Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Kickoff is just a few hours away, and we break down the five keys to the game necessary for a Sun Devil victory
We've brought you top-notch coverage of tonight's crucial Pac-12 battle between Arizona State and Oregon all week long. From an extensive game preview, to a head-to-head stat breakdown, Oregon insider Q&A, and five reasons why ASU will both win and lose, House of Sparky has you covered.
Now, we boil it down to the basics: the five keys to a Sun Devil victory over the second-ranked Ducks.
Shoot the Gaps
The closest thing to an "answer" to Oregon's offense has been shown in recent seasons by Auburn and LSU, who each had fast and physical defensive lines. In their match-ups, they were able to shoot the gaps and overpower the Ducks' offensive line, which the Oregon offense from ever getting on a roll.
ASU has the talent up front to do just that. Will Sutton has been an unblockable force through the first six games, and Jaxon Hood, Carl Bradford and Junior Onyeali have all had strong seasons to date. They have the combination of strength and quickness to be able to replicate the SEC success. Whether they will on Thursday night remains to be seen.
No Room for Error
Oregon is ranked No. 2 in the nation for a reason: they are that damn good.
However, that doesn't make them unbeatable. In previous games, ASU has shown that they have the talent to compete with the Ducks, but they have not had the discipline (see: 2010 game).
This year, the Sun Devils have shown they have the discipline and mental focus that the previous teams have lacked. ASU will need every ounce of that this year. For the Sun Devils to stay with the Ducks and have a chance to pull off the upset, they cannot afford to make mistakes in the forms of missed assignments, penalties and turnovers.
Like ASU, Oregon has a new starting quarterback this year. And like Taylor Kelly, Oregon's Marcus Mariota has been excellent. He's completing 68% of his throws with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
However, he has shown he can be rattled at times, and will be making his first real road start tonight. If the Sun Devils can come out strong, keep the fans in the game, and have their pass rush lay some hits on him, Mariota may return the favor with a costly mistake or two.
Keep 'Em in Front
There's not a more dangerous backfield in the nation than Oregon's combination of Kenjon Barner (727 yards, nine touchdowns) and De'Anthony Thomas (9.2 yards-per-carry, 20 receptions, nine total touchdowns). Each player is a scoring threat on every touch.
In the passing game, they have a corps of young and speedy receivers like Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe to go along with 6-foot-5 tight end Colt Lyerla, who is capable of outrunning many defensive backs.
Basically, the Ducks can gain yards in bunches.
The Sun Devil defense will need to keep the Oregon ballcarriers in front of them and WRAP UP on tackles. Last year's nasty habit of missing tackles has re-emerged at times over the last few weeks, and if that happens again, it may result in six points for the Ducks.
The best defense against Oregon's second-ranked scoring offense is to keep them off the field.
To that end, Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devil offense will need to sustain every drive they can. Putting together lengthy drives, and most importantly, not leaving any scoring opportunities on the field will be critical for ASU's upset bid.
Field goals and three-and-outs can be overcome against the Cals and Utahs of the Pac-12, but not when facing Oregon. Points will be at a premium, and the Sun Devils will need to capitalize on nearly every possession.