The Arizona State Sun Devils are 5-1 on the season and have a chance to be bowl eligible on Thursday night against second ranked Oregon Ducks.
Wait. Did we just say 5-1?
Yes, that is not a typo for ASU. A complete coaching change to bring in Todd Graham and company has already done this program wonders and he has only been in Tempe for ten months. Apparently, a culture change was one of the only things missing from Arizona State.
Graham's high-octane offense and disciplined style of play has revamped the Sun Devils football program. Nearly every student has already forgotten about the Dennis Erickson era. With Erickson, the Sun Devils led the nation in two of the last three seasons in penalty yards-per-game. Going into the Colorado game on Thursday night, the maroon and gold was ranked as the sixth-best team with only 31 penalty yards per game. Only Stanford has fewer penalties in the Pac-12.
Defensive coordinator Paul Randolph has trained the defensive unit to be one of the best in the nation. Defensive lineman Will Sutton leads the nation with 8.5 sacks this season, and the team has only allowed roughly 14 points-per-game, which is good for 13th best in the FBS. It's hard to think of any negatives when looking at the team's overall success. They have been virtually unstoppable on their pass rushing, containment and coverage. Their discipline, talent and preparation will be put to a test in the second half of the season with potentially three games against ranked opponents.
It's equally hard to shred the Sun Devils offense this season. Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Norvell has the gem of the west. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly is having one of the best seasons in program history. At the halfway point, he is leading the Pac-12 with a 176.0 rating and boosted the offense to second-best in the league averaging 40.5 points per game. Kelly has a 68.3 completion percentage while throwing for 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Brock Osweiler who?
The coaching has been the greatest intangible of the season. This time last year, the Sun Devils had an identical record, but they did not have Todd Graham on the sidelines. If there was a fan favorite vote this year, Graham and the rest of the coaching unit would rank as one of the best.
The coaches have won the fan's support in under six games, but the question is can they finish as strong as they started? Oregon is the second-best team in college football now and leads the Pac-12 in points per game and rushing yards per game. In the team's only loss this season, they went an atrocious 2-12 on third down conversions, committed a season high seven penalties for 54 yards and turned the ball over a season-high four times.
Thursday night's ESPN game will be an immediate test for the Sun Devils to start the second half of the season. A win at home would solidify the coaches' work and boost ASU well into the Top 25.
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