The Arizona State Sun Devils knocked off the Utah Utes for the first time since 2015, improving to 4-3 on the 2017 season. But more than that, ASU is tied for second in the Pac-12 South with a 3-1 record, ready to welcome the division-leading USC Trojans Saturday. But before we look ahead to next weekend, let’s look back on ASU’s first Pac-12 road win in over two years.
Todd Graham’s seat is cool
Judging by the comments on our social media accounts this week, this isn’t a very hot take, but it should be said. Even after last week’s win over No. 5 Washington, fans were still clamoring for a coaching change. But at 4-3 with a relatively light schedule ahead, the fanbase has softened. Three of ASU’s five remaining opponents have the same or a worse record than the Sun Devils, giving them an inside shot at bowl eligibility. If that were to happen, I see no way ASU makes any sort of coaching change before the 2018 season.
I know the strength of the Sun Devil run game has been the ability to trot out to experienced backs, but a 50/50 split hasn’t always worked this year. Senior running back Demario Richard has been more consistently able to gain yards between the tackles than fellow senior Kalen Ballage. After a tough 2016, Richard is recovering his form from his sophomore campaign. While Ballage has obviously had stretches of dominance, Richard should be the feature back in this offense.
Bennett for Broyles
I haven’t studied every other unit across the country, but I can’t imagine anyone has mustered a turnaround like Phil Bennett has with the ASU defense. The Sun Devils struggles defensively in the first few weeks, but the last two weeks after the bye have shown the improvements across the board for ASU. It helps that redshirt junior linebacker Christian Sam is back on the field, but it’s not all him changing the way this defense is playing. The Frank Broyles Award almost never goes to a coach whose team isn’t in the national championship hunt, this year may have to be an exception.
ASU is the best team in the South (right now)
That’s right. At this moment in time, the Sun Devils are the best team in the Pac-12 South. ASU has allowed 17 points in its last two games, the fewest in a two-game conference stretch since November 15 and 28, 2008 against Washington State and UCLA. Those teams combined to go 6-19, though. USC was annihilated at Notre Dame Saturday and Arizona’s wins have come against worse teams than ASU’s. This can — and likely will — change before the end of the year, but the Sun Devils are the tops as of now.