Thursday, October 18, 2012
Oregon, Arizona St. aim to make statement
By Ted Miller
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Oregon is looking to show the nation it's a legitimate national title contender. Arizona State is looking to show it's legitimate, period.
Oregon has owned this series of late, winning the past seven meetings and 11 of the last 14 dating back to 1998. Further, the Ducks' ludicrous speed offense moves at an even more absurd pace against the Sun Devils. Against Arizona State in the Chip Kelly era, Oregon has scored all 14 of its touchdowns in two minutes or less. The Ducks are averaging 15.2 seconds of possession per play against Arizona State, their fastest pace against any FBS opponent.
The Ducks have averaged 43.8 points in their past four games in Tempe.
But that was the old Arizona State. This crew under first-year coach Todd Graham is playing efficiently and with discipline on both sides of the ball. Other that a rotten performance at Missouri, this team has been dominant, albeit against a questionable schedule.
Oregon and Arizona State rank Nos. 1 & 2 in scoring offense in the Pac-12. Arizona State is No. 1 in scoring defense and Oregon is No. 4. Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly is ranked first in the Pac-12 in passing efficiency. Oregon's Marcus Mariota is second.
The quarterbacks probably hold the key. Both teams are likely going to aim to stop the run first and force the QBs to throw. The Ducks secondary is outstanding. It has not only grabbed 10 interceptions so far, it's returned four for touchdowns. Arizona State's most obvious weakness is its secondary, which lacks depth.
Other stars could have "hello world" moments on ESPN tonight.
Sun Devils defensive tackle Will Sutton has played as well as any defensive player in the nation thus far. He could make himself an All-America candidate with a big game.
For Oregon, playmakers Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas could create some Heisman Trophy buzz with some did-you-see-that? plays. Thomas, who has been fairly quiet of late, could pose a challenge for the Sun Devils secondary. Look for Kelly to seek opportunities to get Thomas the ball in space.
And if Barner has a big game, that means the Ducks ran the ball well. When they do that, they almost never lose.