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Moore: ASU coach Herm Edwards thrives when others think has no chance – The Arizona Republic

Arizona Republic columnist Greg Moore has seen this all before. He makes the case that the ASU season will be a lot better than most observers think.

You don’t want smoke with Sparky. Not this year. 

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards looks like he’s got everybody right where he wants them with preseason predictions putting his team toward the bottom of the Pac-12.

“It’s the Pac-12, it’s 1 through 12, and wherever they slate you, however they get to that number, that’s great, that’s how it starts,” he said at the start of training camp. “We’ll see how it ends.”   

Don’t forget, this is the guy who twice beat perennial Big Ten power Michigan State with unheralded quarterbacks, a slew of rookies — and a black hat.  

He’s the guy who showed up to beat USC at the Coliseum, where the Trojans were riding a 19-game win streak, with a bunch of Southern California Sun Devils who had been overlooked by the program they grew up idolizing — and a black hat.

And he’s the guy who said he would transform ASU into a physical, pro football feeder system before sending more than a dozen guys to fight for NFL roster spots, including six interior linemen and Darrien Butler — a linebacker who now wears silver and black. 

Edwards still has unfinished business: He has yet to play for a conference championship, get to the Rose Bowl or finish in the top 15.

Maybe this is the year?

Read more: Arizona State football, Herm Edwards slammed in college football coach hot seat ranking

It’s gonna be tough

To pull it off, he’ll have to defy expectations from a slew of media outlets and observers who put the Sun Devils anywhere from last place to pretty close to last place.

“There’s always a team to be predicted here, another team predicted there … that’s the uniqueness of sports, that’s what makes it so great. And if you do something different, people say ‘Wow!’ I don’t worry about that stuff,” he said, pausing and laughing. “I don’t worry about it, at all.”

Not to overstate things, but Buster Douglas didn’t worry about predictions before he fought “Iron” Mike Tyson. The Giants didn’t worry about predictions before playing the undefeated Patriots. And Michael Jordan didn’t worry about predictions that time he played the Monstars.

To be clear, everything is stacked against Coach Herm. He’s got new coordinators. A new quarterback. New receivers. New running backs. New linemen. A new secondary. And a depth problem at linebacker that’s so bad position coach Chris Claiborne should check to see whether he has any eligibility left.

Plus, there’s that NCAA investigation into who did what during the COVID-19 recruiting freeze and a segment of the fanbase that’s still sore over the dismissal of Todd Graham

They’ll deal with all that later.

“We’ve got 12 games,” Edwards said. “We know who our opponents are, and that’s what we’re going to concentrate on as a football team.”

ASU football position analyses: Special teams | Running backs  | Wide receivers | Offensive line |  Quarterback | Tight ends | Defensive line | Linebackers | Defensive backs

It’s how you play

Winning cures everything, especially when nobody expects it.

And if you can’t win, you can put up such a fight that everybody knows you were there.

You can bring the smoke. Make a game come down to the last drive. The last play. Make it about who wants it more. Give yourself a chance. And right now, it seems like no one is giving that to ASU.

It’s a long shot, but maybe it means Coach Herm has everybody right where he wants them.

Maybe the fight will go to the guy in the black hat?

Like Herm said, “We’ll see how it ends.”

Reach Moore at or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

There’s plenty Moore where this came from. Subscribe for videos, columns, opinions and analysis from The Arizona Republic’s award-winning sports team. 

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