As the season changes and the weather cools late-September holds a common theme for most college football teams.
The fall can serve as “measuring stick” moments around the country as teams ramp up into conference play.
Case in point Arizona State where Todd Graham’s Sun Devils (3-0, 1-0) get their first true test Thursday night against 11th-ranked UCLA (3-0) after three relatively easy wins to begin 2014. The Bruins may or may not have former Chandler High star Brett Hundley under center in Tempe, but ASU’s objective doesn’t change as they look to defend their 2013 Pac-12 South title.
Said objective could hit a few small bumps in the road as redshirt junior Mike Bercovici takes over for the injured Taylor Kelly but many nationally believe the 15th-ranked Devils are in good hands Thursday night, even without their senior leader.
“I think Arizona State is going to force UCLA’s hand,” legendary broadcaster Tim Brando told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a phone interview Wednesday morning from Tempe. “You can be a really good defense and still give up points and Arizona State is one of those kind of teams. You can play really well but you’re going to give up points to a team like the Sun Devils.”
Good Morning World! Headed to ASU this morning to meet w/ Todd Graham, staff and players as they get ready to meet the Bruins @FOXSports1
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) September 24, 2014
Brando, who will be doing the play-by-play along with Joel Klatt, describes the matchup as a “barometer game” not only for the two teams but the entire conference, as well. He’s been high on the Sun Devils, despite some inconsistent defensive play the past two games in wins at New Mexico and Colorado.
“I love what I’ve seen in Arizona State,” Brando explained to Cesmat. “They just have so many playmakers here. You look at guys like Jaelen Strong…and De’Marieya Nelson who can literally play anywhere on the field and D.J. Foster who’s really the goods…this is a really good team.”
Many, including Brando, believe the Devils will be the toughest conference road test for a team some believe have the talent to win the national championship.
“I’m a believer in UCLA,” he said. “Largely because of their defensive personnel, the toughness that [Jim] Mora instilled and the kind of depth he has on that side of the ball. They’ve got just enough playmakers.”
Something’s gotta give Thursday night in Tempe.
One of these two talented teams will leave Sun Devil Stadium with a loss which, if history repeats itself, could go a long way in who wins the Pac-12 South, even in late-September.