I got a chance to settle in front of the TV - instead of swelter in Sun Devil Sauna - and watch ASU's opener.

As an old schooler, the new uniforms will take some getting used to - but I didn't dislike them as much as I thought I might. But these were the most familiar of the 48 different combinations the Devils now have in their walk-in lockers, so I reserve the right to whine as the season rolls on.

On the field, the idea was to look sharp, play a clean game and prepare for Missouri by taking care of business against an inferior opponent. The Devils did all of that against UC Davis.

The defensive starters played well and threw a shutout. Brock Osweiler (19 of 26, 262 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) made the right decisions and his ball looked good - although he received almost no pressure from the Aggie rushers. There is depth and talent in the running game, but the holes won't look like that the rest of the year.

The best part was the discipline. Season openers in the Erickson era have been loaded with mistakes and poor decisions, plays overcome by pure talent. Not this time. ASU was called for just four penalties all night, including one or two when the game got ragged late.

No personal foul penalties. Vontaze Burfict was aggressive and dominant while playing smart. The special teams were smooth, and both punter Josh Hubner and kicker Alex Garoutte could turn out to be weapons.

ASU did lose another player - safety Ezekiel Bishop - to a season-ending ACL injury, but otherwise came out of the game in decent shape.

Now the first true test comes next Saturday when the Tigers come to town. It appears the weather won't change much, so Osweiler might start drinking that water now.

Takin' care of business

The reason the Diamondbacks took a comfy lead into September wasn't so much how they played against the playoff-bound teams (Atlanta, Milwaukee and Philadelphia) or their record within the National League West.

But Arizona took care of business against the rest - while the San Francisco Giants were given the business. Against the likes of the Astros (3-4), Reds (2-5), Nationals (3-4), Pirates (3-3) and Marlins (2-4), the Giants were 13-20 this season.

Arizona, meanwhile, was 21-10 against the same five teams, with a three-game series still left at home against the Pirates.

That's a nine-game swing - with a potential to go as high as 10½ games - against teams who either were never in the playoff hunt or tumbled out before the home stretch. That wipes out San Francisco's head-to-head advantage against Arizona, and then some.

Quick hitters

• The Coyotes had to do something about the hole at the center position, and by all accounts Daymond Langkow is good to go after missing all of last season with a vertebra injury.

But the Coyotes had to add $2.2 million of payroll and part with Lee Stempniak - who had a disappointing year and another poor playoff but is a potential 30-goal scorer who makes $1.9 million. Those guys are hard to find.

• Preseason records are meaningless, but the Cardinals needed them this year with all the changes. The key injuries were tough to take - Adrian Wilson will have to change his game, Greg Toler will be missed on the corner and Ryan Williams had skills that can't be replaced on this roster - but the Big Red has a chance to get out of the gate fast and playing a fourth-place schedule gives them an advantage in a division that's up for grabs.

I like Kevin Kolb and I think they can win nine games and go back to the playoffs.

• Maybe instead of BCS and non-BCS teams, we should just have a cheaters and non-cheaters division. Auburn, Ohio State, Miami and USC can fight it out for a berth in The Longest Yard Bowl (play the game on Alcatraz Island).

Jerry Brown is a contributing columnist who appears every Sunday in the Tribune. Contact him at jbrown5548@aol.com


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