Sun Devils’ upward momentum a match for Oregon’s inconsistent offense

TEMPE, AZ – SEPTEMBER 22: Quarterback Taylor Kelly #10 of the Arizona State Sun Devils drops back to pass during the college football game against the Utah Utes at Sun Devil Stadium on September 22, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Utes 37-7. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“ASU wasn’t supposed to be this good.”

That’s the phrase I’ve kept in my head since day one. Time and time again, the Sun Devils seem to defeat the odds: ASU is 5-1, run by a coach no one totally understood to begin with and led by a quarterback with zero experience. The only thing the group seemed to have going for it was a senior running back and value on defense.

There’s no way we could anticipate what this year is becoming. ASU is just one win away from a likely Top 25 slot, and just a couple other wins away from a BCS Bowl appearance. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, but I guess that’s why they call them question marks — you aren’t supposed to know if the answer is good or bad.

“ASU was supposed to be dominated in the South.”

My, how things change in just a few weeks. Flashing back to preseason polls — the bane of my existence, if I might add — USC was the favorite to win the National Championship. At that point, if anything, the Pac-12 South might be stolen by a feisty Utah squad. Now, Phoenix understands that a single win in November will turn this outlook completely on its head.

With every win, there’s a little more confidence and a little more momentum. This is most easily seen on defense, where the Devils are ninth in the country in points allowed and Will Sutton is second in the country in sacks. Offensively, Taylor Kelly is fourth in the country in quarterback rating. Every game continues this poise and belief, and a win this week would be the biggest boost of the year. Which brings us to the notion that:

“ASU should lose to Oregon.”

I’m very upfront, and people who know me will attest that I’m a close follower of Oregon football. You can read my bio about how I grew up in the Northwest. But what I can say is this: While Oregon has a very high ceiling, they’re also very inconsistent. The Ducks’ game against Washington was really the first time they put it together all year. Oregon is fast, aggressive and talented, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all three things on a nightly basis.

This brings us to tomorrow. ASU is the best team Oregon has played all year. The game is in Tempe. The Devils have a defense with talent to keep up with and put pressure on the Oregon offense. They also have a much more efficient offense than the Ducks have faced so far this season. While obviously an underdog, ASU has a very real chance to compete in this game.

All that being said, here’s another phrase we should probably be thinking about:

“This is the best ASU has looked in years.”

The theme of ASU football in the last decade is heartbreak. I may not be a long-tenured ASU follower, but these past few years have taught me a lot about what it means to invest in this program. Let’s not forget, the last time the Devils won a Rose Bowl was 1987.

I’m not crowning any title to this team, especially with the magnitude of the Thursday’s game. What I can say, though, is that the Devils have a direction you can believe in. A win tomorrow could do a great deal in affirming that direction.

Don’t count them out.