Halfway through the season, the Arizona State Sun Devils couldn't have asked for a better start.
Perhaps they could have, as their lone loss on the year (BYU) looks more avoidable by the week. Alas, Arizona State has rebounded quite well and look in full control of their destiny to win the Pac-12 for the first time since 2007 when they shared the title with USC.
Prior to the season, Arizona State wasn't a favorite to make noise in 2021, let alone appear in a prominent bowl game. Most analysts had projected the Sun Devils to play in a bowl game such as the Holiday Bowl before ASU got the ball off the tee to begin the new year.
Now, ESPN has released updated bowl projections, and the Sun Devils are indeed projected to play in a holiday bowl, just not one many foresaw ASU appearing in.
ESPN's Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach both projected Arizona State to play in a New Year's Six bowl game, although two different bowls await ASU.
Bonagura has ASU appearing in the Rose Bowl vs. Michigan, while Schlabach believes the Sun Devils will play in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. Schlabach currently has Oregon in his Rose Bowl projection by virtue of winning the Pac-12.
Meanwhile, Bonagura has Arizona State as a team "knocking on the door" of a NY6 bowl game, and he explained why:
"I have Arizona State in the Rose Bowl for a second consecutive week, but the Sun Devils didn't knock so much as they slipped in the back door when everyone was distracted by Oregon's loss to Stanford. Late Friday night, ASU looked good in a win against Stanford to reaffirm the position that it belongs ahead of the Ducks for the time being. In the Pac-12, that doesn't mean much, but ASU deserves some shine."
The Sun Devils are halfway through their schedule, yet it appears even the national media are on notice thanks to their hot start. Bowl games are still far down the road, yet the impressive 5-1 piece of work Arizona State has assembled thus far projects well for the future.