But if opponents ever decided (to try) to throw the ball, the ASU defense was among the country's best. They led the nation in sacks per pass and sacked quarterbacks on 16% of attempts in passing situations. When quarterbacks were able to throw a pass, they often regretted it soon after. Arizona State allowed only 50% completions (4th nationally) and they picked off more than 5% (2nd). They allowed 4.7 yards per pass attempt (2nd nationally) and 25+ yards on 3.4% of attempts (6th). That being said, teams did have more success on 3rd downs that we would otherwise suspect, so Sun Devils EPA per pass (schedule adjusted) was just inside the top 10.
They also played offense. Taylor Kelley was good, not great. Marion Grice was incredibly efficient (5th in EPA, 7th in EPA+ per rush among running backs), but needed more touches to have a bigger impact. If it weren't for fantastic starting field position, Arizona State might have struggled to score, but instead they were 27th in points per possession.
ASU could make noise in 2013. They need Kelley to make the move from good to very good (or even great), but no situation sees more average gains than a junior, second-year starting quarterback in his second year in a system. They need to get better against the run, but that has been a clear goal all off-season, they've added depth on the line, and the pass defense is good enough to sacrifice coverage or pressure without screwing the pooch. With Notre Dame, Stanford and Wisconsin in their first five games, we'll know quickly if ASU has made the necessary corrections.