Bill Slane

The Sun Devils are still in good shape

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Going into the season, a good number of Sun Devil fans who would have been happy being 3-2 after the game against Notre Dame. That is exactly where the Devils stand as of now, but as the saying goes “conditions on the ground have changed.” There is a feeling now that this team could and should hold a better record. With that said, the Sun Devils are where they must be, right in the mix to win the Pac-12 South.

The stretch of games starting with the second game against Wisconsin and ending with Notre Dame was described as a “murderer’s row” before the season began. Splitting these four games would be a huge positive for a team with a second year head coach and losing its heart and soul Brandon Magee, exactly what the Sun Devils did. While they could have easily have had three victories if some things went differently against Notre Dame, they could also have easily had only one win if some things went differently against the Wisconsin Badgers.

While the game against Notre Dame was certainly the most hyped game of the proverbial murder’s row, the USC game was the most important game so far. It has been the only division game ASU has had and it is the division games that decide who will represent the South in the Pac-12 title game. It bodes well for the Sun Devils that not only did they beat the Trojans but also they beat them handily in the team’s most impressive win of the season.

Coach Graham summed it up well in his Monday press conference, when he stated that the Sun Devils can control their own destiny the rest of the way through the season.

“It’s a single-elimination tournament now. You control your own destiny; all you have to do is go win every week. That’s obviously the hard part,” Coach Graham said.

In order to do what Graham stated, there is one thing that this team will have to do and that is get back the production they had from their defense last season. At this point last season, Will Sutton had 6.5 sacks. He has only one in 2013. Coach Graham and the rest of his staff hopes that starting the Pac-12 part of their schedule in earnest will help in the productivity of both sacks and tackles for loss. The Sun Devils have an aggressive defense that likes to blitz and it is necessary to get production from those blitzes, otherwise the secondary will be left out to dry.

“We have to up that productivity […] now we’re not playing different people, we’re playing the same people we played last year. So we better see that productivity go way up for us to be successful,” Graham said.

The loss against Notre Dame on Saturday was certainly a disappointing one from a program recognition standpoint. But there is a lot of season left for the Sun Devils and they are still in great shape to take the Pac-12 South. Coming out of these first five games with two losses just makes some of the games in the back half of the schedule that much more important, especially the final two games against division opponents UCLA and rival Arizona in order to make it to the Rose Bowl.

About Bill Slane

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