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Updated Nov 16, 2012 - 12:07 pm

Hey Sun Devil fans, take a step back and breathe


A friend of mine fired off a tweet a couple weeks back that I still believe holds true today.

The Sun Devils have gone from 5-1 to 5-5 (they were 5-4 when the tweet was sent), so yeah, the slide could be seen as "unbelievable".

Except, as my colleague Vince Marotta writes, all this shows is this year's Devils are not any different from the team's fielded the last few years, where prolonged losing streaks have been kind of the norm.

As an Arizona alum and fan, I'd be lying if I said ASU's struggles aren't at least a little amusing.

They're also not surprising -- at least, not to the extent my friend should be shocked at what's transpired.

A few weeks back when the Sun Devils were getting ready to face the Oregon Ducks, I wrote, among other things, that it was tough to buy ASU as a "good team" because they hadn't played anyone of note.

At the time I wrote that piece, ASU's strength of schedule was 76th in the nation according to Sagarin. Now? A healthy 22nd.

The truth is this Sun Devils team was never that good. There is a reason they were never ranked at 5-1, and there's a reason they've lost the last four contests. The easy part (Washington State not included) of their schedule has passed, leaving nothing but the Pac-12's best on the docket. You know, with starting quarterbacks and other things good teams have.

Good teams make less-good teams look bad. That's how sports work.

But it's OK.

A month ago I wrote that not all 5-1 records are created equal. Now I'm writing the same for four-game losing streaks, too.

Last season the Devils dropped their final four regular season games after a 6-2 start. It was a collapse as epic as it was shocking, given that not one of the teams that beat Arizona State was ranked in the top 25.

Dennis Erickson's squad lost to some of the worst teams in the conference -- three of whom fired their coach -- and ruined what could have been a special season.

In comparison, this year's meltdown has been aided by four teams who were either ranked at the time they beat ASU or joined the top 25 shortly after the win.

There's no shame in that, especially when your team wasn't supposed to be any good in the first place.

Arizona State was picked by the media to finish fifth in the Pac-12 South, ahead of only Colorado.

The media was not a bunch of haters; they just saw a team with a new coaching staff, uncertainty at quarterback a lack of impact receivers and a shaky defense.

You know, the very things that are costing the Devils now.

The truth is the Arizona State Sun Devils were neither as good as they looked through the first six games nor as bad as they look over the last four. They're an average team that is better than the worst but nowhere near as good as the league's best.

And they're still set to go to a bowl game in year one of the Todd Graham era, which is something few expected coming into the season.

So if you want to view this team the same as you did last year's, that's fine, you're allowed. Go ahead and ignore the fact that Graham has taken a team that was ranked 120th in FBS in penalty yardage per game last season and improved it to 10th this year. Feel free to be naļve and think a coaching staff does not need a few years to get its system and players in place. And you're welcome to feel the level of competition should not make a difference, even though it's obvious it does.

If you're really upset with how this season has transpired, that's fine. If you're qualm is with how the team is finishing after the quick start, that's entirely on you.

That said, please disregard this entire column if the Sun Devils fall to the Cougars Saturday at Sun Devil Stadium.

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