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Aug. 12, 1997

Sun Devils Prepare To Defend Pac-10 Title

Arizona State began its 86th season of football on Saturday with its season-opener against New Mexico State. After two difficult non-conference games at Miami and at home against Brigham Young, the Sun Devils will begin the defense of their Pac-10 title in Corvallis against Oregon State.

Head coach Bruce Snyder, the 1996 consensus National Coach of the Year, returns 36 lettermen and 10 starters from the 1996 squad that recorded the fourth undefeated regular season in ASU history and finished fourth in both major polls. As the Sun Devils embark upon a new year on the gridiron, the DevilsTale wanted to share a few informational bits and pieces:

DEFENDING THE TITLE: 1997 will mark the second time Arizona State has defended a Pac-10 championship in the 19 years the Sun Devils have been a member of the league. The Sun Devils captured their first Pac-10 title in 1986 and followed up with a 7-4-1 season in 1987 that included a trip to the Freedom Bowl, ASU's last bowl appearance before last year. ASU has totaled 16 conference championships, picking up seven each as a member of the Border Conference and WAC. In its 15 previous title defenses, ASU has repeated as champion five times - winning back-to-back Border crowns in 1939-40 and picking up five straight trophies from 1969-73 in the WAC. On average, ASU has won 7.4 games the year after a conference crown.

PRESEASON PUNDITS: As ASU heads into the 1997 season, the preseason college football annuals rank the Sun Devils anywhere from 12th to 35th in the nation while selecting ASU to finish somewhere between third and sixth in defense of its Pac-10 title. The "official" Pac-10 prediction - tabulated at Pac-10 Media Day - forsees the Sun Devils finishing fifth in the conference. Here's a look at what selected media members collaborated to see in their crystal ball:

 1. Washington
 2. Stanford
 3. USC
 4. UCLA
 5. Arizona State
 6. Arizona
 7. Washington State
 8. Oregon
 9. California
10. Oregon State

SNYDER CLIMBS ASU COACHING CHARTS: As head coach Bruce Snyder begins his sixth season at ASU, he needs six wins to become the second winningest coach in ASU history. Snyder would overtake Darryl Rogers who won 37 games in five seasons during the early '80's. Snyder's sixth year of service makes him only the fourth coach at ASU to have a tenure of more than five seasons. Frank Kush's 22 seasons and 176 wins are the most in Sun Devil history while Aaron McCreary (7 seasons, 1923-29) and ASU's first football coach, Fred Irish (8 seasons), each stayed longer than a half-decade.

STREAKS: Arizona State's 11-1 run through 1996 contributed to starting a number of strings for the Sun Devils. Entering 1997, ASU will look to continue a few streaks that are still alive:

  • 3 ASU has won 15 of its last 17 games, including 11 straight regular-season contests. Its last regular season loss: Nov. 24, 1995, 31-28 vs. Arizona.
  • 3 ASU has won seven straight and 9 of its last 10 home games. Its last home loss: Nov. 24, 1995, 31-28 vs. Arizona.
  • 3 ASU has won eight straight and 11 of its last 12 Pac-10 games. It last conference loss: Nov. 24, 1995, 31-28 vs. Arizona.

SIZING UP THE SCHEDULE: ASU's 1997 schedule may be one of the toughest in the nation. In addition to the always tough Pac-10 slate, the Sun Devils have added nonconference foes Miami, BYU and New Mexico State. Five of the Sun Devils opponents went to bowls a year ago: Miami (Carquest), BYU (Cotton), Washington (Holiday), Stanford (Sun) and California (Aloha). Four of the five games against bowl opponents are on the road. The Sun Devils home schedule features BYU (who enters the 1997 season with a 12-game winning streak), USC and arch-rival Arizona.

RETURNING HONOREES: Five Sun Devils return from seasons that earned them All-Pac-10 recognition a year ago (listed below). However, ASU will have to attempt to fill the shoes of 11 others who earned Pac-10 accolades, including five first-team performers.

Name          Pos.  1996 Pac-10 Honor
Kyle Murphy   LG    2nd team
Pat Tillman   OLB   2nd team
Robert Nycz   PK    honorable mention
Grey Ruegamer RT    honorable mention
Jason Simmons CB    honorable mention

DRAFT SUCCESS: Arizona State had eight football players selected in the 1997 NFL Draft, tied for the most in the nation with Miami and Nebraska (see chart below). In addition, ASU had six other players sign free agent contracts, giving it 14 players in NFL camps in 1997 from its 1996 squad. To break it down, of ASU's 22 starters on New Years Day in the Rose Bowl, 11 (6 defensive, 5 offensive) are now in the NFL with the Sun Devils first string punter and two reserves joining them in the professional ranks.

   Team      Players Drafted
1. ASU              8
   Miami
   Nebraska
4. Florida State    7
   Ohio State
6. Colorado State   6
   Texas
   Virginia

BOWL LINEUP: The top four finishers in the Pac-10 race are once again guaranteed bowl games following the season. This is the final year that the Pac-10 will not be a part of the bowl alliance that attempts to match the top two teams in the country. The Rose Bowl joins the Fiesta, Orange and Sugar Bowls in forming a Super-Alliance in 1998. A look at where, when and against whom the Pac-10 will go bowling after the '97 season:

Bowl      Site        Date      TV    Matchup
Aloha     Honolulu    Dec. 25   ABC   Pac-10 #4 vs. Big 12 #5
Holiday   San Diego   Dec. 29   ESPN  WAC #1/Pac-10 #2 vs. Big 12 #3
Sun       El Paso     Dec. 31   CBS   Pac-10 #3 vs. Big Ten #5
Cotton    Dallas      Jan. 1    CBS   Big 12 #2 vs. WAC #1/ Pac-10 #2
Rose      Pasadena    Jan. 1    ABC   Pac-10 #1 vs. Big Ten #1

ON THE TUBE: Five of ASU's 11 games are already scheduled for live television with the possibility of more games being added to the TV lineup as the season moves along. Games already scheduled this season include:

Date      Game              TV
Sept. 13  at Miami          CBS (regional)
Sept. 20  BYU               Fox Sports Network (national)
Oct.   4  at Washington     Fox Sports Network (national)
Nov.   1  Washington State  Fox Sports Network (national)
Nov.  28  Arizona           Fox Sports Network (national)

OVER THE AIR: KMVP (860 AM), the new all-sports formatted station unveiled last spring, and KTAR are the stations to dial up to find Sun Devil football on the radio. Tom Dillon, the Arizona Sportscaster-of-the-Year 16 years running (1981-96), and the voice of the Sun Devils since 1979, once again will handle the play-by-play duties. Former Sun Devil QB and 1987 Rose Bowl MVP Jeff Van Raaphorst (1983-86) returns for his second season as the color analyst. KMVP and KTAR have teamed with AudioNet to provide all Sun Devil radio broadcasts on the internet. Each broadcast can be accessed anywhere on the world wide web at http://www.audionet.com/schools/asu.

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