Led by Will Sutton and Carl Bradford in 2012, the Arizona State defense finished second in the nation with tremendous sack and tackles for loss numbers. However, the Sun Devil rushing defense finished 83rd in rushing yards allowed per game throughout the FBS. The high number of 183 rushing yards allowed per game by the Sun Devils is almost twice the amount of yards given up by Pac-12 champion Stanford, which gave up about 97 yards per game last season.
Head Coach Todd Graham and the entire ASU football program have the goals of going undefeated, winning the Rose Bowl, and winning the BCS title. If these objectives are to become a reality, then the Sun Devils must improve their rushing defense in 2013.
First, Arizona State has to win the Pac-12 South in order to get to the Pac-12 Championship Game. This division is going to be a battle between ASU, UCLA, USC and Arizona. In 2012, the Sun Devil defense had challenges against the run in the most critical Pac-12 South games:
- UCLA – 212 net rushing yards allowed
- USC – 225 net rushing yards allowed
- Arizona – 292 net rushing yards allowed
Those numbers must drop considerably if ASU wants to achieve its first goal and win the Pac-12 South.
Should the Sun Devils take the South, they would move on to the Pac-12 Championship game where they must defeat the winner of the North. Oregon and Stanford are the class of the North, and they boast huge rushing attacks. Recent Pac-12 Champions have shown the ability to stop the run, finishing high in the national rankings for rushing yards allowed per game:
- 2012 – Stanford (5)
- 2011 – Oregon (54)
- 2010 – Oregon (27)
- 2009 – Oregon (42)
- 2008 – USC (5)
- 2007 – USC (4) and Arizona State (22)
Going one step further to the third and final major goal of the Sun Devil football program, let’s review the recent participants in the BCS Championship game and how they finished nationally in rushing yards allowed per game:
- 2012 – Alabama (1) defeated Notre Dame (11)
- 2011 – Alabama (1) defeated LSU (5)
- 2010 – Auburn (9) defeated Oregon (27)
- 2009 – Alabama (2) defeated Texas (1)
- 2008 – Florida (15) defeated Oklahoma (20)
- 2007 – LSU (12) defeated Ohio State (3)
While high number counts of sacks and tackles for loss get all the publicity, tough, run-stuffing defense is more of a necessity to achieve the major goals set by the Arizona State football program. In 2013, Sun Devil defenders must focus on rushing yards allowed per game and making that a low number.