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How We Stop: With no LMJ on offense, Oregon's defense must put the clamps on ASU

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We're spoiled as Oregon fans.

While Oregon's defense is usually pretty good, the Ducks put up so many points in the average game that the other team has no chance of outscoring them even with a bad defensive performance.

Unfortunately, that's an insurance policy that Oregon may not have this week.  The likely absence of LaMichael James, the dearth of options in the wide receiving corps, and the fact that Arizona State may have the most talented defense in the league puts pressure on the Oregon defense to step up and play a complete game against the Sun Devils.  Make no mistake, even at home, this is a very losable game.  ASU gives up a paltry 3.8 yards per carry.  They have forced 18 turnovers on the season.  They have 16 sacks.  And they have a stingy good secondary.  Their offense averages 35 points a game.  With no LaMike for Oregon, I'd feel a lot better if the Ducks held them to a touchdown or two less than that.

Arizona State runs a spread offense, but it is much different that the Oregon spread. They are not as pass happy as their brothers in Tucson, but still get well over 2/3 of their yards in the air.  Cameron Marshall is a very capable running back (he put up 140 yards and three touchdowns on USC).  They'd rather not run the ball, but they gave Marshall 25 carries in that game.  The Ducks have shown vulnerability to the rush this season, and Isi Sofele averaged about nine yards a carry in the Cal game last week.  Oregon's defensive line needs to win the battle at the line of scrimmage and allow the linebackers to come up an make plays.  The return of Michael Clay should make a dramatic impact on the linebacking corps, as it means the return of the Ducks' best linebacker, but also allows Dewitt Stuckey and Kiko Alonso to take the vast majority of their snaps at their natural MIKE position.

If Oregon can successfully contain Marshall, ASU will go pass heavy relatively quickly.  You may have heard that QB Brock Osweiler is 6'8", allowing him to see downfield over the lines, but you may not have heard that he completes 66% of his passes and has a 2 to 1 TD to INT ratio.  That said, his completion percentage drops considerably on the road, and he has already thrown six picks halfway through his season.  Osweiler is surprisingly mobile for a guy his size.  However, ASU does give up almost two and a half sacks a game.  The one game Oregon got a lot of pressure on the QB was against Arizona, and the Sun Devils have a similar style offense.  If the Ducks can beat up Osweiler the same way they did Nick Foles, it will be a good thing.  ASU will dink and dunk most of the game like Arizona did, but they will take a few more shots deep than the Wildcats.

ASU has a bevy of talented receivers, having six guys with double digit catches this season.  This includes Marshall, who is absolutely a receiving threat out of the backfield, and Kyle Middlebrooks and Jamal Miles are both stereotypical dink and dunk receivers at 7 yards a catch.  Their other three rotation receivers are their main weapons.  Gerrell Robinson and Mike Willie both go 6'4" and are a matchup nightmare with their height, and former Duck Aaron Pflugrad is arguably their greatest deep threat (see his performance in the Missouri game).  Together, those three have over a thousand yards and eight touchdowns on the season.  Much like the Arizona game, expect to see Cliff Harris get heavy rotation minutes just because the sheer numbers call for it (it will also help our defense out tremendously).  However, Anthony Gildon hasn't been as stellar the last game or two as he was early in the season, and Terrance Mitchell has made mistakes.  They along with Troy Hill all need to play excellent (and mostly single coverage) against ASU's receivers, but they also need to catch the possible interceptions that they dropped so many of against Cal.

This is a tough game for Oregon.  ASU gave the Ducks all they could handle last season, and they can't count on LMJ or on seven turnovers this time around.  Oregon's defense needs to come together and finally deliver a complete performance.  With a LaMichael-less offense, they simply don't have the margin for error not to.