With a bye week, it's tough to have a gameday roundtable, so we'll have quick ones this week. Today it's just a quick question our staff will answer: What are your thoughts on the season so far? Is this team better than you thought, worse than you thought or at about the level you expected?
Justin Emerson: Managing Editor (@J15Emerson)
Nick Krueger: Managing Editor (@NickPKrueger)
Jason Galvin: Columnist (@Jason_Galvin)
Connor Pelton: Staff writer (@ConnorPelton28)
Emerson: This team is exactly where I thought it would be: The offense is good, the defense needs some work. When the Sun Devils have the ball, it's the expectation that they score. That's exactly what you want in an offense. Jaelen Strong and D.J. Foster are two of the most dynamic players in all the nation, and a whisper of "Heisman" have been heard around Foster. I'm excited to see the offense expand when it needs to, and see Cam Smith and Ellis Jefferson and Kalen Ballage have a bigger role. I don't think anyone can say they are surprised with the defense, considering the expectations were low going in. Jordan Simone has been a nice surprise, but same thing. I'm excited to see what they will do against a good thing.
Krueger: Although certain players have shown promise through the first three games such as, DJ Calhoun, Jordan Simone and Christian Sam in particular, they still gave up an average of 396.6 yards of total offense through three games against sub-par talent. It's only going to become more difficult for this team to have success and the defense hasn't progressed enough. The same can be said for special teams, which has given up 19 yards per kick return and 18.3 yards per punt return up until this point. That won't fly against team's in the conference who will take advantage of good field position almost every time. Taking a broader look, I expected this defense to at least have a little more success in stopping these three offenses although I did see improvement in the pass rush against Colorado. The special teams has lived up in the kicking and punting itself, but as much as Todd Graham promised in the offseason that it would get better, I expected marked improvement. That hasn't happened yet.
Offensively, this team has met my expectations, but those expectations were also extremely high coming into the season. D.J. Foster has been nothing short of remarkable through three games and the Sun Devils have averaged 304.3 yards on the ground. Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage have contributed as much as you can expect from freshmen and have shown a lot of promise, particularly Ballage. 234.7 yards through the air for Taylor Kelly is a little lower than some might have expected. I don't think Mike Norvell can ignore what Foster has been able to do on the ground and continues to go to him because it's working. Jaelen Strong has contributed what he has needed to so far, but I'd like to see a few more players get involved and a few less passes dropped. Nevertheless, the offense has functioned at a high-level average of 47 points per game and it's tough to ask for more than that.
Galvin: I think the team is right where I thought they would be. The offense has been nearly unstoppable, if not a little too predictable for my tastes. The inability to get anyone not named Foster or Strong involved consistently has to be a bit worrying, especially given the likelihood of Taylor Kelly missing some time. Defensively the team certainly has some nice talent, but the inexperience has shown up at times in all three contests so far. The secondary worries me more than anything at this point, specifically at corner, and that's the position where the team has its biggest void in depth. On the positive side, D.J. Calhoun and Tashon Smallwood both look like the absolute real deal. Salamo Fiso has established himself as a tackling machine and I believe both Fiso and Calhoun are in line to continue the run of great linebackers Arizona State seems to consistently pump out. Special teams are still a disaster, as the Sun Devils can't buy a big play in the return game yet have given up at least one in each game so far. I don't think that can be fixed at this point. But Zane Gonzalez continues to be money, and that should pay off this year.
Pelton: Everything (save for the injury to Taylor Kelly) has gone pretty much how I thought it would. There have been some rough patches, namely the second quarters at New Mexico and Colorado, but three wins are three wins. Teams like USC and Ohio State would love to trade places with Arizona State right now. Giving up 545 yards to Colorado is worrisome, namely because it is probably a sign of things to come for this young defense against the top offensive conference in the nation. The emergence of Kalen Ballage in the backfield has been a tremendous surprise and my favorite part of the season thus far.
The team is performing at the level I expected through three games. The offense has been potent and nearly impossible for the over-matched defenses to stop, and the defense has been a mess outside of D.J. Calhoun. I am very intrigued at how the team fares with Mike Bercovici under center. Injuries are a part of football, and if you do not have a decent backup then you do not deserve to compete for a conference championship. We will see just how good this team is over the next few weeks.