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    Arizona State Back in the Race for Pac-12 South Division Title

    By David A.

    The No. 9 ranked Arizona State Sun Devils have proven their worth since an ugly display of defense on September 25 against the UCLA Bruins.

    The Bruins at Sun Devil Stadium averaged over 15 yards per pass reception, over 6 yards per rush and 10 yards each play.

    That horrendous defensive display by the Sun Devils resulted in an embarrassing 62-27 loss.

    That loss came after Arizona State had allowed Colorado 545 yards of total offense the week before.

    The overhauled defense for Arizona State that included replacing 9 starters from last season looked even worse against UCLA.

    The loss at home to UCLA is where the Sun Devils defense hit rock bottom. With six stars from the previous year gone, the defense was not giving its offense much of a chance to repeat as the Pac-12 South champion.

    Now six weeks later, the ASU defense has showed remarkable improvement over the past four games, at least on the statistical side.

    The defensive rebirth has been led by Jordan Simone the team’s starting free safety. His playing was limited last season as a reserve at linebacker, but he moved safety and leads the team with 73 tackles and 2 interceptions.

    The improvement on the defense has come from its ability to slow down the run. After giving up more than 200 yards rushing in 4 consecutive games, Arizona State has limited opponents in rushing the past three games.

    The passing yardage per reception has also significantly dropped. After allowing UCLA 15.4 yards per reception, Arizona State has allowed 6 yards to USC, 5.4 to Stanford, 5.3 to Washington and 2.6 to Utah.

    Arizona over the four games has averaged 9 tackles for a loss per game, which ranks third in the country over that period.

    However, the No. 9 ranked Sun Devils will face a huge test this weekend when they host the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

    Notre Dame is a complete offense, one of which ASU has not faced in quite a while. There remain questions about the Sun Devils defense for its top-10 showdown this weekend.

    The last true balanced offense the Sun Devils faced was USC in October. Although the Sun Devils won the game, they allowed 493 yards of offense to the Trojans.

    At 7-1, Arizona State is in control of its own destiny when it comes to the Pac-12 South. The game against Notre Dame will not have a direct bearing on the conference race but it will give coaches and players on ASU an idea of just how far they have come in a month and a half.

    ASU is confident its defense has become championship caliber and Saturday’s home game against the Fighting Irish will certainly give many answers to that.