As the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks begin league play, you can’t help but be impressed with what they have done to this point. Of all of the crazy statistics that have been recorded to date, I have picked my two favorite. Through 3 games the Ducks have scored 28 touchdowns while only allowing 1. There are some teams out there that won’t score 28 times all year (Washington State?) But the figure out there that is the most mind-numbing to me is that to this point the ducks have scored 189 points in 180 minutes. That is an average of 1.05 points per minute! But it does need to be said that the level of competition was not exactly challenging. With conference play beginning this week for Oregon look for the competitiveness and attitude to rise in the games for the rest of the season.
This week the Ducks will head into Tempe to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. Arizona State is still reeling from a heartbreaking loss to the 11th ranked Wisconsin Badgers last week in Madison. The Sun Devils stayed with Wisconsin’s tough running attack led by John Clay, and former Michigan quarterback Steven Threet put the Devils in a position to win a tough road game. In the last moments Arizona State lined up for a field goal that would have given them a 22-20 lead. But the Badgers blew through the Sun Devil protection, blocked the kick and all but sealed the win for their home crowd. This loss could have meant a lot to an Arizona State program that is continuing to rebuild. So going into this week’s game at home against the Ducks they can respond one of two ways: they can either act demoralized while still picking up the pieces from last week. Or they can come out angry, confident and motivated after realizing that they came within a poorly protected field goal of taking down one of the top teams in the country. I expect that with the home crowd behind them, the Devils will give the Oregon a game requiring focus and execution.
On offense the Ducks will have to execute the game plan and not make key mistakes that keep the opposition in the game. The Sun Devil defense is not going to be close to the toughest defense they will face this season, but given the opportunity they can be dangerous. Arizona State is led on the defensive side of the ball by Vontaze Burfict, a sophomore linebacker that was highly touted out of high school. However, like Burfict most of the Arizona State defense is talented but still young. There are a few things about young talented defenses that the Ducks need to remember. They can sometimes be over-aggressive, making them susceptible to the big knock-out plays that the Ducks specialize in. Also, if you allow these young defenses to capitalize on mistakes they will gain confidence and start making plays like veterans. The Ducks should be familiar with these lessons, having had a similar defense last year. The Oregon offense would dominate this game if it was played on paper with the line-up they can put on the field. But with a young quarterback in Darron Thomas leading the offense, the Ducks should lean on the electric running game powered by an experienced offensive line that has experience playing on the road. Allow Thomas to put the ball in the hands of playmakers like running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner. Then as the Ducks move the ball and Arizona State pulls their defense close to the line, allow Thomas the throw the ball to tight end David Paulson and wide receiver Jeff Maehl, two of his favorite targets so far this year. After the Ducks have a lead, allow Thomas to have more freedom in taking chances and throwing down the field. As for the beginning of the game, look for Chip Kelly to utilize his run game with James, Barner and allow Thomas to showcase his own running ability, something they have yet to use to a degree so far this year.
On defense the Ducks have played superb to this point, even surpassing expectations that were sky high to start the season. While Arizona State is not as explosive as the Ducks on offense, quarterback Steven Threet is a terrific passer and he does have some weapons around him. As they proved last week the Devils can stay with top level competition and Threet will keep things challenging early. He is a quarterback that knows how to play with good competition and I believe that his previous Big 10 experience helped him last week against Wisconsin. This week if the Devils come out fast, Threet has the tools to lead his team to a close game with the Ducks. But if Oregon can stifle the Arizona State offense for the first quarter or so and allow their offense to get a sizable lead I anticipate the Devils to play dead.
This week I expect a letdown from the Ducks by their standards, with a victory of 42-17. I know, what am I thinking?! Chip Kelly would be furious if his team if that was the outcome. How dare they not score 70 points and shutout the opposition? But I’m afraid the blowout days will have to take a brief break. But hey, Washington State is only a few weeks away. Expect some turnovers by Arizona State’s offense and impressive post-sack dance routines by the Duck defense (“The Carlton” anyone?) On offense just keeping the mistakes to a minimum is key, while continuing the ridiculous numbers is important for pride too. Some people don’t like show-offs. Those people are not Oregon Ducks fans.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.