The last fortnight has been exceedingly difficult for Arizona State. Two straight losses have the fanbase restless and the team out of first place in the Pac-12 South.
To make matters worse, the Sun Devils schedule is grueling, with USC, Washington State and Arizona following this Saturday's battle against Oregon State.
Given the current situation, we have ourselves a roundtable debate topic for the House of Sparky staff:
Is Arizona State still a viable Pac-12 South division title contender?
Ben Haber: ASU shouldn't be considered among the contenders for Pac-12 South supremacy. Sorry fans, but it's time to face reality. Both Los Angeles teams in USC and UCLA are better. The Bruins now hold a key head-head advantage over the Devils. Meanwhile, the Trojans are failing to meet lofty pre-season expectations, yet still possess some of the premier talent in college football. In addition, ASU's remaining schedule is brutal, and may finish the back half 1-5 again (currently 0-2.) On paper, the only game I predict ASU winning is against Washington State at home. This week at Oregon State is going to be rough, playing USC in the Coliseum never goes well and heading into Tucson will always be challenging. However, I do believe ASU will be competitive in almost every contest, just not good enough. I've been one of the biggest believers all season, but will be thoroughly surprised if ASU finishes second or higher.
Cory Williams: That loss pretty (UCLA) much sealed it for me. Teams that deserve to win their division don't let an opponent march the length of the field with 1:30 left in the game in their own house. They simply don't.
Nick Marek: I agree with Ben and Cory in the fact that they are not contenders in the Pac-12 South because they lost a crucial head-to-head advantage against UCLA. I am going to take this one step further and say ASU need to fight to become bowl eligible. They should take care of Washington State rather easily at home but I'm not sure about the rest of their games. Why? Mainly because of Will Sutton. The defense has looked atrocious in the past two games at home giving up nearly 100 points. If Sutton comes back in the next two weeks, the Sun Devils have a chance to win a few more than six games but what some fans do not realize is without Sutton's pass rushing, the linebackers and secondary were more exposed and they had to run more of a contain style, which is not how ASU has played with Sutton on the field. It's nearly impossible to learn a new defensive scheme when the original scheme virtually ran through the pass rushing capability of the front four. Junior Onyeali has even been banged up for his second straight week. I can't see the defense stopping USC, Oregon State or even Arizona. So it's going to come down to ASU's offense which has been shaky the last two games.
Graham and Norvell pulled a Dennis Erickson and ran far too many screen and outlet passes in Saturday's contest? What happened to the high octane football? There were five minute spurts where the offense looked unstoppable and five minute spurts when they looked like the most predictable offense in the FBS by running the same play three times in a row. The question I want to ask is why has the offense changed? The ground game has been fairly effective but Taylor Kelly was asked to change his tempo. I did not see as many play action sets against UCLA. This is just something to keep and eye on. They still put up 43 points this past weekend so how mad can we really be. I want to make it clear that I am still 100 percent hopeful and supportive of the team this year and moving forward, but everyone on this team including the coaches need to step up quickly with or without their star defensive player. Just don't be surprised if this team is 5-5 in a few weeks.
Cody Ulm: I remember being the only one that was realistic about the second half expectations in our last roundtable and now everyone is jumping ship? The Bruins or Trojans don't have it much easier, gang.
UCLA still has to play three ranked conference opponents and the Trojans will probably be handed their third conference loss when Oregon comes into town next week. As long as ASU can go 3-1 or 2-2 with a win over USC, they should be pretty well off. Yes, they'll need some help but UCLA and USC have looked just as erratic at times. If Will Sutton can make it back in a timely manner, there's no reason to throw in the towel on ASU's Pac-12 South chances.
Ryan Bafaloukos: Mathematically, ASU is still alive and well in the Pac-12 South. USC is worse than any of us thought and I don't think UCLA or Arizona is anything special. ASU has a few things working against them, one is the schedule, which only gets more challenging. Three ranked opponents, all on the road. The second is injuries. Will Sutton, Junior Onyeali, Steffon Martin all did not finish the UCLA game (Sutton did not play obviously). Graham also said in the post game presser that Devon Coleman is playing will two different injuries.
But how can we expect ASU to go 3-1 or even 2-2 in their final four Cody? ASU has not been impressive on the road this year. They only led Colorado by three at the half, they lost to Missouri and they only beat Cal by 10. We said how good this team plays at home, and the Pac-12's No. 1 defense gave up 45 points to a redshirt freshman quarterback last week. ASU won games that they should have, the fact is the schedule just got more difficult.
Brad Denny: Yes, ASU is still very much alive. The South right now is one muddled mess of inconsistency, and the Sun Devils remain in a three-way tie of two-loss teams.
The key, surprise, surprise, is the return of Will Sutton. If he can come back this week and regain his form, the Sun Devil defense has the ability to slow down the next few opponents juuuuust enough to give the ASU offense a chance.
Lost in the dismay of the UCLA loss is a relatively great and clutch performance by Taylor Kelly, DJ Foster and company. The Sun Devils can score some points against the rest of their schedule. Whether they can stop teams from scoring more will be the major question.
You've heard us ramble, now it's your turn. Vote in the poll below and tell us your reasoning in the comments section below.