clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ASU vs. Oregon: Complete Game Preview and TV Schedule

New, comment

Everything you need to know when the Sun Devils host the Oregon Ducks.

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon Ducks (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) @ Arizona State Sun Devils (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12)

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT

Television: ESPN (Joe Tessitore, Jesse Palmer, David Pollack, Kaylee Hartung)

Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM | Sirus 84 (Tim Healey, Jeff Van Raaphorst, Doug Franz)

Betting Line: Sun Devils are currently favored by around 2.5 points depending on which site/sports book you look at.

What ASU is Wearing: The Sun Devils have not released what they are wearing for the Oregon game. Most expect a special alternate uniform and some are guessing it will be a look from the past. Fans are encouraged to wear gold.

Series History: Oregon leads the all-time series over Arizona State 17-16. In 16 meetings at Sun Devil Stadium, each team has eight wins. The Ducks have won each of the last five meetings, scoring over 40 points in each game.

Oregon in 2015: It is strange to not see a number in front of Oregon's name. At 4-3, the Ducks do not sit among the top-25 teams in the nation in any poll. A loss to Arizona State would put Oregon under .500 in the conference through five games for the first time since 2003.

The Ducks began their season with a 61-42 blowout of Eastern Washington at home. Even though the Ducks won the game comfortably, some eyebrows were raised at the 42 points the Oregon defense surrendered to an FCS opponent. A week later, the Ducks dropped their marquee nonconference game of 2015 in East Lansing to Michigan State 31-28.

After putting up 61 points in a victory against Georgia State, the wheels fell off in a hurry as the Ducks were blasted by Utah 62-20 in Eugene to drop their record to 2-2.

A victory on the road against Colorado was followed up the next week by a disappointing home loss to Washington State. In their last game before their bye week, Oregon got by Washington 26-20 to improve to 4-3 and even their conference record to 2-2.

Arizona State on Offense: After back-to-back victories over UCLA and Colorado in which the ASU offense put up 38 points and 48 points, respectively, the ASU offense suffered another setback against Utah. The Sun Devil offense did not score a touchdown and mustered just 257 yards of total offense.

With Demario Richard out with a knee injury, the Sun Devils ran for just 15 yards in a loss to Utah. Kalen Ballage carried the ball 18 times or 49 yards, however Mike Bercovici's -37 yards of rushing (most of which came off sacks) wiped away most of those yards in the final stats.

"You know, I think offensively the big thing is just focusing on getting better at one thing, and the one thing we've got to get better at is our tempo and owning the football. That's it. That's been the number one focus for us," Todd Graham said. "Have we played to our potential offensively? No. The number one thing that we focused on for two weeks is ball security, taking care of the football and getting our speed and our tempo going, and that's some things that we have to focus on offense."

The Sun Devils rank 10th in the conference in scoring offense, rushing offense and passing offense. Some of that has to do with injuries to key members of the offensive line along with Ballage, Richard and Tim White. However, some of the poor results offensively also has to do with poor execution. Both Graham and Bercovici would like to see the offense operate at a faster tempo.

"Well, I think it can never be fast enough. I think when you start going fast and go faster. That's just the fun part about being a tempo," Bercovici said. "We've got guys getting lined up. It all starts with setting your feet and just having a sense of urgency. It's a self-disciplined sense of urgency. You can't have people yelling at you to line up. It's got to be within yourself, and I think we got that accomplished this bye week and heading into this week."

Offensive Keys

Win First Down: Too many times against Utah, the Sun Devils were stuffed on first down, either on a run play or a short pass. This resulted in the Sun Devils being forced into a lot of third and long situations as ASU finished 5-18 on third downs against the Utes.

ASU wants to go fast on offense and a major factor in that is first down, gaining positive yardage and setting up second and medium or short. Oregon boasts one of the most athletic defensive lines in the league and ASU cannot continue to work in third and long.

Protect the Quarterback: ASU surrendered nine sacks against Texas A&M and against Utah Mike Bercovici was constantly pressured and as a result played his worst game of the season (19.9 Total QBR, 0 TD and 1 INT).

Oregon's DeForrest Buncker is one of the toughest defensive lineman in the conference to play against because of his size (6-foot-7, 260 pounds). Wherever he lines up, ASU needs to project Bercovici and keep him upright.

ASU on Defense: The ASU defense has played at a high level all season and it continues to get better. The Sun Devils are second in the league against the run, allowing an average 129.3 yards per game on the ground despite facing some of the Pac-12's best running backs.

Another week, another talented running back facing the Sun Devils in Oregon's Royce Freeman. The 5-foot-11, 230-pound sophomore has rushed for 997 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015.

"Their running back. He's really good," Graham said. "Obviously (they are) big up front, obviously they've got a great scheme, and it's hard to kind of say who their scheme is like. I think the way they run the ball is very similar to what Arizona does and what UCLA does, so it's more of that style of a running attack.

"But he's just powerful. He's 230 pounds, he gets downhill, and he's very patient, a lot like Paul Perkins, very patient, not just a bruiser guy, a guy that's very, very patient about what he's doing."

Freeman has at least 20 carries and 100 yards in five of Oregon's seven games this season.

Oregon quarterbacks have been far less impressive than its running backs. Four players have attempted passes for Oregon this season, combining for 13 touchdowns, six interceptions and a 60.5 completion percentage. Vernon Adams, the transfer from Eastern Washington, has been hampered by a thumb injury this season. He is expected to be fully healthy against the Sun Devils.

Adams did not play in Oregon's loss to Washington State and he only attempted seven passes in the loss to Utah.

"I think they struggled, obviously, when he got hurt and he wasn't in there, because he has a tremendous cast around him," Graham said about Adams. "When you look at the running back, the receivers and their ability to hit big plays, he gives them that stability, and he is a guy that can extend plays and he's very difficult to keep corralled. I mean, he's very athletic -- and completed it. He's the guy they want in there. He had been hurt, and now they got him healthy."

Defensive Keys

Control Broken Plays: Part of what makes Adams dangerous is what he can do when the play breaks down and he gets out of the pocket. It is important for ASU to control Adams and the Oregon skill players when the play breaks down and contain big plays.

Contain Oregon's Running Game: This is an obvious key but it is perhaps the most important aspect of this game. The Sun Devils completely shut down Devontae Booker (until one long run in the fourth quarter), and they will need a similar effort against Oregon. If the Sun Devils can contain Freeman and make Adams beat them, they have a great chance at pulling out a victory.

Final Breakdown

Clearly, Oregon is having a down year. The Ducks were in the College Football Playoff last season and this year already have suffered three losses, including two at home. The Sun Devils are actually favored in this game and this is ASU's best chance to end an eight-game losings streak against the Ducks.

Oregon has looked like a different team when Adams plays, and he looks to be good to go for Thursday night. Expect both teams to put up some points and expect both teams to have some desperation. A win for either team keeps them in contention in the Pac-12 and whoever loses will drop below .500 in the Pac-12.

Final Prediction: Oregon 38, Arizona State 34