Arizona State's 55-31 win against Notre Dame is first step toward playoff spot

Arizona State’s path to the College Football Playoff just got a lot less bumpy.

The Sun Devils handled their biggest obstacle to date with a 55-31 win against No. 10 Notre Dame to likely put themselves on the doorstep of the top six of the College Football Playoff standings depending on what happens the rest of the college football Saturday.

And while the Arizona State offense was seemingly clicking on all cylinders, it was the much-maligned defense that was the star of the game.

The Sun Devils forced five turnovers, including three in the first half that resulted in three touchdowns. Arizona State was up 31-3 early in the second quarter and only had the ball for a little more than seven minutes.

However, Arizona State rested on its 34-10 halftime lead and Notre Dame slowly chipped away at the score during the second half with 21 consecutive points. But when the Sun Devils needed a touchdown, quarterback Taylor Kelly marched his team 75 yards in just over two minutes to give the Sun Devils a 10-point cushion. Defensive back Lloyd Carrington put the exclamation point on the win by intercepting a pass from quarterback Everett Golson, his fourth of the game, and running it back for a 58-yard score.

Arizona State still has three conference games remaining before a possible spot in the Pac-12 title game.

It has to get past Oregon State and Washington State, two teams with losing Pac-12 records, before it faces rival Arizona on the road. If it wins those games, it potentially sets up a date with Oregon for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

It’s a long way to go, but the way Arizona State is currently playing, it has to feel good about its chances.

Last week, Arizona State moved up five spots in the College Football Playoff rankings and figures to keep ascending, especially after No. 3 Auburn lost to Texas A&M, which essentially puts the Tigers out of playoff contention.

Arizona State is one of the few teams that controls its own destiny on the path to the inaugural playoff. So far, the Sun Devils have handled that responsibility well.

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Graham Watson is the editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email her at or follow her on Twitter!

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