The Oregon Ducks (3-0) are back in fightin’ form this season and it couldn’t come at a worse time for the Arizona State Sun Devils (1-2). ASU is coming off of a tough road loss to Texas Tech, while Oregon is riding a three-game winning streak and might have its best team since Chip Kelly left the program.
Here are some things to watch out for from the Ducks:
Royce and the Run Game
Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman is off to a monster start this season. He leads all non-quarterbacks in the nation with nine touchdowns and is third among running backs in rushing yards with 460 yards rushing through three games. Those 460 yards have come off of just 82 carries which means Freeman is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
It hasn’t just been Freeman carrying the rock for the Ducks, as Oregon is averaging 254 yards per game on the ground as a team. Four other Oregon players have recorded a rushing touchdown so far this season, with Phoenix-native Kani Benoit tallying six touchdowns of his own. Even sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert is getting in on the running game, as he is averaging a little over four yards per carry and has a rushing touchdown as well.
ASU has had little success defending the run this year as the Sun Devils are giving up over an average of 167 rushing yards per game. Rashaad Penny and San Diego State carved up the Sun Devils for 279 yards rushing just two weeks ago and Oregon’s running game is just as explosive, while also presenting more of a passing threat to complement their running attack.
Home Grown Talent Under Center
After multiple seasons of transfer seniors taking snaps under center for the Ducks, they have finally found a young, talented quarterback from within the program in Herbert. The Ducks found Herbert right in their backyard of Eugene, Oregon and he received little hype coming out of high school. However, the 6-foot-6 signal caller has been nothing but impressive when he’s been given the opportunity to play. He had 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions in his seven starts last season, and has picked up right where he left off with five touchdowns in his first three games this year.
Herbert currently has the sixth best total QBR in the nation at 88.5, almost 12 points better than top prospect Sam Darnold out of USC. His accuracy is much improved this year as he is 13th in the country with a 72.3 completion percentage and he’s not just dinking and dunking, as he has an average of 10.8 yards per attempt. With play makers like Freeman out of the backfield, Oregon doesn’t necessarily need Herbert to carry the offense, but he is certainly adding tremendous value in keeping the offense multi-dimensional.
The Sun Devils and Ducks face off on Saturday at 7 p.m. MST on Pac-12 Network.