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BCS Rankings: Arizona State Sun Devils Could Pull Upset in Pac-12

Jeff ChaseSenior Analyst IIOctober 31, 2011

BCS Rankings: Arizona State Sun Devils Could Pull Upset in Pac-12

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    The No. 19 Arizona State Sun Devils (6-2, 4-1) are on a roll this season. It was only last year when it took the Sun Devils the entire season to reach six wins, and now a year later they look poised to make a final mark of 10-2.

    The rest of the Sun Devils' schedule is a walk in the park, and considering they are pretty much a shoe-in to represent the Pac-12 South in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship game, they have a chance to make some real noise in taking down one of the top teams in the country. Those two teams are likely opponents Oregon or Stanford.

    The Sun Devils have already played Oregon this year, but they have yet to play Stanford. The two Pac-12 North teams have yet to battle it out this season, but that game will ultimately decide who will face the Sun Devils come Week 15.

    When that game does approach, the Sun Devils can upset the Pac-12. Here is why...

Arizona State Defense

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    Led by junior middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Arizona State Sun Devils' defense has been one of the most dangerous defenses in the 2011 college football season. They have forced 25 turnovers on the season, 12 of which were interceptions.

    They have handled their opponents relatively well. In Week 4, they picked off USC's Matt Barkley twice and then the following week picked off Oregon State's Sean Mannion four times. While they have been extremely dangerous in the turnover game, the Sun Devils do need to shape up their pass defense overall.

    They have the coming weeks to tweak things, and come the championship game, they should be ready to stop the pass from all dimensions.

Brock Osweiler

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    One of the most impressive aspects of the Arizona State Sun Devils' 2011 season has been the play of junior quarterback Brock Osweiler. Taking the Sun Devils to 6-2 and their highest BCS ranking since 2007, Osweiler has been a spring oh hope in Tempe, AZ.

    In eight games, Osweiler has completed passes for 2,275 yards and 17 touchdowns. That was with the hardest part of their schedule, including games against Oregon, USC, Missouri and Illinois. With the upcoming schedule, Osweiler should continue to dramatically improve those stats while improving his confidence going into the championship game.

    When the Pac-12 championship game comes around, Osweiler could likely be looking like a Heisman caliber quarterback.

The Improved Play of Cameron Marshall

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    The Arizona State Sun Devils' star running back didn't look like much of a star when the season started. Cameron Marshall was being nagged by injuries, but the Sun Devils still played him because he is that much of a game changer. He wasn't doing much, but once Week 4 came around, it was a different story.

    Since Week 4, Marshall has ran for 479 yards and also has carried in 10 touchdowns. At this rate, Marshall will likely surpass 1,200 yards and could potentially top 20 touchdowns. The Sun Devils will need Marshall to keep it up in order to have a chance at any sort of upset against Stanford or Oregon.

    Marshall did prove against Oregon that he could move the ball, gaining 97 yards on 20 carries. One of those were a touchdown as well. Marshall will need to keep it up to surpass those numbers in a potential rematch.

Stanford's Game Against USC

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    Although Andrew Luck and the Stanford Cardinals won their match against the USC Trojans last week, it wasn't pretty. It took three overtimes for the No. 4 ranked team in the country to beat a team that hasn't really done much this season.

    Arguably, it was the first real team that Stanford had played, and it certainly exposed them. The Cardinals did score 56 points, so we do know their offense is for real, but it was the fact that their defense gave up their most amount of points this season

    On the other hand, the Sun Devils easily handled USC in Week 4, beating the Trojans by 21 points.

    The Sun Devils can learn from this game, and they could certainly feel confident that they can upset Stanford following this poor performance.

Experience Versus Oregon

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    There is no denying it, the Oregon Ducks beat up the Arizona State Sun Devils in Week 7. The Ducks ran all over the Sun Devils, and it gave them much to think about. It also won't benefit Arizona State if the game is once again on the road in Oregon, considering there is no chance that the Ducks would give up a game in those circumstances.

    There is always hope though. There is no reason to totally eliminate the Sun Devils from upsetting the Ducks on the road, and a match up in Tempe isn't likely because any loss by either Stanford or Oregon will be the reason why one or the other doesn't reach the championship game.

    What the Sun Devils do have going for them though is experience. Since they did play Oregon in Week 7, they will have a better idea of what they are about to face the second time around. That is the easy part though. They still would have to stop them. The Sun Devils will need their defense to keep up with what they have been doing, while Brock Osweiler and Cameron Marshall must continue playing at a high tempo.

    It won't be easy, but there is a definite possibility of an upset in the Pac-12.

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