“3 and out” is a generally informal, marginally educated, and completely biased look at the Oregon Ducks and their next opponent in a short and simple format.
This week’s take: Arizona State
Causes for concern
Oregon enters this game as short handed as they have been all season, and weeks like this demonstrate why making a point to develop the team depth is so valuable. Injuries aside, the backups have played admirably so far, but the list of players out is starting to pile up. The Ducks offensive line will be severely tested Thursday with Will Sutton (13 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks) and BrandonMagee (Team high 41 tackles, four for loss, 2.5 sacks) leading the defensive front seven for the Sun Devils. On defense, seniors Michael Clay and Isaac Remington will likely not play this week, so how will the defense hold up against ASU and their high scoring offense?
Two Headed Monster
ASU plays two quarterbacks with distinct styles, and both are effective. Sophomore Taylor Kelly has thrown for 1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns just two interceptions, he currently leads the conference in pass efficiency, and he has also gained 234 yards rushing. Michael Eubank, a redshirt freshman who stands a Cam Newton-like 6’6″ 235lbs and has a cannon for an arm. He has 32 carries on the season, and while his total yards won’t scare you, he is used basically as a short yardage full back, using his size and speed to bull over tired defenders for first downs late in games. They don’t have him throw very often, but he has completed 72% of his passes with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions so far.
Why the long face?
The first BCS rankings were released this week, and for some reason Duck fans seemed to take exception to the initial #3 ranking. Why the surprise? I know, Florida has looked awful so far, but an unbeaten SEC team at the halfway point of the season will be highly ranked. There is also some misguided fear that an unbeaten Kansas State team or Notre Dame could also jump the Ducks in the polls. Relax, Duck fans. Everyone knows that Oregon has to win 13 games to be in the BCS Championship discussion, not 6. So far, according to the FEI College Football rankings, Oregon has played the 116th-toughest SOS to date. However, they play the 5th-toughest SOS in the second half of the season. There’s a lot of football left, and Florida, Notre Dame, and Kansas State will lose. If Oregon is standing at 13-0 at the end of the season, THEN we can start to look around at the other teams.
Reasons for optimism
Just give it to Barner… And to DAT, And Colt, and Byron
Last season, Oregon faced ASU in Autzen just days after LaMichael James suffered that brutal elbow injury, and all eyes were on Kenjon Barner. All he did was carry 31 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns as the Ducks cruised to a victory. So far this season, ASU’s defense maybe putting up good numbers, but they really haven’t yet faced a particularly imposing offense. Through six games, ASU has not played an opponent that ranks in the top 50 in total offense. California ranks 56th, Colorado 103rd, Missouri 105th, Illinois 111th, and Utah 114th. Look for the Ducks to stick to their M.O. and try and pound the ball right at the Sun Devils. If they can have success on the ground and Mariota can get into a rhythm passing, the Ducks will take care of Sparky without too much suspense.
How special are they?
Anyone who can recall Keenan Howry in the Civil War, or Cliff Harris taking a punt to the house against Cal, or Barner and DAT racing down on punt coverage in the Rose Bowl can attest to just how big a role special teams can play in close games. So far, Oregon has had mixed results covering and returning kickoffs, converting field goals, and even the formerly rock solid punt game has suffered bouts of inconsistency. The Ducks so far have earned a passing grade, but will need to step their game up in this phase of the game as the competition ramps up in the second half of the season.
History on their side
Oregon has enjoyed this series more often of late, winning the past seven contests (four inTempe), and 11 of the past 14 games overall. The series between the two schools is even at 16-16, so consider Thursday’s game the rubber match. Chip Kelly has only lost one conference game on the road as head coach, in 2009 against Stanford, and Oregon has never lost a game under Kelly during weeks 2-8. The Ducks lead the nation with 19 straight games scoring 30+ points, and during the Kelly era Oregon is 38-2 when scoring more than 30 points.
– That’s all for now, check back next Friday as we will look at the Oregon-Colorado matchup! Until then, Go Ducks!