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Know Thy Enemy: Arizona State Sun Devils

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Who are these Sun Devils from Tempe?

USC v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

2019 record: 5-5 (2-5)

Key Numbers + Info (2019 season)

OOC Opponents: Kent State, Sacramento State, Michigan State

Points per game: 24.70

Points allowed per game: 23.50

Avg. yards per rush: 3.5

Avg. yards per rush allowed: 3.1

Avg. rush yards per game: 115.4

Avg. rush yards per game allowed: 109.3

Rushing TDs: 11 for, 12 against

Avg. pass yards per game: 252.80

Avg. pass yards per game allowed: 270.90

Avg per attempt: 8.34

Avg per attempt allowed: 7.48

Passing TDs: 18 for, 19 against

Collective Pass Completion Rate: 62%

Collective Pass Completion Rate Against: 66%

Leading Rusher: Eno Benjamin (188 carries for 801 yards and eight TDs)

Leading Receiver: Brandon Aiyuk (53 receptions for 964 yards and seven TDs)

Leading Tackler: Darien Butler (71 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 1 sack)

Analytics

Credit to Zane Murffit of Cougcenter.com for doing the Sports Source Analytics charts weekly. They are an immense help. Here’s a glossary to help you translate the numbers.

Oregon’s odds of running the table undefeated has increased modestly from a 59.1% chance prior to Arizona to 66.6%. (How apropos of the Ducks have this number considering the symbolism of the opponent this week).

Arizona State Offense vs Oregon Defense

Arizona State’s offense is well below Territorial Cup rival Arizona’s on success rate. The Sun Devils rank as one of the worst run success rate teams in FBS. They are a clearly expected pass first team based on the analytics. They are ranked within the top 40 in yards per pass. Arizona State’s run game has been poor according to run success rate, averaging nearly 4.3 yards per carry before sacks.

Oregon improved their ranking in yards per play allowed from 12th to ninth in the nation. The Ducks also improved to eighth after being ranked ninth before Arizona in yards per attempt. Arizona has converted 41.30% of its third downs but Oregon saw an decrease in conversions to the tune of 34.39% allowed on defense. The pass game will be match-up of moderate strength on strength.

Arizona State is significantly worse than Arizona in generating the explosive play while Oregon improved to 12th from 20th place a week prior. Oregon still remains a top three unit in red zone defense but the Sun Devils have a similarly ranked red zone offense than the Wildcats did.

Where the Ducks can stop ASU is on havoc rate as the Sun Devils are above average in FBS. The stuff rate for the Ducks’ defense remained steady after Arizona, staying at 61. Arizona State is a lot worse than Arizona in stuff rate offensively.

Safe to say that the Ducks’ front seven will have a potentially better time at run defense than last week against Arizona facing one true freshmen quarterback instead of two and one of the better running backs in the conference.

Arizona State is significantly worse than Arizona in terms of explosion plays ranking slightly above average in both the pass game as the counting stats bear out.

Defensively, Oregon improved in modest strides, going from 24th to 18th in stopping the explosive pass play. The secondary will have their work cut out against Senior Bowl bound receiver Brandon Aiyuk.

ASU will provide little impact against the Ducks defense inside the 40 as they rank 84th in such opportunities. The Ducks improved from having the third ranked defense to the second ranked defense in that category.

As you can see, third down will be the key match-up (41% to 34% allowed) as both teams rank near average of the Power 5. Second down will be a battle between a below average offense against a top ten defense. Arizona State has a first down success rate of 40% while Oregon stops teams on 42% of those.

Oregon Offense vs Arizona State Defense

Oregon’s pass offense should have a huge day against a porous Sun Devils pass defense that ranks far below average in defending the pass success rate. The run game success rate improved five places from the week prior against Arizona. It will be interesting to see how the run game fares against a massively significantly better defense than the one Arizona presented.

Oregon’s offense is averaging 6.5 yards per play while Arizona State’s defense is averaging 5.31 yards per play given up. The Wildcats run defense will be a strength on strength match-up as they have allowed 3.62 yards per carry while the Ducks go for 5.4 per rush.

Where they are vulnerable is the pass game. Oregon is 23rd in the country in yards per attempt at 7.62 while ASU allows nearly 6.8 yards per attempt, ranking 85th.

The Ducks need to focus on the pass game instead of the run as Arizona State is terrible at giving it up.

Arizona State will provide a much stiffer test for Justin Herbert in terms of explosive passing plays compared to last week. Significantly so. Arizona State is the 54th ranked defense in this category.

