This week Oregon faces Pac-12 South foe Arizona State. A late night game with ESPN College GameDay making another appearance at Autzen Stadium, this will be the marquee match-up in the conference. Arizona State brings a 5-1 record suffering it's lone loss of the season at the hands of a still undefeated Illinois squad on the road in Champaign. The Ducks come in with a 4-1 record having reeled off 4 consecutive blowouts after the opening loss to LSU in Dallas. In this continuing series from Duck Sports Authority we bring you the head-to-head match-ups of the Arizona State Sun Devils and Oregon Ducks. Today the focus is on offense.
ASU: Brock Osweiler played in relief of Steven Threet last season and made some impressive plays. This season Osweiler is the unquestionable starter and has matured somewhat in that role. Osweiler is big at 6'8" and is somewhat mobile for a big QB. He was originally going to Gonzaga to play basketball, but preferred football and jumped at the chance when offered by ASU. The Sun Devils are a passing team, so it is no surprise that Osweiler averages about 36 passing attempts per game. So far this season Osweiler is completing 66.6% of his passes completing 142 of his 213 attempts. Osweiler averages 279.5 yards per game passing and has thrown for 13 touchdowns. Osweiler is susceptible to interceptions having thrown 6 already this season. Osweiler threw for two of those against Illinois and three against Oregon State. Though he is athletic for his size, Osweiler has, nevertheless, been sacked 14 times already this season.
Oregon: Darron Thomas was very impressive after the LSU game against overwhelmed opponents Nevada and Missouri State. Against Arizona, Thomas' feet were much more critical to the Ducks success than his arm. Through the air so far this season, Thomas is completing over 59% of his passes going 79-133-1040 yards. Thomas has thrown for 15 touchdowns against just 2 interceptions and has added 18 carries for 70 yards and two more touchdowns. Considerably more mobile than Osweiler, Thomas has been sacked only twice so far this season.
Osweiler had some experience under his belt entering this season. Osweiler also has a limited experience at Autzen Stadium having started in a 2009 loss to the Ducks at Autzen. In that game Osweiler went 5-10-14 yards with a sack and interception. Osweiler will be better than he was that day. Though Darron Thomas has not run any more this season than he did last season, his ability to run will remain a focal point of the defensive preparation. Thomas has thrown far less frequently than Osweiler, but still has a nearly identical yards per attempt as Osweiler (Osweiler 7.9, Thomas 7.8). Thomas' ability as a runner and a passer along with his knowledge of this offense gives Oregon the edge at QB.
ASU: The Sun Devils start four Wide Receivers; two bigger receivers and two smaller receivers. In the old days, we would call those smaller guys "flankers." Their receivers are coming off a monster performance against Utah where 6'4" Mike Willie nearly doubled his season totals in a single game coming up with 7 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns pushing his season totals to 17-234-2. On the other side is Gerrell Robinson who also stands 6'4" and 220 pounds. Robinson is the leading receiver for the Sun Devils with 403 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 receptions. Former Oregon receiver, Aaron Pflugrad has found a home in Arizona State and is tied with Robinson for second on the team 26 receptions. Pflugrad has 380 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season. Pflugrad's "smaller" counterpart, Jamal Miles also checks in at 5'10" and 180 pounds. The faster of the two, Miles has been used to carry the ball on occasion having 13 carries for 101 yards. As a receiver he has 27 catches of his own for 191 yards and 4 touchdowns of his own.
Oregon: De'Anthony Thomas, splitting time at slot receiver and running back now leads the team in receptions with 17 for 286 yards. Lavasier Tuinei is tied for the team lead in receptions also with 17 has 190 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns of his own. Emerging JC transfer Rashaan Vaughn has 7 receptions for 124 yards and a touchdown. Against Cal, Josh Huff finally looked back at full strength accounting for 54 yards on 3 catches. More importantly, Huff showed the ability to make the tough catches and, along with Thomas, the ability to beat man coverage.
The Ducks receiving corps, though, is not only measured by their receptions and yards as they are also integral members of the running game as blockers. Huff showed great tenacity against Cal knocking defenders backwards while the group as a whole has been very steady in the run blocking component this season.
This is not as lopsided as it was against Cal, but the ASU receivers with their combination of size, speed, great hands and obvious production have the edge over Oregon's group. Expect to see a lot of De'Anthony Thomas from the slot position and Huff to make a bigger impact now that he appears to be back at full speed.
ASU: Cameron Marshall is the leading rusher for the Sun Devils. So far this seasons, Marshall has 398 yards on 102 carries. Marshall is a bigger back at 5'11" and 223 pounds. Marshall's backup, Kyle Middlebrooks, has just 68 yards on 26 carries. Middlebrooks is a smaller scat-back and will present a challenge finding behind the very large offensive linemen. Marshall and Middlebrooks have 13 and 12 receptions respectively out of the backfield.
