It's been a quarterback carousel for the Oregon Ducks through the first half of the season. To this point, three different players have had a chance to take snaps for the Ducks in 2015 between Marcus Mariota's former backup, a walk-on, and a graduate senior transfer.
While the team has taken some time to settle out their signal-caller situation, they haven't had much of a problem getting things going in other areas of their offense, notably their dynamic rushing attack.
The mantra of the Oregon offense over recent years has to not only win the day, but win it by outrunning and outgunning the opposition with a relentless tempo. Below, we break down who the Ducks will feature on both sides of the ball, and who the Arizona State Sun Devils will need to keep in check in order to have a chance at winning the Thursday night duel.
Royce Freeman, RB—No. 21 (Sophomore)
In a conference chocked-full of talented rushers, Freeman is certainly no slouch. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound back leads the conference in rushing yards (997 total, 142.4 per game) and touchdowns (11 total—9 rushing, 2 receiving), while also ranking second in all-purpose yards (1,176).
Freeman has done everything possible to power the Ducks offense in the absence of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, and hasn't disappointed, especially from a statistical standpoint.
The Arizona State defense has demonstrated they can contain opposing running backs who represent the focal point of their offense, but dealing with Freeman may pose a different kind of threat when considering Oregon's tempo and use of the inside zone-read out of a spread option look.
DeForest Buckner, DE—No. 44 (Senior)
Buckner is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in all of college football. In seven games, he's racked up five sacks, which is good for second in the Pac-12 thus far.
Considered a first-round NFL talent, the Hawaiian has notched 36 total tackles, including nine tackles for a loss (third in Pac-12), four quarterback hits, and four pass breakups.
The Sun Devils offensive line has already had to deal with Myles Garrett, and didn't fair well. Buckner will be the most disruptive player they've faced on the edge since the opener, and holding a player of his caliber off will be no easy task.
Vernon Adams Jr., QB—No. 3 (Senior)
The Eastern Washington transfer has had an underwhelming start to his time with the Ducks. He's not only had to deal with being delayed in reporting to the football team because of a math test, but had that was followed up by a lingering broken finger which caused him to miss more time.
In a win over Washington, Adams looked like he was beginning to feel comfortable, and we can only assume that with their recent week off that he'll be fully ready to go.
Adams isn't Mariota, but he still presents a dynamic dual-threat playmaker at quarterback who can hurt you with his arm and with his legs. He could be the ultimate difference maker in the matchup.
Bralon Addison, WR—No. 2 (Junior—RS)
Addison has been the team's most reliable receiver this season, leading the team in receptions (31), yards (365) and touchdowns (3).
He's also a dangerous return man, having already returned a punt 81 yards for a score, and is averaging 14.2 yards per punt return.
Joe Walker, ILB—No. 35 (Senior)
It's been fellow inside linebacker Rodney Hardrick who has garnered more NFL consideration, but Walker has been a considerably strong performer himself, and it shows up in the stat column.
Walker leads the Ducks in total tackles (49), and has managed four tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, two pass deflections and two fumble recoveries.