One of the nation's premier offenses challenges an up-and-coming defense as the Oregon Ducks square off against the Arizona State Sun Devils Thursday night at Sun Devil Stadium.
Five players scored touchdowns for the Ducks in their 52-21 victory over Pac-12 rival Washington on Oct. 6, and quarterback Marcus Mariota played a role in four of them.
The redshirt freshman threw four touchdowns and completed 15 of his 24 passes for 198 yards, and Kenjon Barner dashed for 122 yards on the ground. Sophomore Coly Lyerla had three catches for 71 yards and two scores, and the Ducks defense forced five turnovers, including a 43-yard interception return by Avery Patterson for a 21-0 score in the first quarter.
Mariota has guided the Oregon offense through six games, but much of the team's success comes from its fourth-ranked rushing attack. Barner and sophomore De'Anthony Thomas have combined for 15 touchdowns and 1,104 rushing yards, with Thomas averaging 9.2 yards per carry, and the team picking up 302.3 yards per game.
The 6-0 Ducks are No. 2 in the Associated Press poll, but came in third in the first Bowl Championship Series rankings announced this week. They currently hold the top spot in the Pac-12 North standings, and a big win against Arizona State would solidify their stature as the conference's top team and may help them supplant either Alabama or Florida in the BCS.
The 5-1 Sun Devils pose perhaps Oregon’s strongest test so far this season, fielding the eighth ranked defense in the country.
Arizona State are allowing 272.6 yards per game, and gave up 20 points just once this season, in their 24-20 loss at Missouri on Sept. 15. Led by senior Brandon Magee who has 41 tackles this season, they are also averaging more than four sacks and almost 10 tackles for a loss per game.
But the Sun Devils are not a one sided team, with sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly tossing five touchdowns and 308 yards in Arizona State’s dominant 51-17 win over Colorado last week.
The Sun Devils held a 20-7 late in the second quarter, but the Buffaloes battled back and made it 20-17 before the end of the first half.
Receiver Rashad Ross answered with a 100-yard kickoff return to start the second half, and Arizona State forced five straight punts and held Colorado scoreless in the second half for the win.
A win over the Ducks would not only be a huge upset and boon for the Sun Devils’ season, it would also give them confidence as they head into a daunting stretch of their Pac-12 schedule. After Oregon, they host UCLA, and then travel to No. 8 Oregon State and No. 10 USC.
Betting Odds: Oregon is favored by 9 points
Over/Under: 68 points
Prediction: The Ducks have scored at least 42 points in every game this season, and even if Arizona State can prevent big plays it won’t be able to completely hinder Oregon’s offense. This game could be a shootout, and Oregon will ultimately prevail.
Predicted Score: Oregon 35, Arizona State 27