Arizona State Football: Why It's Finally ASU's Year to Win the Pac-12 South
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
The Arizona State football team is off to a 2-0 start and has its best chance, in recent memory, to capture the Pac-12 South title.
Whether the Sun Devils should have two wins is up for debate, but their chances at the Pac-12 South title are still intact.
Coming into the year, many fans wanted to see how ASU could improve their run defense and find more weapons for quarterback Taylor Kelly to work with. While the wide receiving corps and run defense have greatly disappointed through the first two games, there have been plenty of bright spots that have fans hopeful this may be ASU's year.
The solid play of ASU's front seven, scoring prowess of Marion Grice and consistent play of Kelly all make this the Sun Devil's year to capture the Pac-12 South crown.
Solid Play of ASU's Front Seven
A lot of attention was given to Will Sutton this offseason, and rightfully so. Opponents also knew they had to keep an eye on Carl Bradford this year.
What many didn't know was who else would be able to step up with so much attention being paid to those two.
The answer appears to be clear: pretty much everyone.
Chris Young, Anthony Jones, Jaxon Hood, Gannon Conway, Salamo Fiso and Grandville Taylor have all stepped up at different points of this young season and shown flashes of brilliance.
ASU currently has allowed opponents to score 15 PPG on average and, according to cfbstats.com, has the third best pass defense and fourth overall defense in the Pac-12, based on yardage.
The Sun Devils are currently ranked last in the Pac-12 with only two sacks to their name. That isn't to say that they aren't pressuring the quarterback though.
Against Wisconsin, ASU made sure Joel Stave was uncomfortable all night and even though they didn't sack him much, they greatly disrupted his timing.
That's truly all they have to do the rest of the year to be successful. Sure sacks are great, and anyone would be a fool to try and argue they aren't necessary, but the fact is as long as ASU's front seven is causing disruption, their secondary is good enough to do the rest.
The fact that the unit is getting production from everyone, even the reserves, is an excellent sign as well.
Take Fiso for example. The redshirt freshman saw early playing time against Wisconsin and, as head coach Todd Graham told azcentral.com's Doug Haller, he made the most of it, "I thought Salamo was outstanding."
It's going to take a lot for ASU to win the Pac-12 South this year, but their defensive front will certainly help the cause.
Scoring Prowess of Marion Grice
If you give him the ball, he'll score.
Grice has already accounted for six touchdowns through two games, including four in ASU's win over Wisconsin. Not bad for the senior.
Grice's biggest strength is his ability to see a play develop quicker than the opposition. Coach Graham told arizonasports.com's Craig Grialou it's this aptitude for the game that sets Grice apart:
"I think 99.9 percent of that is instinct. He has a great gift running the football and he has an interesting style. I mean sometimes I look at him and wondering if he's going full speed because he is going so smooth on his runs. But he is very tough and very physical and finds that end zone and I think he is very instinctive."
Grice will play a major role in a Sun Devil title run because the offense heavily relies on him coming up with big play after big play.
He is used as a receiver and running back, and as long as he has the ball in his hands, he can make something special happen. For ASU to win the Pac-12 South, they will need a lot of Marion magic.
Grice tells Craig Grialou that he's confident he can score whenever he has the ball:
"What's going through my mind is I hope we call a run play. And if we call a run play, I'm going to get us there. That's pretty much what is on my mind is just to get to the end zone as fast as I can and get off the field."
The more Grice finds the house, the better ASU's chances of capturing the Pac-12 South crown. If Grice keeps scoring at the pace he's at, those chances are looking pretty good.
Consistent Play of Taylor Kelly
Taylor Kelly is coming into his own as a dual-threat quarterback.
He currently ranks third on the team in rushing yards and has thrown for 652 yards and five touchdowns on the young season.
Dating back to last year, when Kelly was on, he was on. The issue was his consistency.
Kelly threw nine interceptions last year, and they all came in Sun Devil losses. That isn't to say he played poorly in every game ASU lost, but when your quarterback turns the ball over it certainly puts the team behind the eight ball.
This year, Kelly seems much more confident and comfortable when he drops back.
That is certainly due in part to having a year under his belt in Mike Norvell's offense, but the Idaho native is also making better reads and smarter throws.
At times last year, Kelly tried to force throws and was punished with turnovers.
Will ASU Win The Pac-12 South?
Through two games this year, Kelly has thrown one interception and has played much smarter. For ASU to have a special season, smarter is exactly what they need from their quarterback.
Kelly has more than enough playmakers at running back, and with the emergence of Jaelen Strong, he has a few decent targets at receiver.
As long as he continues to play consistent, smart football, it will be ASU's year to win the Pac-12 South.
All stats, unless otherwise indicated, come from ESPN.com.
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