Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE
Oregon handles their first "difficult" test with ease, dismantling ASU 43-21
Oregon proved why they are legitimate national championship contenders on Thursday night. ASU simply got bullied, which led to long Duck touchdowns. The final score wound up being 43-21, after essentially three quarters of garbage time.
Heading into Tempe, some (including myself) expected a close contest. Oregon passed every test with flying colors, including the development of inexperienced quarterback Marcus Mariota in handling hostile environments. College football fans should be drooling for a potential Oregon-Alabama title game.
Regarding the hometown Devils, last night was rough. Despite the nationally televised debacle, ASU still shares the Pac-12 South lead with USC. Therefore, Taylor Kelly and company still control their own destiny, and may see Oregon again in the conference championship. The biggest issue coach Todd Graham faces is the possibility of moving on without star defensive lineman Will Sutton (knee injury).
However, all the headlines and big time performances belong to Oregon. Unfortunately, the Ducks stole ASU's weekly accolades.
The Usain Bolt Award
Oregon football is fast enough to train with Usain Bolt, and could feasibly even win certain races. According to ESPN, Duck starting running back Kenjon Barner was clocked at 20 miles per hour! That is not a misprint or typo, just reality.
Barner burned ASU for 143 yards and three scores, yet only carried the rock 16 times (8.9 average per attempt). His 71-yard trip to pay dirt seemed faster than I could recite the alphabet.
The Sun Devils could not keep up, and few if any really can. ASU's sole hope went down after Will Sutton got injured.
Beyond Barner, quarterback Marcus Mariota also showcased dynamic speed. Mariota's game highlight came via an 86-yard trip to pay dirt. On the night, Mariota methodically cruised for 135 yards.
Last but certainly not least is De'Anthony Thomas. ASU actually stopped Thomas, but his speed must be discussed. Among the speedy Ducks, Thomas appears the quickest. Thomas is commonly regarded as "the fastest player in Division One football". Once he hits open turf it is game over.
The Billy Beane Award
Let me preface my idea by stating, Billy Beane is the current and longtime general manager of the Oakland Athletics. Beane's "Amazing A's" made a deep post-season run, despite being clear underdogs.
How do this apply to Oregon football? Good question, it is all about the surprise element. The Ducks offense garners national attention, yet they also feature an underrated defense.
Get the connection? Oregon's great defense won the Billy Beane for its ability to prove doubters wrong. ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly is known for incredible efficiency, but Oregon stymied him. Kelly's great stats took multiple severe hits, failing to surpass 100 passing yards.
I expected Kelly to play well, possibly sporting a state line of about 300 plus yards, at least two touchdowns, and one turnover tops. Conversely, Oregon rattled Kelly all night, throwing two interceptions while also delivering numerous big time blows.
In total, Oregon accumulated four interceptions and put an end to ASU's early season offensive success. The Ducks superb defense makes this squad arguably Chip Kelly's best since taking over in 2009.