Oregon: Assuming LaMichael James misses the ASU game after dislocating his elbow last Thursday night against Cal, Oregon will start Kenjon Barner at tailback. Barner is no slouch himself. He has shown his flashes in many facets including the New Mexico game in 2010 while James was suspended for the opener. Barner scored 5 total touchdowns that game. This season, Barner, having missed 2 games due to an ankle injury, has carried the ball 27 times for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Not to be missed is that multi-purpose back, De'Anthony Thomas has 25 carries for 191 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns of his own. The Oregon backs this season have also been very active in the passing game as well combining for 33 catches, 474 yards and 6 touchdowns.
For the season this running back group are 188-1390-14 TD's. As a team, the Ducks are averaging 312.6 yards per game on the ground.
Even without James, the Ducks still have more depth and speed at this position. The edge is still a clear favorite towards the Ducks.
ASU: The ASU line is built more like an NFL offensive line. At the Tackle spots, the team has two tall linemen, Evan Finkenbery (6'6", 292) started 11 games as a freshman in 2010. Dan Knapp (6'5", 277), the other tackle is a converted tight end who started 4 games at tackle in 2010. At guard, the Sun Devils start Mike Marcisz (6'5", 300). Marcisz is a senior with plenty of experience the guard position having started 11 games last season. The other starter at guard, Andrew Sampson (6'3", 300) is a junior and started 8 games in 2010. ASU center Kody Koebensky (6'4", 300) is a redshirt sophomore who saw very limited action last season.
This season, the offensive line, though seemingly experienced, has not done much to protect the QB (allowing 14 sacks on the season) or provide much running room for the running backs (team averages only 129.7 yards per game on the ground, 76th FBS, 9th Pac-12).
Oregon: Oregon's line has been improving with each game. The running game struggled early against LSU, but there were holes there and the Ducks gained more than double what everyone else has been able to gain against LSU. The line has allowed only 3 sacks so far this season; one of those was backup QB Bryan Bennett. The listed starters for the Ducks offensive line (Weems, York, Grasu, Asper, Cody) are just as stout averaging 6'5" tall and 302 pounds. The team leads the Pac-12 and is 5th in the nation in rushing yards per game at 312.6
After being maligned early on this season, the offensive line have done their jobs well; opening holes for running backs and protecting quarterbacks. Though the Duck offensive line made some noticeable early mistakes this season, they have quickly gelled into one of the better offensive line units in the conference.
ASU: The Sun Devils start 6'1" 245 pound senior Trevor Kohl at tight end. For the season, Kohl has just 2 catches for 23 yards. Once a proud home of outstanding tight ends, ASU has just 4 listed tight ends on their roster and only Kohl has recorded any statistics this season
Oregon: Though he has been largely absent from the first 4 games, David Paulson is one of the better tight ends in the Pac-12 conference. He is a sure handed receiver with decent speed for a tight end. Through the first 3 games of the season, Paulson has 7 catches for 48 yards and a touchdown this season. Paulson is backed up by true freshman Colt Lyerla who has made his 3 receptions count for 53 yards and 3 touchdowns. Lyerla is still working on his blocking and knowledge of the position, but his athleticism makes him a threat any time he is on the field.
In Erickson's offense, the tight end is little used this season and there is no real depth at the position. Though the Ducks have underutilized the position, the presence of an All Pac-12 type player in David Paulson and true freshman Colt Lyerla give the Ducks the advantage here.
ASU: The Sun Devils come into this tilt ranked just 9th in rushing offense in the conference and 6th in passing offense. Overall, the team lies right near the middle of the conference total offense with 421.3 yards per game which ranks 7th in the Pac-12. The team has been unable to mount a serious running attack in most games and has been unable to protect the QB. Osweiler is behind only OSU's Sean Mannion for most interceptions thrown with his six picks this season.
Oregon: Oregon has been able to feature the run more in the last two games and have not needed the pass as much. Part of that is the still developing wide receiver position. The emergence of De'Anthony Thomas and return of Josh Huff could help alleviate this problem. As it is, Oregon is ranked just 10th In passing offense at 227 yards per game, but 1st in rush offense at 312.6 and 1st in total offense with 539.6 yards per game.
The offensive line is talented and has now developed some more depth. They have protected the quarterback and provided exceptional running lanes for the running game.
Oregon and Arizona State have a completely different philosophy when it comes to moving the ball. The Sun Devils are primarily a passing team while the Ducks are a run first team that would prefer to simply keep pounding away at the line. The passing game for ASU, though, has had it's erratic moments. Overall, the Ducks have more depth and talent at every position other than wide receiver, yet enough emerging and returning talent there to be successful.