Preseason expectations are a lot like campaign promises during an election -- they don't mean anything until you have a chance to prove the hype. That's the problem the ASU Sun Devils are facing in 2011 as they make final preparations for their season opener on September 1 against UC-Davis.
With only a week left in fall camp, the Sun Devils proposed more questions than answers in an off season marked by key injuries, the starting quarterback retiring due to multiple concussions, and teammates scrapping in the locker room.
Expectations can be fun for a team that hasn't been to a bowl game since December 2007, but they can also create undesirable consequences.
ASU's schedule is nothing like the Arizona Wildcats' schedule in 2010, when their Pac-10 conference schedule was backloaded with quality competition. The Sun Devils face their toughest tests early in the season, when things can still get quite dicey.
After seven games, the Sun Devils will know exactly how good they are. Are they contenders, or as the old adage goes, pretenders? In most years, being 5-2 against Missouri, Illinois, USC, Oregon, Utah, Oregon State and UC-Davis would be considered an incredible start, but this team is hungry and aiming for 7-0.
Fans of the Sun Devils are cautiously optimistic about the upcoming campaign, if only because new quarterback Brock Osweiler is confident about the team's chances and has shown to be a capable leader during the off season.
After losing Omar Bolden, Brandon Magee, T.J. Simpson, James Brooks and Steven Threet (among others) since the end of last year, Osweiler has to step into a primary role as a vocal supporter on all sides of the ball. Vontaze Burfict is not ready to play that role on defense, and it appears as though Junior Onyeali or Eddie Elder will have to assume responsibilities there.
ASU has put in the hard work necessary to compete at the highest levels of NCAA football. The only question left to answer is, will they prove it on the field?