With around 48 hours to go until ASU football's huge matchup with Oregon, there are more questions than answers for both programs and their fans. We talked with Joseph Hoyt of The Daily Emerald to try to figure out what's going on with the Ducks and how the game will play out.
State Press: What has the reaction been in and around Eugene to this season that has been a relative disappointment to the past run of excellence?
Daily Emerald: It's been a surprise, first and foremost. Obviously when a program has been as successful as Oregon has been recently, winning — despite the loss of arguably the greatest player to wear a Ducks' jersey in Marcus Mariota — is expected. This year was no different. But with a finger injury to graduate-transfer quarterback Vernon Adams — an injury that kept him out of three games — and an inexperienced defensive secondary, Oregon's looked vulnerable. The fans know it, too.
How important is this game to Oregon?
This game is huge for Oregon. Players, including Adams and star receiver Bralon Addison, have set the bar of a successful season at nothing less than winning the rest of their games. For the fans, a win against ASU would be a continued sign of hope. Oregon fans got a taste of the team they hoped to watch in last game's win in Washington. A loss to the Sun Devils could instill more fan questions about the immediate future of the Ducks.
How do you think the Duck offense will respond to ASU's blitz-heavy defense?
It'll be an interesting matchup. Oregon, in the past, has been a team that likes to get the ball out quick and into the hands of their arsenal of playmakers. But after last week's win over Washington, head coach Mark Helfrich stressed the idea of Adams taking more time in the pocket, trusting his offensive line and allowing his receivers to get open. Adams concurred with the idea, saying last week he tended to try and escape the pocket before plays could really develop. If the Sun Devils could get pressure on Adams, then that might throw a wrench in Oregon's apparent offensive game plan.
Oregon's defense is ranked 121st against the pass. What do the Ducks need to do to rectify that against a team that loves to throw the ball?
Like I mentioned earlier, Oregon's inexperienced secondary has been an issue this year. They've tried plugging do-it-all playmaker Charles Nelson at safety against Washington State and they moved former safety Tyree Robinson to cornerback for the immediate future. One way to help a shaky secondary would be if Oregon could generate some pass rush, especially from the interior. Deforest Buckner has been one of the best players in college football this year, totaling five sacks and nine tackles for loss while often being double, and even triple-teamed. Still, I would expect Mike Bercovici to have a good performance against a young defensive backfield.
Who wins and why?
Arizona State wins on primetime in the desert, 35-28. Like you asked me earlier, I think the Sun Devils passing attack will be too much against Oregon's 121st ranked secondary. It'll be interesting to see how a "banged up" D.J. Foster does against Oregon. He's fun to watch when he's full-go. But Oregon definitely has a shot against the Sun Devils. The combo of Adams and wide receiver Darren Carrington returning to the field looked like it ignited a dormant Oregon offense against Washington. We'll see if the big plays continue in Tempe.
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