- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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ESPN.com's KC Joyner asks "are there any programs slightly below the radar that have set themselves up to make a jump this season?"
And then he names his top "sleeper" teams, a list that includes Arizona State in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils welcome back 16 starters from a team that went 8-5 (5-4 in the Pac-12) and was a game behind UCLA in conference play in 2012.
Joyner likes the Sun Devils because of they return of a good core on defense, surrounded by DT Will Sutton, and offense, topped by QB Taylor Kelly. He also pulls out some interesting numbers.
Making another run at the division title looks to be a strong possibility since Arizona State returns eight starters from a defense that ranked second in the conference in yards per play allowed and ranked second nationally in tackles for loss.
And on offense:
The Sun Devils also return quarterback Taylor Kelly, who ranked second in the Pac-12 in passing yards per attempt, completion percentage and passer rating last season. He led an offense last season that ranked fourth in the league in yards per play, behind only Oregon, USC and Arizona.
Joyner sees a sixth conference win for the Sun Devils, and that might be enough to win the South Division. Then they'd have a puncher's chance against the North Division champion -- Oregon or Stanford -- for a spot in the Rose Bowl.
I think the South Division is a toss-up between the Sun Devils and UCLA, and USC might also stick its nose into the race if it gets its collective mind right.
1dChantel Jennings and Kevin Gemmell