Oregon Ducks, Arizona State On Similar Paths With 4-3 Records


Despite losing the quarterback that made the offense go, the team began 2015 ranked and with visions of a Pac-12 conference title and maybe more. The pre-season ranking reflected this. But the team has stumbled, now finds itself a game over .500 after some very disappointing losses and sees Thursday’s game as a make-or-break.

The Oregon Ducks? Sure. But also true for the opponent Thursday night (7:30 pm PT, ESPN), the Arizona State Sun Devils.

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ASU opened the season ranked 15th and thinking Pac-12 South title. Though Taylor Kelly had graduated, the Sun Devils assumed that senior QB Mike Bercovici and a strong returning running game would keep ASU near the top- sound familiar, Duck fans? The Sun Devils stumbled out of the gate, losing a “neutral site” game to Texas A&M (about as neutral as a Duck game in Portland). However, ASU does have a win against a ranked team, rolling then-number 7 UCLA at the Rose Bowl.

While Bercovici and the ASU passing game is ranked 33rd overall in the country, the Duck defense hasn’t done anything to show they’re capable of stopping an air attack. Oregon is allowing an astounding 306.6 passing yards per game, 6th worst in the country (although Arizona has allowed more total passing yards, they’ve played one more game than Oregon so their average is lower). With just over 268 passing yards per game, Arizona State is the third-best D-I passing offense Oregon has faced so far, behind Washington State’s throw-only Mad Pirate Raid and Michgan State, and those games had the same result for Oregon (with Cal and USC still on the schedule).

In addition, ASU’s rush defense is ranked 28th, and that’s the second-best D-I rush defense Oregon has seen so far (Utah is 16th). While I certainly wouldn’t recommend going away from Royce Freeman, who’s only 3 yards shy of breaking 1,000 on the year, the Sun Devils passing defense is where the Ducks and a healthy Vernon Adams at QB can make some noise. ASU is ranked 95th there, giving up 251.1 passing yards a game (still quite a ways from 95th/251.1 ro Oregon’s 123rd/306.6)

The paths of both teams have been similar to this point, but Thursday night is where they diverge. It could very well end up being a Shootout at the OK Corral- I mean, Sun Devil Stadium- but if Oregon is to have any chance, that passing defense better step up big time.