After a crushing 52-45 failed comeback to the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0), ASU football kicks off Pac-12 play against the No. 24 Oregon Ducks (3-0). The Sun Devils (1-2) will work toward snapping a 10-game losing streak to the Ducks.
Oregon’s very own Rolls Royce
Half of the Ducks’ 18 rushing touchdowns belong to senior running back Royce Freeman.
When ASU played SDSU, it was ultimately running back Rashaad Penny who beat the Sun Devils. If Freeman has the type of game he’s had all year, Sun Devil fans can expect another loss.
Oregon’s leading rusher has 460 rushing yards on the year, the third most in Division I football.
ASU is yet to play a running back with Freeman’s shiftiness and vision – not to mention his sneaky speed in the open field.
ASU head coach Todd Graham said he knows what Freeman brings to Oregon’s fast-paced offense.
“Right now (Freeman is) the most productive running back, almost all-purpose yard guy,” Graham said. “I think the whole key is stopping him.”
If the Sun Devils want a chance of pulling off an upset, they need to do what no other team has done to Freeman thus far, which is holding him to less than 150 rush yards and two touchdowns.
Take advantage of the ugly duckling
Although Oregon is averaging a ridiculous 56 points per game, the team also averages an ugly nine penalties per game.
Oregon's ability to score in bunches can be temporarily halted if the Sun Devils take advantage of the Ducks' plentiful mistakes.
In Oregon's 42-35 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-2), the Cornhuskers turned the ball over four times and still only lost by seven.
It’s a cliché that capitalizing off another team’s miscues is the underlying factor in a win or loss, but against a team like Oregon, which has turned the ball over seven times and has 258 penalty yards, it’s a must.
Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Ryan Newsome said the team just needs to hone in on playing a crisp game.
“It’s not rocket science. Just going out there and practicing hard every day, paying attention to details is what separates the wins from the losses,” Newsome said.
However, for ASU to beat the Ducks, Newsome said he wants to see the defense change the game.
“Hopefully the (defense) can get it together. We play as a unit,” Newsome said. “Less thinking, just more out there just playing, so hopefully we can get that going.”
Over the course of the first three games, Oregon has scored 24 touchdowns – one kickoff return for a score, five passing touchdowns and 18 on the ground.
ASU, on the other hand, has put the ball in the end zone 14 times.
Redshirt junior quarterback Manny Wilkins is responsible for seven of the 14.
Despite Wilkins’ efficiency, ASU will have to trade scoring drives with what Wilkins calls a “fast team.”
“I think years in the past they’ve been known just for a lot of their speed,” Wilkins said. “Up front they have some physical players, big, long dudes who get their hands up in short and intermediate game."
"They’re just a skilled team, but it lies in our hands and what we do with the ball. We just got to put points on the board. It’s simple as that.”
The Ducks have yet to be stopped. They have put up more than 40 points against each one of their opponents.
A win versus a ranked conference team could give ASU the momentum it needs heading into a stretch where it will face three more top-25 teams in the following four games. However, a loss would likely put any realistic chance at a bowl game out of reach.
The predictions below come from The State Press football reporters: Anthony Totri, Mark Harris and Joe Jacquez. The number next to the reporter is their record in predicting the winner each week.
Anthony Totri (1-2): Oregon beats ASU 52-38
Mark Harris (2-1): Oregon beats ASU 42-31
Joe Jacquez (2-1): Oregon beats ASU 46-35