To get a closer look at the Oregon Ducks, we spoke with Addicted to Quack staff writer Jere Dietz on the subject of Saturday’s matchup. Then, he gave us a series of questions to answer. Read below:
It's no secret the Ducks look great so far this season. But what must the Sun Devils do to stop them? What is Oregon's greatest weakness?
Dietz: Wyoming managed to record double-digit TFLs by clogging up the inside run and tight coverage on bubble screens. If ASU can do the same while limiting deep balls, the Ducks could find themselves in many 3rd and long situations and struggle to gain momentum. Ultimately though, the second half has been our biggest weakness thus far so is ASU can keep it close throughout the first half, things could get interesting.
Oregon allowed just 64 yards in the air facing one of the nation's most highly advertised quarterbacks in Josh Allen in week three. How much has Oregon's defense improved from last season?
Dietz: A lot of us have been cautiously optimistic about our defense this year. There is a lot of talent and also a lot of youth (28 freshmen and sophomores have played thus far). In a couple years this could truly be a solid unit, but for the time being the defense is largely untested against a decent offense. The biggest differences I have noticed from last year are seeing guys in better positions to make tackles, better coverage in the secondary and an actual defensive line.
Justin Herbert (897 passing yards, five touchdowns) and Royce Freeman (460 rushing yards, nine touchdowns) seem to be the heart and soul of this offense. How valuable are the two and could either of them win the Heisman Trophy?
Dietz: Justin Herbert and Royce Freeman are crucial to our offense, Herbert probably more so. Behind Royce we have a stable of backs that are all equally as dangerous. However, after Herbert, our QB situation is shaky at best. Our backup is a guy who was 3rd string behind Jeff Lockie in 2015 (the QB from the second half of the Alamo Bowl against TCU...). I do not see the Heisman as a realistic opportunity for either this season, especially with the Ducks expected to finish in the middle of the conference. That being said, I could absolutely see Royce taking home the Doak Walker if his production continues.
Charles Nelson is listed questionable for this Saturday with a lower-right leg injury. If he doesn't play, who will step up and take his place?
Dietz: If Charles Nelson does not play, expect to hear the names Johnny Johnson and Dillon Mitchell A LOT. Both are quick guys with good hands and if you saw the highlights from the Wyoming game, Mitchell breaks ankles with his jukes. Also don't be surprised if TE Jacob Breeland gets more involved in the passing game.
The Ducks played in the 2014 National Championship game and won the 2012 Rose Bowl. After a 4-8 season, is the buzz in Eugene to get back to the College Football Playoffs?
Dietz: At the moment, our buzz is to reclaim our status as King in the North by overthrowing this past year's usurper. Ultimately we just want to see this team improve from last year and get back to competing for the conference title. We are also loving the transparency with the new coaching staff and having constant updates on the recruiting trail after Chip and Helf were so tight-lipped about the program. Hopefully we can land a solid class and set our sights to the CFP in the next couple years.
Dietz: I'm nervous for Pac12AfterDark and am worried this may be closer than it should be, especially with the recent second half woes. I'll say Ducks 45-38.
Addicted to Quack asks House of Sparky
Who on your team is the player to watch that no one’s really talking about yet?
Destin: Abe Thompson. He’s a 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior linebacker who may be starting on Saturday in the absence of Koron Crump. A little bit to know about Thompson: he played a year at Northern Arizona before transferring to Arizona Western. Then, he transferred to ASU as a walk-on. Nearing the end of preseason practices he received a scholarship. If he plays, he’s a player to watch because he has major shoes to fill.
Madden: He’s certainly receiving a lot of attention down here, but on a national level, no one’s saying much about sophomore receiver Kyle Williams. That’s understandable — the Sun Devils have just one win against a non-power five opponent — but Williams has emerged as arguably the second best arial threat on an offense that has restructured its passing game around the occasional long ball. He’s a crisp route runner with solid hands, but we’ll see how far that gets him against the Ducks’ secondary.
What odd fan traditions do you have (in-stadium or just at House of Sparky)?
Destin: ASU fans say "1... 2... 3... First down Devils!" Students say "1... 2... 3... First down B**ch!" There are fireworks after every ASU score, including extra points. There is an "A" mountain just west of Sun Devil Stadium. Freshman paint the "A" white one week before the home-opener, then seniors paint it gold on game day and it remains gold throughout the year.
Madden: Just before the Sun Devils run out of the tunnel each Saturday night, there’s a video that plays up on the new scoreboard of Sparky the Sun Devil walking through Arizona and stomping the opponent’s team bus.
If your team ends up with a losing season and no bowl game, what would be considered the silver lining for the year?
Destin: Beating the Arizona Wildcats.
Madden: Maybe managing an upset over a ranked team in the conference, but probably a win over Arizona is more important.
What do you consider to be the defining moment of your program? (for us it might be the pick or the RB win vs fsu)
Destin: Beating Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl.
Madden: The 1987 Rose Bowl.
If Todd Graham gets fired, who are a few names that would be the most realistic/best choices? (this excludes John Gruden)
Destin: People are hoping for big names like Les Miles or Chip Kelly. I’ve even heard people talk about Hugh Freeze. The last idea that came across my twitter feed was "fire Todd Graham and promote offensive coordinator Billy Napier."
Madden: It’s tough to say this early on, not many coaches have proven they’re ready for a promotion from a mid-major or have done enough to get fired from a bigger school than ASU. I don’t have any names, but those are likely the two origins of the Sun Devils’ next head coach.
What is the best pregame drink at Sun Devil Stadium in the September heat?
Destin: If I were of legal age, I’d definitely give you a better answer. But there is a somewhat new beer garden on the north side of the stadium and all of pregame drinks of notability are actually about a block down on a special place called Mill Avenue.
Madden: Ditto what Josiah said. Just take a walk down Mill Avenue.
What is the longest running meme or inside joke at House of Sparky?
Destin: Probably that ASU has had the worst passing defense in the nation for back-to-back years or if Graham should play Blake Barnett.
Madden: Definitely the joke that Graham should play Blake Barnett.
Has there been a lot of talk or progress about changing their identity on defense?
Destin: Arizona State’s defense has been known for being terrible against the pass for the past two seasons. It’s ASU’s mission to change that this year.
Madden: Talk? Yes. Progress? Not really. The Devils rank 96th nationally in stopping the run and 125th against the pass. It seems that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett’s changes haven’t come to fruition yet, but there’s still plenty of football to be played.