TEMPE, AZ - The 2013 edition of the Arizona State football team goes on display Thursday night when the Sun Devils open the season against Sacramento State at Sun Devil Stadium.
Coming off an eight-win season and a Bowl win over Navy, head coach Todd Graham kicks off his second at the helm in Tempe. Graham's 2013 team has high expectations, with the team's number one goal: winning the Rose Bowl.
Junior Taylor Kelly returns for his second season as the team's signal caller and all indications are that Kelly will have a better season than he did last year. Kelly's coming off a 3,040 yard passing season, ranking him sixth on the ASU all-time list. His 3,556 yards of total offense has him in third place on the all-time list for the Devils. Clearly, a lot of the hope for a trip to the Rose Bowl is resting on Kelly's shoulders.
On defense, the Devils return consensus All-American, defensive tackle Will Sutton. Sutton's 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and 63 total tackles make him one of the most feared defensive linemen in college football.
With the team now buying in to coach Graham's approach, the Devils are considered a front runner in the Pac-12 South.
Enter Sacramento State on Thursday, September 5. The Hornets play in the Big Sky Conference and are coming off a 6-5 season in 2012 and opened last Thursday night with a 24-0 loss to San Jose State. But the Hornets picked up three more first downs than the Spartans and held the ball for more than 36 minutes. Unfortunately, Sacramento State wasn't able to get the ball in the end zone.
The Spartans turned a pair of interceptions into 10 points and added seven more following a missed field goal.
Sacramento State had an early opportunity to score but quarterback Garrett Safron's pass to Morris Norrise fell just short and was batted down inside the five yard line. On the next play, Safron's third down pass was intercepted and the scoring threat was over.
The Hornets did put together a 13 play, 60 yard drive in the first half, but after a delay of game on a fourth and one, the Hornets failed to connect on a 46 yard field goal.
Safron finished the game for Sacramento State 23 of 40 for 192 yards, but was intercepted twice. His top targets: Morris Norrise, Ezekial Graham and Blake Robertson, each finishing with four catches. In all, nine different players caught passes from Safron.
The shut-out was the first for the Hornets since falling to New Mexico State (58-0) in 2007. Garrett Safron now ranks 8th in school history with 480 career pass attempts and seventh with 293 career completions.
Sacramento State has a solid history of beating Division I schools including a 30-28 win over Colorado in 2012 and a 29-28 win over Oregon State in 2011.
Although Arizona State is the far superior team in this match-up, don't underestimate two things. 1) Arizona State looking past Sacramento State because of its next four opponents (Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame), and 2) Sacramento State's ability to "get up" for the big games. See the note above about the Hornets ability to beat Division I teams.
When all is said and done, the Sun Devils should beat the Hornets by 50 or more points. In fact, don't expect much from Thursday's tune up for next week's real home opener against Wisconsin.
Prediction: A real snoozer; ASU 58 – Sacramento State 3 (the three points are a gift)