(3)Oregon vs. Arizona State
Thursday, October 18th – at Sun Devil Stadium; Tempe, Arizona
Ducks: 6-0, 3-0 (1st in Pac-12 North) | Sun Devils: 5-1, 3-0 (1st in Pac-12 South)
- Kickoff – 6:00 p.m. (PT)
- Television – ESPN (DirecTV: 206)
Announcers: Rece Davis (PxP), Jesse Palmer and David Pollack (commentary)
- Radio – Oregon Sports Network (affiliate list)
Announcers: Jerry Allen (PxP), Mike Jorgensen and Jay Allen (commentary)
- Weather – Mostly clear, 89-77 degrees (39 percent chance of rain after 2:00 pm) (via AccuWeather as of Wednesday night)
- Odds – Arizona State is a home underdog, giving eight points to Oregon. The total over/under is set 68.5 (via LVH as of Wednesday night)
- 33rd meeting, series tied 16-16
- It’s a streaky history: Oregon lost first nine meetings and have won previous seven meetings. A team has won two or more games before alternating to the other side. The only year this didn’t happen was 1991.
- In previous seven victories, the Ducks have put up 31 or more points.
- Only twice have these teams met unranked since 1994.
Up until now, Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks haven’t had to face much adversity en route to the first six wins of the season. Beginning tonight, the last half starts off in hostile territory.
Four of the final six regular season games will be on the road, and the first one starts at Sun Devil Stadium. The fans, along with the entire team, will be wearing all-black in hope to intimidate the high-powered offense. Something will have to give, with Oregon picking up an average of 541.7 yards a game against Arizona State giving up just 272.2 yards.
[Also read: Scouting ASU's defense]
This will be the biggest game in the former Pittsburgh head coach’s career. Todd Graham’s debut season with the Sun Devils has been nothing short of special. Outside of three media members who picked Arizona State to finish first and win the conference championship game, no one imagined this much instant success on the field. No one’s made a dent against them at home, blowing out all the opposition that’s stood in their way this season.
Even with a late-season collapse last year, the difficulty is intense to come out alive with a victory in Tempe. Blowing them out at home is unfathomable, and the Ducks were the last team to win by more than 11 points in 2010.
Three Keys to Victory
- Keep composure. Marcus Mariota is just a freshman quarterback, and it’s incredibly easy to get rattled on the road by a rowdy crowd. Don’t expect to get bailed out by the opposition’s mistakes. Arizona State ranks 7th in penalties. That’s a completely different story for Oregon that ranks 113th nationally with just over eight a game.
- Run, run, run. A key to the Sun Devils’ dream season has been fantastic play on the defensive side. It’s biggest weakness is rush defense, and it just so happens Oregon has weapons in Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas, and even Mariota to exploit it. This also keeps the opposing offense off the field.
- Avoid turnovers. This could also fit in the “keep composure” category, but it’s important enough to stand on its own. Arizona State is +6 in turnover margin at home. Taylor Kelly hasn’t thrown an interception at home, and the defense has picked the ball off seven times. Mariota can not force the ball into coverage.
[Also read: Scouting ASU's offense]
- It’s going to be very, very loud in this stadium. It’s imperative for Oregon to get to fast start. There’s a reason why the Sun Devils have outscored opponents 62-10 in the first quarter and shutting them down 64-7 in the final period.
- Middle linebacker Kiko Alonso is stepping into a senior leading role on defense, hitting 26 of his 36 total tackles in Pac-12 play. He continues to improve every game, let’s see if he can keep up the intensity on the road.
- De’Anthony Thomas’ overall numbers will not impress unless the efficiency is taken under consideration. Despite having to share the load with Barner, this could be one of those breakout games of the season for Thomas to help his team win their first true road game of the year.
Oregon linebacker Michael Clay is questionable with a leg injury, but is listed as a starter in the depth chart. This would be a huge blow for the Ducks, who led the team in tackles before Alonso surpassed him on the list against Washington. Clay did not play against the Huskies.
[Also read: Scouting ASU's special teams]
Oregon will have more than enough tests to prove to the nation that they belong in the national championship, but they have to execute one game at a time. Nothing will emulate the atmosphere in Tempe, the Ducks will just have to live for the moment and get used to it. Silent counts and scripting the first 15-20 plays of the game are just some ideas that can help ease the tension.
Chip Kelly has had a lot of success against Arizona State during his tenure with Oregon. This team will be ready, and Mariota has not been playing like a standard freshman quarterback. On the flipside, this Arizona State team has not faced many challenges in their fast start. This will be the toughest, fastest defense to date, the only question is if the Ducks let the Sun Devils have their fast start.
I believe that will happen, but once Oregon overcomes the adversity, they’ll force Taylor Kelly into his first interception at home, and the Ducks will end up pulling away with a couple touchdowns in the end.
Final score: Oregon 37, Arizona State 20
Brian Spaen is the lead editor for Autzen Zoo. See his banter with other FanSided writers and love for his favorite west coast professional teams by following him on Twitter.