020 Point Total: Over 2-2-0

2021 Arizona State Schedule

2021 Arizona State Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Thursday, Sep. 2 Southern Utah 10:30pm/P12N N/A
Saturday, Sep. 11 UNLV 10:30pm/ESPN2 N/A
Saturday, Sep. 18 at BYU 10:15pm/ESPN N/A
Saturday, Sep. 25 Colorado TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 2 at UCLA TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 9 Stanford 10:30pm/ESPN N/A
Saturday, Oct. 16 at Utah TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 23 OPEN TBA N/A
Saturday, Oct. 30 Washington State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 6 USC TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 13 at Washington TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Oregon State TBA N/A
Saturday, Nov. 27 Arizona TBA N/A