You know that I think more of ASU than a lot of people do. All the stats seem to indicate a really good team. I posted them earlier in the week, but here they are again:
Nobody disputes that those are impressive statistics. That said, people like to rail on the schedule that they have played. Here is said schedule:
For me, its not so much the teams ASU has played that make me question them a bit. Its where they have played the games. None of the teams on this list are great (Colorado may be the best, they caught OSU and Cal during really bad times). And the two road games--Stanford and WSU, may just be the worst teams in the conference (though UA and UW might give them a run for their money). There is a big difference between rolling into Palo Alto and Pullman (in good weather), and rolling into Autzen. I'm not really sure how ASU is going to react to that environment.
While ASU's offense has been very good, I think that Oregon has some distinct advantages. One is that this is not just a conventional offense that you can just stack the box against. If you stack the box, you're going to bite on the fake, and unlike SC, ASU is not fast enough to stop Dixon quickly as he's turning the corner. ASU will have to play at least some linebackers back to cover Dixon. Also, it is the consensus even among many ASU fans that its not a great defensive line, and our offensive line should be able to get a push against them, punching some holes open for Stewart to run through.
Through the air, we know that we're just not going to be able to have the deep threat. Its going to be a lot of the short stuff we've seen the last few games--bubble screens, flats, etc. Hopefully, we can get Dickson down the middle a couple of times. ASU's secondary is pretty good, so I'm not sure that Pflugrad and Williams are going to get open deep a lot. I'd feel pretty good about Williams having a big game and breaking some tackles if he could actually hold onto the ball. I actually think that you could see a surprise and have Terrance Scott have a big game. He's the one guy who might have the speed to get open downfield. However, if we have to depend on the pass to win this game, we are in trouble.
As for ASU's offense, they have a great deal of balance. They will try to establish the run, and how the defense responds to that will determine a lot of the game. If they can limit ASU's running game and force them to throw, they'll have the chance to pressure Carpenter and really slow the ASU offense down (not that Carpenter can't throw, because he can, but ASU takes a lot of negative plays, especially sacks--28 on the season). If they can make Rudy uncomfortable and throwing on the run, turnovers will happen. That said, if the defense breaks down, and ASU is able to gain enough on first down to keep running, that much more pressure will be put on the offense.
Anyway, we've been talking all week about the matchups, here are my keys to the game:
- Score early and often. ASU has only given up 29 second half points all season. If we can score a lot early, we not only get them behind, but also wear down their defense and soften it up for the second half.
- Stop the run. If we can get Carpenter in situations where we can pressure him, their offense will be severely impacted.
- Win the battle of the trenches. If our O-Line can open up holes and allow Stewart to get consistent yardage on first down, I'm not sure that they can keep up with us.
- No special teams turnovers. We can wear down their defense--but cannot give away possessions and keep their defense off the field.
- No stupid penalties. We know that a Dennis Erickson team will make stupid penalties. Lets not follow suit.
I really think that this will be a nailbiter. But, as good as their defense as been, our offense has been better. We pull away late, and win by 7-10.