Again, where the Ducks can struggle is in the run game as the rushing explosive rate is not good compared to the Sun Devils’ defense in that category.

Arizona State is just slightly better than Arizona defending inside their 40. Allowing a massive 60% of those drives to end in touchdowns while the Ducks improved from 21st from the game prior to 12th this week (66%).

If you look at this chart, the game clearly will be decided on an second down basis as Oregon’s offensive chances are dominating over the Sun Devils horrific defensive numbers. Simply put, it’s going to be an interesting first down battle.

Oregon

Pass down success rate: 35%

Standard down success rate: 50%

Arizona State

Pass down success rate: 30%

Standard down success rate: 51%

Oregon

Opponents Scoring TD: 31%

Success rate: 37%

Arizona State

Opponents Scoring TD: 60%

Success rate: 42%

Key players to watch

1. Eno Benjamin 5’10 205 Junior RB

  • Benjamin has been one of the best running backs in the conference the past two years (a title not lightly given the RB depth in the Pac-12). He won’t break the game wide open but has enough speed to get to where he needs to go. Gets a little lost in between the tackles at times. Improved vision and IQ. He has been struggling to get going due to a lack of space and defenses loading up due to their offensive line being poor and having a true freshman QB.

2019 vs Cal

2. Brandon Aiyuk 6’1 195 Senior WR

  • The leading receiver for the Sun Devils. He’s a YAC monster. Has opened a lot of eyes in the scouting community even with a true freshman QB trying to figure things out. Straight line speed could be an issue but lateral agility is not. Good route runner that varies depth and speed of the route. A dynamic returner as well. He’s accepted his invite to the Senior Bowl.

2019 vs Michigan State

3. Cohl Cabral 6’5 304 Senior C

  • One of the best Pac-12 linemen for at least two years running. He has had some medical issues so that could be something to worry about. Primarily a center by trade but has played tackle in a pinch. Could be drafted in the middle rounds if the medical checks out. Versatility in that he can play both guard and center but is a center for the Sun Devils.

4. Chase Lucas 6’0 178 RS Junior CB

  • He is one of the best corners that no one talks about. Very instinctive and fundamental. Experienced as a three year starter. Awareness is top level along with ball skills. Run the route for the receiver at times.

Keys to an Oregon Win

  • Offensive line. The Sun Devils’ run defense is pretty solid but not good based on the metrics. Can the Ducks take advantage with their powerful offensive line against a bad explosive pass defense? If the OL can hold up in pass protection, the Ducks have the assets to exploit ASU.
  • Defense. Will we see any of Yellen or is it the Daniels show? Eno Benjamin is still dangerous despite being stopped in the box a bunch. Andy Avalos will need to focus on assignment sound defensive fundamentals to limit the damage done by Aiyuk. A true freshman quarterback must be harried into mistakes.
  • Mental Toughness. The 2019 version of the Ducks has shown a resiliency like no other Ducks squads before it within the past several years. Can they keep their eye on the prize waiting for them in December and beat an Arizona State team that gave them a game last season? They didn’t win the last time that ABC sent their premier broadcast crew on primetime.

Keys to an Oregon Loss

  • Tackling. It’s been not ideal to say the least lately. The one downside of playing assignment football is that it requires focus on tackling. It hasn’t been great but improved against Arizona. Can the Ducks wrap up and bring down one of the most dynamic receiver and running back duos in conference?
  • Marcus Arroyo. He has continued to call a near perfect game, it’s just that the players didn’t execute at times. Can Arroyo keep improving while dialing it back for a slightly better ASU defense after having “settled” for a win and get out against Arizona? . Can he take advantage with a powerful OL and pass game that’s spread out to different number one wideout on a weekly basis?
  • Special Teams. In a word, inconsistent. In particular, the field goal kicking has largely been poor outside of one big time make. #CollegeKickers. The Ducks’ coverage units will need to be highly aware of Brandon Aiyuk’s return skillset.

What are the odds?

(all odds courtesy of vegsainsider.com)

The WestGate Superbook has Oregon as 14 point favorites. The O/U is 52.5. The money line is Oregon -650 Arizona State +450

William Hill has Oregon as 14 point favorites. O/U is set at 52.5. The money line is Oregon -600 Arizona State +450

DraftKings has Oregon as 14 point favorites. O/U is set at 52.5. Money line is Oregon -670 Arizona State +460