Arizona State Sun Devils Tune Up in Opener for Difficult Early Stretch

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Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports

The road is about to get a whole lot tougher for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2013, so Todd Graham should be very happy with the way his team dispatched FCS Sacramento State in their season opener Thursday night. The team was dominant, which they should have been if they have any hope of reaching the lofty heights their coach is aiming for in 2013. Was this a sneak peek of the level of play we can expect from ASU this season?

If it was, the rest of the Pac 12 better be on notice. Quarterback Taylor Kelly was deadly efficient, completing 23 of 31 passes for 300 yards and five touchdowns to five different receivers before halftime. Marion Grice showed off his complete skill set accounting for 125 total yards and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving as he led the team in receiving yards. New No. 1 wide receiver Jaelen Strong lived up to expectations, looking strong with six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils were simply dominant. They regrouped after allowing Sac State to put together a decent opening drive by blocking their field goal attempt before putting the Hornets’ offense on lockdown the rest of the night. ASU allowed just 167 total yards and six first downs on the night while turning Sacramento State over four times. The Hornets failed to move the chains a single time after their opening drive as they were completely overwhelmed by the size, speed and strength of the Sun Devils defense.

They’ll have to see just how dominant they can be when the level of competition gets turned up several notches starting next week. The No. 21 Wisconsin Badgers come to Tempe in Week 3 with games against the No. 5 Stanford Cardinal, No. 25 USC Trojans and No. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish following soon after. It’s a brutal opening stretch that will seriously test the talent and mettle of this squad. It’s also a huge opportunity to break out as a serious contender in college football this season.

If Arizona State is as good as they appeared on Thursday, running the gauntlet like they will have to do early in the season will be a great way for them to kick down the door and let the college football world know they are for real this season. So far, they’ve been snubbed by voters and considered an afterthought in the Pac 12 race by many. The best way to fix that is to continue this dominant play against some of the top teams in the country. Is this the Sun Devils team to break through and make a Rose Bowl run?

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