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Preview: Tough test lies ahead for ASU football at Oregon State

The Beavers, a much-improved team from previous years, will prove to be a difficult foe for the Sun Devils

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Junior wide receiver Ricky Pearsall (19) goes for a catch at the 20-yard-line at Sun Devil Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021. ASU beat Stanford 28-10.

ASU football heads to the Pacific Northwest for the second time in as many weeks after an emphatic come-from-behind 35-30 victory at Washington last weekend. The Sun Devils scored three touchdowns in the final 5:46 of the game to keep its Pac-12 Championship chances alive.

ASU will need to take care of its own business and get help from others to advance to the conference championship game. ASU (7-3) will need to win its next two games, and No. 23 Utah, who has a one-game lead in the Pac-12 South and the tiebreaker over ASU, will also need to lose its next two games.

But in what has always been the case this season, the Sun Devils are focused on only one thing: the next game. "My philosophy has always been the big picture will always take care of itself when you win," said head coach Herm Edwards. "You win by preparing for the week in front of you."

Oregon State (6-4) have been one of the more surprising teams to come out of the Pac-12 this season. The Beavers haven't had a season with at least six wins since 2013. 

Powerful Run Game

Oregon State leads the Pac-12 in rushing yards with 2,287, the program's highest total since 2016. The team is on pace to rush for 2,973 yards, which would be the third-most in Oregon State's program history. 

ASU has faced two of the three Pac-12 teams who ran the ball more than 60% of the time this season, Colorado and UCLA. ASU allowed a combined 360 yards rushing in both games but won both games by 22 and 19 points, respectively.

The Beavers' potent rushing attack is led by redshirt junior running back B.J. Baylor, who leads the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,050 yards. 

Baylor's skill set is quite expansive. He's a patient running back who makes quick cuts and always fights for extra yards. The above-average play of the Oregon State offensive line has allowed him to reach newfound levels of success this year.

"They have a very fast offensive line," said redshirt junior defensive end Michael Matus. "The biggest challenge will be stopping the run. That's going to be the key for this entire week. They have an extremely high-powered offense."

Home Sweet Home 

Oregon State is a much different team at home compared to on the road. The Beavers are 5-0 at home, compared to their 1-4 record on the road. They've outscored opponents 191-99 at home and have rushed for an average of 69.6 more yards per game in those games. 

"Their run game is similar to what they did up in Utah," said linebackers coach Chris Claiborne. "It's a huge test for us. Not only are they very good at what they do, but we're playing them at their house."

Deceptive Defense

Oregon State interim defensive coordinator Trent Bray, a former ASU graduate assistant and linebackers coach, is known for disguising coverages to fool quarterbacks that make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. 

"They're a multi-dimensional football team," said Edwards. "They use a lot of formations and a lot of packages. They give you a lot of eye candy."

The defensive unit is led by redshirt junior linebacker Avery Roberts, who leads the Pac-12 in tackles with 111. He's recorded double-digit tackles in eight of the teams' 10 games this season and is tied for the fourth-most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

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Sean Lynch

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