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Can No. 18 ASU Keep Up With Ducks' Tempo? Recent History Says No

The Oregon Ducks' recent mastery over the rest of the original Pac-10 (now 12) schools includes six wins in a row over Arizona State. 

Last year at Sun Devil Stadium, the Devils had a 24-14 lead in the second quarter before the Ducks took flight and scored 28 unanswered points in a 42-31 win. This year, the game is at wild and noisy Autzen Stadium, where Oregon hasn't lost since September of 2008.

The 11-point loss represents the closest game in Oregon's six-game win streak, as the Ducks have won every other game in the series by 12 or more points beginning in 2005. 

In 2011, the Ducks are currently ranked No. 9, and even without running back LaMichael James, injured in last week's win over Cal, Oregon has the depth and speed on both sides of the ball to cause the Sun Devils fits. 

This will no doubt be Arizona State's biggest test of the season. ASU (5-1) is in command of the Pac-12 South while Oregon will have to go through Stanford to win the North, but that's for down the road. The Sun Devils will have their hands full on Saturday night trying to keep pace with the Ducks and win what very well could be an offensive shootout.

ASU coach Dennis Erickson said Monday that his team needs to "learn how to go at warp speed" to match the Ducks (4-1). 

"They are what they are. They do it week in and week out and year in and year out since Chip (Kelly's) been there," Erickson said. "I don't know that I've ever seen a team as fast offensively. It's unbelievable watching them, I mean, people stop and stop and stop them and all of a sudden they go 70 yards, missed tackles."

Erickson said watching Oregon's up-tempo offense operate, headed by quarterback Darron Thomas, is fun. In fact, Arizona State does some of the same things on offense, trying to increase the tempo, and like the Ducks has quick and athletic players on the defensive side of the ball.

"You can think you're doing OK and then all of a sudden, they put 28 points up so fast it'll make your head spin," he said.

The Ducks feature speed in Thomas, running back Kenjon Barner, RB-WR types in super freshman De'Anthony Thomas and sophomore Josh Huff, a quality tight end in David Paulson and solid receivers who while perhaps lacking in ASU's talent, are very good downfield blockers. 

Not missing tackles will be the biggest key for the Sun Devils. The Ducks have the speed to break out into the open field and run the misdirection and quirky plays to do it, so ASU's linebackers and secondary will be under pressure to make stops and keep containment.

The Sun Devils do have confidence going for them, however daunting the task this week. Their offense has explosive capability, their defense dominated on the road at Utah and quarterback Brock Osweiler has played (and lost) at Autzen Stadium before.

"They believe in each other," Erickson said of his team. "They have a strong belief that their teammate is going to do what he's supposed to do."

Oregon can afford to gamble on defense because of the quick-strike capability of its offense. That means the Sun Devils could see a lot of blitzes, especially with injuries on the offensive line, and some coverages that Osweiler isn't used to.

"My first up trip to Autzen (in 2009) didn't go how anybody would hope for it to, but... we're a different football team now, I'm a different football player and I'm really looking forward to the opportunity," Osweiler said, promising that his team will be prepared after a good week of practice.