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ASU’s Graham optimistic about team going into second half of season

TEMPE, Ariz. — Six down. Six to go.

Arizona State football has reached the halfway point of its season, winning four out of six games — with the only two losses coming away from Sun Devil Stadium.

“I think we’re exactly where I thought we would be, and that’s in a good position,” head coach Todd Graham said Monday.

ASU is positioned behind UCLA (5-0) in the Pac-12 South, but the Sun Devils’ 2-1 conference mark puts them ahead of two teams — Utah and USC — that boast the same overall record.

Speaking at his weekly press conference, Graham, as he has in previous weeks, talked of the opportunity before his club: Controlling its own destiny.

“At this point in the year, we ought to be extremely motivated. We have a shot (to win the division and play in the Pac-12 Championship Game),” he said. “It’s the team that plays with that kind of spirit and that kind of enthusiasm that is the key.”

The Sun Devils are coming off a 54-13 win over Colorado in which they scored more first quarter points (25) than they had scored in the first quarter of the past five games combined (24).

ASU put up points on its first five drives and eight of its nine first-half possessions for a 47-6 lead at the break, allowing Graham to rest his starters in the second half.

“There’s been a consistency on that side of the ball (the offense) that I think is something that is reassuring,” he said. “I don’t go down this stretch. Right now, I’m not worrying one bit about our ability to score points.”

Graham’s concerns, which he lists each week, are turnovers, penalties and negative plays. His team did not turn the ball over, committed only three penalties and had only a handful of plays stopped behind the line of scrimmage against Colorado.

“Even though I was very proud of our win last week, and that’s how you play against a team like that, we did answer the call, but we have to be better this week,” he said. “This is the time that we have to get better fundamentally and continue to do that; and we’ve done that. I don’t think there’s a week that we have not gotten better.”

This week the Sun Devils host 20th-ranked Washington, a team whose two defeats have come against then-No. 5 Stanford and No. 2 Oregon in back-to-back weeks.

“This is a huge game for us, in that we’re playing one of the top three teams from the (Pac-12) North and I think one of the top teams in our conference,” Graham said. “I would consider Washington, from what I’ve looked at them on film, offensively and defensively, they’re definitely one of the top 25 teams in the country.

“We’ve got to win this game. We want to be conference champions; we’ve got to be undefeated at home.”