Oregon enters its Pac-12 opener at Tempe against Arizona State at 3-0. But we may not be exactly sure where this football team really is yet. Duck Sports Authority staffers put their finger on the pulse of the team as it heads south in this edition of Crystal Ball.
In 2015, Arizona State lost in triple overtime to Oregon in heartbreaking fashion, 61-55. During the game, Oregon was forced to convert numerous game saving plays and were the lucky recipient of some really poor coaching by ASU at the end. Oregon couldn’t stop the run to save their lives, but ASU decided to run back-to-back throwing plays, the second resulting in the game ending interception.
The 2015 result was the only single digit victory by the Ducks over ASU since 2004, the last time ASU beat the Ducks. Oregon currently owns a 10 game win streak over the Devils by an average score of 45.3 to 26.3 (19 point difference). Back to 2017, ASU looks adequate on offense and terrible on defense.
ASU will likely provide the best offensive challenge yet for the secondary, but the Duck offense should have little issue moving the ball. The monkey stays on ASU’s back, and it looks a lot like the average of the last 10 years.
The Ducks go into their Pac-12 opener against Arizona State favorites by two touchdowns. After the first three games of the season and the results the two teams have earned, that seems about right.
I think Oregon has a definite edge on offense against an ASU defense that has not stopped anybody. New Mexico State, San Diego State, Texas Tech; they all scored more than 30 points on the Sun Devils, ranked 117 of 129 in the FBS in scoring defense.
The Duck defense might be better than the offense this year. If they can stop the run like they easily should, they can focus on the passing game and getting pressure on the QB. ASU has been a one-dimensional passing team and that is not usually a great recipe for ball control.
I see Oregon getting the better of the offense/defense matchups and have them covering the spread for their first Pac-12 win.
The ASU defense is a Brady-Hole-level dumpster fire. Through three games they've allowed 37.7 points a game and 6.67 yards per play, numbers that rank 118th and 117th in the FBS acccording to http://cfbstats.com . They've surrendered 10 passing touchdowns and give up nearly 5 yards a carry on the ground.
The Sun Devil offense, however, will be a good test for the improved Oregon defense. The Ducks will be challlenged to stop twin playmakers WR N'Keal Harry and versatile running back Kallen Ballage, Last year Ballage scored 8 touchdowns in one game against Texas Tech, and this season Harry has been a hairy problem for opponents, with 24 catches for 266 yards and two scores.
Opponents convert 54% on 3rd down versus Todd Graham's squad, belying the fact that he used to be known as a defensive coach. If that doesn't improve he'll soon be known as an unemployed one. The Ducks should be able to feed their horse, Royce Freeman, who has already rolled for 456 yards and 9 touchdowns through three games.
Arizona State is a bit of an enigma. Much like Oregon a season ago, the team has tremendous offensive talent, but is struggling defensively. Phil Bennett was brought in to help shore up the defense, but the secondary is a weak spot. The Sun Devils lost their top defender when Koron Crump went down with a left knee injury, so Oregon should be able to move the ball and score.
Offensively, ASU has tremendous weapons which will put the Ducks under duress. Kalen Ballage and the running game have been under-utilized this season, but are still dangerous. Manny Wilkens and N’Keal Harry round out a dynamic offense that will challenge anyone.
The Ducks, though, have too much offensive firepower and an improving defense whose strength is against the passing game. I expect Oregon to be ready for the challenge of the Sun Devil offense and the Ducks to pull away.