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ASU Football: Players to watch vs. Oregon State

The Oregon State passing game is the threat Arizona State needs to worry about

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State is far from the best team the Sun Devils will play this season. They are, however, a fellow Pac-12 foe which Arizona State will need to beat in order to move further toward another birth in the Pac-12 Championship Game. The one place where the Beavers could truly hurt the Sun Devils  is through the air with Sean Mannion, this one fact has a lot to do with our players to watch this week.

Lloyd Carrington

He had an interception return for a touchdown against Notre Dame and was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week for his effort against the Fighting Irish. He was also part of the defensive backfield which allowed 446 passing yards to Everett Golson. Carrington, as a player who has previous experience against the Beavers, should find some more success this time around. Sophomore Victor Bolden (replacing stud Brandin Cooks) will be the primary receiving target for Oregon State and it will be up to Carrington to help shut down any chance Oregon State has through the air. He has also been one of the best off the corner blitzers for the Sun Devils this season, which the maroon and gold could use to their advantage against an inexperienced offensive line for the Beavers.

Running backs

Every back contributed in their own significant way against Notre Dame. This is the type of game where D.J. Foster should excel like he did against New Mexico or Weber State, but the production of Demario Richard over the past four games can't be ignored either. Richard has 222 yards rushing over that four game stretch while Foster had 268 yards. Foster had the superior games against Stanford and Notre Dame while Richard's better outings came against Washington and Utah where he out-gained Foster.

This isn't a position battle, it's a one-two punch because the Beavers have to prepare for both running backs, it's to offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's benefit to keep both players involved to keep the defense on their toes. But it will be interesting to see which running back has the better game.

Tashon Smallwood

He had his best game against Notre Dame with two tackles, including a strip sack and fumble recovery. He was also part of the defensive line which allowed just 41 total yards rushing.  With Jaxon Hood still out, Smallwood has a chance to firmly cement his spot in the defensive line rotation going forward. He was praised by Todd Graham coming out of fall camp and underachieved, losing his starting spot by the Stanford game.

He might have found his groove against the Fighting Irish, that play might have been exactly what he needed to gain some confidence. It also could have been a lightning strike, a one-time occurrence before he fades back into freshman obscurity. He'll see his fair share of the field again Saturday, and with Jaxon Hood still out, he'll have a chance to prove that last week wasn't a fluke.