Outside of the Stanford game last year, Oregon’s biggest statement game under Chip Kelly was probably against UCLA on a Thursday night in 2010. The Bruins opened the game with a long drive into Oregon territory, and then took a shot downfield only to find John Boyett waiting for the ball. The Oregon offense got the ball, and took over.
Oregon doesn’t need to make a statement on Thursday against the resurgent Sun Devils, they just need to take care of business.
Arizona State has had a solid season to this point, posting a 5-1 record with a division best 3-0 in conference play. Unfortunately for them, their three conference wins have come against Cal, Utah, and Colorado; essentially the bottom of the conference. Their schedule becomes much more difficult quickly, as UCLA, #10 Oregon State, and #11 Southern Cal follow in succession after #2 Oregon comes to town.
It doesn’t take too much to see that beating Oregon would go a long way towards preparing the Sun Devils for the stretch run, and it takes even less to see that the Devils will be fired up for this matchup. So basically everything, emotionally at least, seems to be stacked against Oregon for this one: national television, “a blackout,” a Thursday night game against a top 15 scoring defense, and against a proven dangerous offense.
An oddsmaker would expect Oregon to follow their usual modus operandi – let ASU hang around for a while, keeping the crowd into it going into the second half. Then the Ducks would execute on offense to start the third, make a big play on defense to put the Sun Devils away for good, and coast to a 20 point victory.
A college football fan would expect this game to come down to the wire, especially since it’s Mariota’s first trip to an actual hostile college stadium outside of Autzen. Until Mariota proves us otherwise, which he very well could do next Thursday, history says that hostile crowds usually can get into the head of an inexperienced freshman quarterback.
When it’s all said and done, though, Oregon still has the better team from top to bottom. If the Ducks stick to business, and don’t let a typical slow start extend to the second half, Oregon will be sitting pretty at 7-0, and would be favored by at least two possessions in each of its remaining games.
I’m not asking for a statement win, nor am I asking for a 60 point outburst. I’m only asking for a solid “W.”
A wise man once said, “The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe.” Here’s to hoping the Ducks are on the same page as Dr. McCoy on Thursday.