Before the season started, Todd Graham laid out plainly what his goals were for the Arizona State Sun Devils in 2013. He expected his team to compete for the Pac-12 title and earn a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl game. After getting blown off the field by the Stanford Cardinal, however, back on September 21, not many people gave ASU a real chance as a conference title contender. But with just two games to go, Arizona State stands alone at the top of the Pac-12 South division standings. If they can beat the UCLA Bruins this Saturday, they’ll clinch the division and be one step closer to reaching Graham’s goal.
It seemed like little more than boastful talk back in September, especially after getting out-classed by Stanford in Palo Alto to open up their conference schedule 0-1. Since then, however, ASU has won six straight conference games, including impressive blowout wins over the USC Trojans and Washington Huskies to sit all alone in first place of the South division. USC has rallied since losing to ASU and sits just one game back in a tie with UCLA, setting up a mad dash for the finish to see who makes it to the Pac-12 title game.
For the Sun Devils, the path is simple; beat UCLA. With the head-to-head tie-breaker against USC in their pocket, a win over the Bruins would lock up the division title and send Arizona State to the conference title game to likely face the Oregon Ducks (who they missed during the regular season). This is just the fourth time that ASU has won at least six games in conference play since joining the Pac-10/12 36 seasons ago but they won’t be satisfied unless they get just one more on Saturday to punch their ticket to the title game.
At 8-2 on the season, Arizona State is one of the best team’s in the country that nobody is talking about. They are one of just five teams this season to rank in the top 20 nationally in both total offense and total defense and are playing tough, disciplined football when the game is on the line. The Sun Devils aren’t going to be just some lamb to slaughter for the winner of the Pac-12 North. They’re as talented as anybody in 2013 and they just need the stage to show it. First, they have to beat the Bruins, however.
Will ASU close the deal this weekend and reign supreme over the Pac-12 South?