Week 9 Weekend Matchup: Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium
When: October 29, 2016 at 2 P.M. PT
Vegas Over/Under: Oregon -7.5
After a double overtime thriller, resulting a fifth straight loss, the Oregon Ducks are coming into this weekend against Arizona State with two things on their mind – getting their first conference win and snapping the five game slide. And perhaps even further down on the list, the Ducks now must now win four of their next five games to even become eligible for a bowl game.
Meanwhile, the Sun Devils are coming off a loss against Washington State by the score of 37-32, and a Todd Graham post-game meltdown. Even though Arizona State holds a surprising 5-3 overall record (2-3 in conference play and fourth in Pac-12 South Standings), their record could easily be 3-5 overall if they hadn’t succeeded in pulling out a couple of games late.
Overall the Ducks and Sun Devils have played each other 34 times, with Oregon winning a little less than half or 18 of those matchups. It will be interesting to see how the 35th matchup plays out, considering that Oregon has won the last nine years consecutively.
So what does each team need to do in order to capture a crucial victory on Saturday?
FOR OREGON: Throughout the season Oregon has been coming out slow, undisciplined, and digging themselves into a big hole. In order to be successful on Saturday, Oregon must get off to a fast start, score early and frequently, limit the amount of penalties, and feed off their home crowd who are one of the loudest stadiums in the country.
After throwing six touchdowns and a game ending interception (still earning 24/7 Sports True Freshman of the Week Honors), Justin Herbert, will return at the helm of the Duck’s offense. Even though Herbert has had trouble under/over throwing receivers in his first few games as a starter, he also has shown improvement each week.
Throughout the last two games, Herbert has completed 46-79 passes, throwing 507 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions. In addition, Herbert has had to scramble away from pressure 16 times, running for 66 yards, and one touchdown.
With Royce Freeman banged up and not producing as much as everyone had hoped this season, Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin have stepped-in (culminating for 82 carries, gaining 539 yards, and scoring eight touchdowns). The Ducks must make more use of Brooks-James and Griffin help balance out the offense and to reduce the chances of Freeman getting beat up even worse.
To balance out the running game, much of Oregon’s offensive production has come through the talented receiving core. This season, playmakers such as Darren Carrington, Charles Nelson, and Pharaoh Brown have proven to be key (notching 78 receptions, gaining 916 yards, and scoring seven touchdowns). The Ducks must continue to leverage these talented receivers, who are more than capable of making big offensive plays.
It is no secret that Oregon’s defense is terrible (ranking dead last in all of college football). On Saturday, the Ducks’ defense will face another tough task of taking on a run-heavy offense from Arizona State. In seven games, Oregon has given up on average 538.6 yards per game, a total of 41 touchdowns, and 3,770 yards.
In addition, the Ducks’ defense has not produced a turnover in over a month (the last turnover was two interceptions versus Colorado on September 24)! With defensive starters being demoted to second team this week, defensive leaders Ugo Amadi, Brenden Schooler, and Troy Dye have to find a way motivate the other defensive players to step up and play like their spot is on the line. Coming into Saturday, the Oregon defense should have a goal of limiting Arizona State to under 40 points and 500 yards.
FOR ARIZONA STATE: Although Arizona State did not accomplish a winning season last year and hasn’t been atop the Pac-12 South since the 2013-14 season; things are starting to look up. However, the Sun Devils come into Saturday’s matchup to prove that they are competitive contender in the Pac-12 conference this season, while continuing a winning season.
Interestingly enough, Arizona State is coming into this weekend’s matchup with a quarterback problem. Usual starter, Manny Wilkins injured his hand last weekend against Washington State and is questionable for Saturday’s game (while backup quarterbacks Brady White and Bryce Perkins are also injured and out for the season).
So far this season, Wilkins has completed 115-190 passes, gaining 1,421 yards, six touchdowns, and five interceptions. Wilkins has also scrambled away from pressure 76 times, gaining 227 yards, and five rushing touchdowns.
If Wilkins is sidelined come Saturday, the Sun Devils will be forced to start fourth string quarterback Dillion Sterling-Cole. So far this season Sterling-Cole has only attempted 17 throws (completing seven of those), throwing for 86 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Without a doubt, the Sun Devils’ will play to their strength in the running game, including multiple carries from running backs Demario Richard and Kalen Ballage who have combined for 214 carries, rushing for 938 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
Although the Sun Devils’ top receivers, Tim White and Cameron Smith, were injured last weekend against Washington State, they are listed as probable for Saturday’s game. This season, White and Smith have combined for 58 receptions, gaining 756 yards, but no touchdowns.
Also expect the Sun Devils to make use of receivers N’Keal Harry and Jalen Harvey who have combined for 48 receptions, gaining 581 yards, and three touchdowns.
Bottom line, if Oregon comes out fast, maintains an early lead, is better disciplined, and plays off their home atmosphere; the Sun Devils will have their hands full. Let’s hope the Ducks can pull this game out and come away with an upset and a crucial victory.
Prediction: Although Oregon has struggled with slow starts, poor defense, and a lack of discipline; the Ducks will rise to the occasion and come away with a win by a score of 48-42.
Wrap Up Notes: The Oregon Ducks will host prospective visits from some of the nations’ top offensive weapons including; Oregon commit three-star tight end Tre’ Mckitty, four-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, and four-star wide receivers Isaiah Hodgins and K.J. Hamler.