After weeks of hype, including a heated mascot war of words and online videos, Arizona State finally welcomes the Oregon Ducks to Tempe. Oregon brings the nation's fourth best rushing offense to town, and Arizona State counters with the Pac-12 stingiest rushing defense. Here are five keys to victory for the Sun Devils.
1. Sustain Drives: Todd Graham said in his weekly press conference that is team needs to sustain long drives and keep the ball away of the Oregon offense. Everyone loves the long scoring play that swings momentum, but in this game, ASU is better served with long scoring drives.
Sustaining drives keeps the ball away from the Oregon offense and keeps the ASU defense off the field. The more double-digit scoring drives ASU can get, the better.
2. Make Marcus Mariota Beat You: We know about De'Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner. But Oregon's freshman quarterback is making his first true road start of the season.
Mariota has been solid this season (1,301 YDS, 15 TD) however he has not faced a defense like Arizona State's. ASU needs to force Oregon into third and longs and make Mariota beat them with his arm.
3. Force Oregon to Not Double Will Sutton: As Will Sutton gets more national exposure, offenses will start to key on him and he will face more double teams. Arizona State needs someone else along its defensive line to get consistant pressure on the quarterback.
When Sutton gets doubled, someone on the edge is left alone and that player, whether its Junior Onyeali or Carl Bradford, needs to step up against Oregon.
4. Limit Defensive Snaps: Todd Graham said earlier this week that his goal is for his defense to not play over 70 snaps against Oregon. He also said no one has held Oregon below 75 snaps offensively in over three years. The Oregon offense wears its opposing defense down.
The Arizona Wildcats defense played 61 snaps on defense in the first half, they were outscored 36-0 in the second half. It is very important that ASU gets off the field on third down and doesn't allow Oregon to control time of possession.
5. Win Special Teams: When you are trying to upset a top five team, every facet of the game matters. Arizona State has to play exceptionally well on special teams tonight. Kicking game aside, ASU needs to win the field possession battle, meaning returns are very important and punter Josh Hubner could have a major impact on this game.
Now about that kicking game. Arizona State needs to convert on any points they can get. The Sun Devils cannot leave points on the board because of missed kicks. Not only do you not score points, but you set up Oregon in better field position.