The Second Half Begins
Matchup: Oregon at Arizona State
Venue: Sun Devil Stadium (Tempe, Arizona)
Game Time, TV: 6:00 PM (PST), ESPN/WatchESPN
Date: Saturday, October 18, 2012
Team Records: Oregon (6-0), Arizona State (5-1)
Standings: Oregon (T-1st in PAC-12), Arizona State (T-1st in Pac-12)
Coming off of their bye week, the Ducks will have quite the task ahead of them as they look to take on a strong Arizona State team that will be aided by their home crowd who are anticipated to be clad all in black. The Thursday night matchup will be Oregon’s first of the season and will also be the first true road test for the Ducks in 2012.
Oregon, recently ranked third in the initial BCS Poll, will be looking to continue their hot to the season after a 6-0 start that hardly saw them break a sweat.
Though their offense is just as powerful as ever and puts up some of the best numbers in the nation, it is the Oregon defense that is beginning to attract all of the attention. Led by players like Dion Jordan, Michael Clay, and Kiko Alonso, Oregon’s defense has been just about as unstoppable as their potent offense.
The biggest surprise for the Ducks on defense has been their secondary unit, a unit that took an early blow when senior John Boyett was ruled out for the season after season-ending surgery. After being replaced by the talented Avery Patterson, the Ducks have not skipped a beat as they have looked more impressive than ever in their coverage unit. Not only does their coverage unit halt opposing offenses from covering too much ground through the air, the Oregon secondary has taken back three interceptions for touchdowns in three straight games, two coming from Patterson.
The Sun Devils, despite an early and close loss to the Missouri Tigers, are not a team the Ducks can overlook. They flash a talented backfield and an up-tempo attack that can mimic Oregon at times. Should the Ducks underestimate Arizona State (and it is unlikely that they will do so), they may be in for an unpleasant evening on Thursday night.
What to Watch: Arizona State
The key in the game for the Sun Devils will be limiting the amount of snaps they play on the defensive side of the ball. More than ever, Oregon is doing what it wants with the ball when they get it. Added to that already present threat is the fact that the Ducks are now running more plays than ever, thus being able to tire out opposing defenses at an alarming and efficient pace.
Should Arizona State want to have a shot at winning this game, they will need to slow down the Oregon offense by slowing down their up-tempo spread attack as well by running the ball a lot more and pressing down the field at an efficient but slower rate. Implementing this strategy, should the Sun Devils be able to move the ball against Oregon’s defense, will limit the amount of chances Oregon has on offense to score and give their defense the time it needs to rest.
What to Watch: Oregon
The key in this game for the Oregon Ducks will be to see how they handle the road atmosphere for the first time this season.
While the Ducks have traveled away from Autzen Stadium this season, their only contest away has been in Seattle against Washington State, letting plenty of Duck fans make the not-so-long trip from Eugene. Thursday’s atmosphere will truly be different that this.
Calling for a blackout and sellout, Sun Devil Stadium should be more than rocking when the Ducks head to town. Watching how Oregon responds to this hostile atmosphere, especially early on, will be crucial in determining whether or not the Ducks can handle a road atmosphere.
Key Matchup: Oregon Defensive Line vs. Arizona State Running Backs
As mentioned before, the Sun Devils will try to dictate the pace of this game by establishing their rushing attack. Led by three of the better running backs in college football, Oregon’s defensive line will have quite the task in front of them on Thursday night as they try to stop Arizona State’s running game before it can even get started.
If the Ducks can force the Sun Devils into third and long situations, they should be able to take away the pace-control that the Sun Devils will try to implement on Thursday night, thus giving their offense the keys to the game.
For the first time this season, I believe Oregon’s offense will come under some stress and put up less than 40 points but still manage a big win on the heels of their defense.