The Sun Devils are 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Pac-12 South with three tough games remaining on their schedule. Can Arizona State stay in the driver's seat and compete in the Pac-12 championship game? We asked our writers to weigh in on that subject.
House of Sparky Weekly Roundtable
Question: After a narrow victory against Utah, rank your confidence level (on a scale of 1-10) for the Sun Devils' chances of winning the Pac-12 South.
It's no question that Utah exposed the Sun Devils on Saturday, but in the fourth quarter, Arizona State showed that it could get the job done with its back up against the wall. The final quarter was a make or break quarter for the Sun Devils' season, and the resiliency Arizona State showed is that of a championship-caliber team (to borrow a phrase from HoS writer Ben Haber). Saturday's victory won't earn the Sun Devils any style points, but they proved that they can play from behind, win in a hostile environment, and step up when it matters.
Moving forward, I believe Saturday's victory gives the Sun Devils an excellent chance to win the Pac-12 South. Two of Arizona State's final three games are at home, although Oregon State and Arizona are traditionally tough matchups. With the way USC has been playing, the Sun Devils could still lose to UCLA and claim the Pac-12 South crown if the Trojans take care of business over rivalry weekend. Nothing is a foregone conclusion, yet I'm still confident Arizona State can manage its home games and I believe the Sun Devils match up well against the Bruins. Saturday's win kept Arizona State in the driver's seat, and that's where I believe the maroon and gold will stay.
Ben Haber: 8
Coming into the season I picked Arizona State to win the Pac-12 South. I gain more and more confidence in that pick every week. The ASU win over Utah changed how I view the program. The team finally showed resiliency. The team finally showed grit. The team finally showed the defense can carry it. Overall it was one of the Sun Devils' worst games, especially on offense. In spite of the disappointing performance, the Sun Devils prevailed. It doesn't always need to be pretty, as long as the scoreboard shows your team ended up on top. Completing a 12-point fourth quarter comeback, in the hostile Rice-Eccles Stadium, proves Todd Graham has the players completely buying in.
ASU leads UCLA and USC by one game heading into the final three weeks. UCLA obviously presents the biggest challenge. USC probably won't end up in the mix because ASU owns the tiebreaker due to head-to-head. The Trojans still play Stanford and that should be their fatal third conference loss. Meanwhile UCLA hosts Washington, providing a significantly tougher test than ASU against Oregon State. If the Bruins lose to the Huskies and the Sun Devils beat the Beavers, the Pac-12 South crown will essentially call Tempe its temporary home. But as expected, UCLA and ASU aren't going to slip up. Therefore, the Bruins and Sun Devils clash at the Rose Bowl on November 23 decides it all. I believe ASU defeats UCLA.
Nick Krueger: 6
There is still a lot of football to be played and variables to be sorted out but I cautiously like the Sun Devils' chances right now. UCLA and Arizona both showcased some impressive skills Saturday night in Tucson. I'm legitimately scared of Myles Jack now and the impact he might have on ASU. If Todd Graham and company can barely get a win at Utah, how in the world do they plan to win on an even bigger stage at UCLA on the road. As Kerry pointed out however, USC is gaining momentum and could take the Bruins out of contention.
Oregon State is certainly not a team to overlook either. The battle of quarterbacks between Sean Mannion and Taylor Kelly will certainly be one to look forward to and this could technically be looked at as a trap game if ASU looks too far forward to UCLA. Then no one knows what could happen in the Territorial Cup matchup against the Wildcats. ASU could be playing for a spot in the Pac-12 title game or nothing at all. It will come down to which ASU team shows up, the Notre Dame, Stanford, and Wisconsin game Sun Devils who can't stop the running game to save their lives or the impressive championship-caliber group from the Washington and Utah matchups. It remains to be seen but buckle your seat belts because these last three weeks are shaping up to be one heck of a ride.
Cody Ulm: 5
To me, it's 50-50 toss up. As everyone has touched on, it's going to come down to the UCLA game. But while most are drawing confidence from Arizona State's comeback victory over Utah, I find myself more worried for when the Sun Devils hit the road again. ASU did show a level of mental ferocity that I personally didn't think the team had in them. But we can't ignore those lifeless three quarters. No, UCLA isn't as physical as Utah. At the same time though, UCLA offers a killer instinct that Utah failed to display. If Arizona State's offense goes quiet for an extended period of time again, the Bruins will step on some Sun Devil throats and never look back.
Arizona State may be the hotter team but UCLA remains the favorites in that game for my money. And I wouldn't count on USC helping Arizona State out if the Devils falter. In the Pac-12 era, there has only been one South team that has displayed an ability to close down the stretch and that's the Bruins. For that reason, UCLA is my lead horse until further notice.