Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Midseason report: Arizona State
By Kevin Gemmell
Record: 5-1, 3-0
This may just be nickel therapy, but it seems like midseason reactions to the Arizona State Sun Devils can fall into three different categories:
- The zealots who believe Arizona State should be a Top 10 team, Taylor Kelly should win the Heisman and Todd Graham should get national coach of the year.
- Those who are cautiously optimistic about the Sun Devils' 5-1 start, but are also wary of past downfalls and the squishiness of ASU's schedule to date.
- And finally, those who refuse to give the Sun Devils credit until they can beat FBS teams that are better than ASU's previous opponents, whose combined record is 11-22.
To those in category one, keep believing. That's what being a fan is all about. To those in category two, you've probably got it right. To those in category three -- get over it. The Sun Devils can only play the teams in front of them and -- with the exception of one bad game -- they have been superb.
Graham drew some early question marks when he named Kelly the starter, but he's been rewarded with his selection by some of the best quarterback play in the country. The offense has been explosive -- as promised -- and the defense ranks in the top 10 nationally in points allowed.
Discipline was also promised. And so far it's been delivered. ASU has the fewest penalties in the conference (in possibly related news, temperatures in hell have recently been described as nippy) and they have been opportunistic on defense with a plus-three turnover margin.
The schedule ramps up on the back half, starting off with Oregon on Thursday night -- the first of three games against teams currently ranked in the BCS Top 10. It's a fantastic opportunity for the Sun Devils to silence those in category three, encourage those in category two and thank the zealots in category one for believing in them all along.
Offensive MVP, Taylor Kelly: No questions here. He's one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country -- ranking third behind only Geno Smith and Nick Florence. He's taken care of the ball in five of six games this year and has a 14-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's made a strong case thus far for Pac-12 offensive player of the year.
Defensive MVP, Will Sutton: Way back in June, we identified Sutton as a player who needed to step up in 2012. Not sure if he's a big reader of the Pac-12 blog, but he's delivered and then some. He's been one of the most disruptive defensive players (not just linemen) in the Pac-12 and he leads the conference in tackles for a loss and sacks.