The Saturday afternoon matchup between Arizona State and Notre Dame was supposed to be a close one. The No. 9 Sun Devils and the No. 10 Irish were each considered fringe Playoff contenders, with the winners keeping their chances at postseason glory alive. Arizona State nearly gave up an historic comeback but managed to survive, dominating Notre Dame in the first half and holding on for a 55-31 victory.
Arizona State's blitzing schemes gave Notre Dame problems, forcing a number of turnovers from Irish quarterback Everett Golson. The senior was sacked seven times in the game and threw four interceptions (including two pick-sixes) while giving away a fumble.
Arizona State was able to take advantage of those mistakes and quickly extend its first-half lead to 34-3, but a late Irish touchdown pulled it back to 34-10 before halftime.
That's when the Notre Dame comeback started. Golson threw another interception early in the third but quickly settled down, leading the Irish to three unanswered touchdown drives (four if you count back to the end of the first half) and bringing the score to 34-31. The last of the scores was the most egregious from the perspective of ASU's defense, as Golson found Amir Carlisle with nobody around him.
Arizona State finally put it together again after that last Irish score. Led by D.J. Foster and Taylor Kelly, the Sun Devils put together a five-play, 75-yard drive, scoring a touchdown and making it a two-possession game. Golson threw his fourth interception of the day on the next drive -- another pick-six, clinching the victory. The Sun Devils added one more TD in the final minute for good measure.
Golson finished with 446 passing yards on 41 attempts, completing 22 of his passes for two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Three things we learned
1. Notre Dame is now really, actually out of Playoff contention. The loss to Florida State already made things difficult for the Irish, but they've now lost the only two games they've played against Playoff-quality opponents. Their marquee win, over Stanford, now has significantly less shine on it, and the Irish will just have to hope for a big New Year's Bowl if they win out at this point. They'll have to get past Louisville and USC first, both of which will likely put up tough tests.
2. Arizona State looks like the overwhelming Pac-12 South favorite. The blowout loss to UCLA stings, but the Sun Devils follow this one up with games against two of the bottom three teams in the conference -- Oregon State and Washington State. A season-ending clash at Arizona could decide the conference crown, but the Wildcats have to get through a tough game against Utah first.
Arizona State is the only team in the division with one loss (and one of just two in the conference, along with Oregon). USC, UCLA, Utah and Arizona each have two losses and they all have to play at least one other team in that group, and some major chaos would be needed to topple the Sun Devils. If they keep playing like this, they could find themselves sneaking into the Playoff picture with an undefeated finish and a win over Oregon in the conference title game.
3. FSU's best win is now ... Clemson? The Seminoles' claim to Playoff legitimacy rested on two things: their status as one of two remaining undefeated Power 5 teams, and a win over what appeared to possibly be a Playoff-contending Notre Dame team. Now that the Irish have been exposed against their only other opponent of that quality on their schedule, Florida State fans have to look elsewhere to point to a high-level victory. Their overtime win over Clemson without Jameis Winston seems like the best bet, but an 11-point road victory over Louisville isn't too bad, either.