The significance of ASU's win over Cal goes beyond the Pac-12 standings. It represents a new era where winning on the road is no longer an afterthought. Heading into their bye, ASU stands at 4-1 and atop the South division (2-0 conference record.)
Last year's theme was underachieving, while this season is premised around overachieving. Few predicted the Sun Devils to prosper this early into Todd Graham's inaugural season. I predicted seven wins for ASU, and practically all my co-workers were dumbfounded.
In celebration of popping the champagne from 1997, ASU's players earned some awards for finally winning at Memorial Stadium. And no, Alex Garoutte did not make the cut, missing two relatively easy field goals (C'MON MAN!)
The Chuck Bednarik Award
The Bednarik award is a prestigious honor given out to the nations premier defensive lineman annually. ASU's Will Sutton was recently placed on the watch list, and should probably be the leading candidate through Week Five.
Sutton may not be a household name yet, but he is the foundation of ASU's defense that lives in opposing backfields. Regardless of facing lousy quarterbacks, nobody can throw successfully with this monster in their face constantly, including Geno Smith.
Each week, I avoid giving players awards consecutively, but Sutton is obviously ruining the trend. His high level of play is impossible to neglect, as he forced two sacks and had four tackles-for-loss against Cal.
Sutton anchors a defense that allows a minimal 13.6 points per contest, ranking 14th in the FBS. Media members believe the downfall of ASU's defensive unit would be their secondary, however consistent pressure from Sutton and company have masked that deficiency.
In the NFL, the New York Giants defense is built around a tremendous defensive line. ASU's best shot for maintained success is a similar recipe. Across the conference, offensive line coaches will be focused on figuring out ways to neutralize Sutton.
Although many Sun Devil defensive linemen appear sharp, Sutton's responsibility to this unit cannot be understated.
Field Position Wizard
Hubner's boot is arguably second to none, averaging 45.6 yard per punt. The senior from Scottsdale, Arizona is not an ordinary special teams guy, checking in at 6-foot-4 and 231 pounds.
Against Cal, Hubner was a field position wizard, forcing quarterback Zach Maynard inside the 20 twice. His 62-yard kick was jaw dropping, displaying game-changing type ability.
Punting is rarely a headline story, but rather an easy cop out when times get rough. ASU's field goal issues are evident, leading me to wonder in Hubner can stick it through the uprights. Coach Graham continues to stress a willingness to punt, and I do not blame him with Hubner's reliability to perform the coffin corner.
Everyone loves coming home to a squeaky clean room. Metaphorically speaking, ASU will do exactly that. The Sun Devils "owned the ball" against Cal, avoiding a turnover for the second straight week.
In order to beat ASU, opponents need to win games themselves, instead of being granted easy opportunities. Winning the turnover battle is a stat that commonly corresponds to the final outcome. The statement above can be proven right here in Tempe.
ASU's first four wins likely happened because of forcing more turnovers than coughing up. On the other end of the spectrum, ASU's sole loss against Missouri can be attributed to losing the take away battle four to one.
During Weeks One through Three, fumbling the ball became a glaring issue. Now that problem is just somebody that we used to know! Being scotch free in Berkeley helped ASU maintain momentum throughout the entire afternoon.
The awesome part is, the entire offense can sport this squeaky-clean award around campus. Sure the name may be weird, but Coach Graham's will take pride in the feat, possibly putting it up in his office display area.