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Arizona State Sun Devils: The tides are changing in Tempe

Life, like football, is made up of constant cycles.

Similar to the seasons, the success of football teams often comes and goes. Teams are usually good for a few years, bad for a few and the cycle continues.

While the past three seasons have been forgettable for the Sun Devils, the 2011 campaign looks to be a changing of the seasons in Tempe.

Following a 35-14 victory against Pac-12 newcomer Utah, the Sun Devils are sitting at 5-1 and appear to be the front runners to represent the South in the inaugural Pac-12 title game.

Since Dennis Erickson's inaugural season of 2007, the Sun Devils have failed to come away with any statement wins, but this season is different.

The 2011 Sun Devils obviously have the most talent they have had in years, despite missing numerous starters due to injuries, and have already come away with three big statement wins this season.

Missouri. USC. Utah.

An overtime win at home against a top-25 team after relinquishing a 14 point fourth quarter lead, a blow out of a longtime conference nemesis, and a convincing road win in a game that needed to be won.

Although we are only halfway through this year's campaign, ASU has shown a lot of progress. Unlike past years, this team has shown it knows how to win. They have shown an ability to put teams away when presented the opportunity.

Not only has this team shown an ability to win that was lacking in years past, but they have also fixed two major issues from past seasons: turnovers and penalties.

Turnovers often swing the momentum of football games and are a huge indication of who wins and who loses. In 2010, the Sun Devils finished with a minus two turnover margin meaning they gave they ball up two more times than they took it away. However, in 2011 they have a plus nine margin through six games. Although the season is far from finished, the defense has shown its ability to be opportunistic, while the offense has taken better care of the football.

Although penalties are not as impactful as turnovers, they do have the ability to stall offensive dries and provide opponents with new life and a second chance. For those who watched ASU football over the past few seasons, you may have noticed a plethora of yellow flags on the field.

In 2010, the Sun Devils were penalized 96 times for 835 yards. The Sun Devils are currently on pace for 92 penalties this year, a slight reduction, but a reduction none the less. While the penalties may be similar to the past, they also seem to be coming at more opportune times this season, thus not hurting the team as much as they did in the past.

ASU has certainly taken great strides and is well on its way to a return to prominence, but there are still a few hurdles left to jump.

The turnovers still need to be reduced and although they have three signature wins already this season, the opportunity for a fourth now stares directly at them.

ASU has shown that it is a top 20 team so far this season, but a win against the Oregon Ducks in Autzen Stadium would speak volumes about the progress of this program and would instantly legitimize the 2011 team.