'Black Out' the Duck: Arizona State welcomes No. 2 Oregon
This will be just the sixth time in school history that a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the AP Poll will travel to Sun Devil Stadium.
The No. 24 (USA Today poll) Arizona State Sun Devils return to action in conference play for their second consecutive Thursday night game as the team welcomes the No. 2 Oregon Ducks for a key Pac-12 tilt at Sun Devil Stadium on Oct. 18.
Arizona State has won three straight to open conference play and enters the matchup at the top of the Pac-12 South standings.
Oregon brings an unblemished record to Tempe, leading the Pac-12 North with a 6-0 overall record and is 3-0 in Pac-12 action.
The matchup is notable for Oregon as it will be the Ducks' first true road test this season and just the sixth time in ASU history that a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the AP Poll has visited Sun Devil Stadium. This week's matchup will be broadcast on ESPN beginning at 6 p.m. PT. ASU is 566-357-24 (.610) all-time on the gridiron.
ON THE AIR: The MidFirst Bank Sun Devil-IMG Sports Network will carry all 12 of ASU's football games live on their 10-station radio network, including flagship station Sports 620 KTAR AM. Tim Healey (play-by-play) and former Sun Devil quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst (color analyst) will call the action with Doug Franz reporting from the sidelines.
This week's game will be broadcast on KTAR 620 AM. The game will be broadcast on Sirius and SiriusXM Channel 85.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: This week's matchup will be broadcast on ESPN for the second consecutive week. The normal ESPN Thursday night crew will consist of Rece Davis, Jesse Palmer and David Pollack in the booth while Samantha Steele will report from the sidelines. This will be Arizona State's fourth game on an ESPN affiliate this season.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: They don't make college football schedules like they used to and the 2012 ASU schedule is the perfect example of that. This will be the third of three Thursday night games for ASU this season (Aug. 30 vs. NAU, Oct. 11 at Colorado and Oct. 18 vs. Oregon). ASU will also take on rival Arizona in Tucson in a Friday-night matchup in the regular season finale on Nov. 23.
SUN DEVILS vs. DUCKS: In a series that dates back to the 1966 season, this will be the 33rd matchup in the history between the Ducks and Devils with the series split dead even at 16 wins each. Last season, Oregon downed ASU at Autzen Stadium, 41-27, in relatively similar circumstances with ASU coming in undefeated in conference play and a 5-1 overall record. The Ducks have won the previous seven meetings, including the last four at Sun Devil Stadium. Arizona State's last win over the Ducks game in 2004, a 28-13 win in Eugene.
WHAT GIVES?: Something is going to have to give in Thursday night's tilt and here are a look at some of the notable statistics from the two teams that reflect this:
• Oregon (52.3 ppg) and Arizona State (40.5 ppg) enter the weekend ranked 1-2 in the Pac-12 in scoring offense. Conversely ASU (14.2 ppg) and Oregon (20.0 ppg) also rank first and fourth in scoring defense.
• Taylor Kelly (176.0) and Marcus Mariota come in ranked 1-2 in the conference in passing efficiency but both ASU (89.4) and Oregon (107.3) lead the conference in pass efficiency defense
• Taylor Kelly has gone 180 consecutive minutes (99 consecutive passes) without throwing an interception while Oregon has forced 10 such plays and returned four for touchdowns (leads nation)
• Oregon enters the game second in the conference at 541.7 yards of total offense per game where ASU leads the conference in total defense, giving up just 272.7 per game
• Arizona State in second in the nation in forcing 9.83 TFL per game and this is an area where Oregon has struggled, giving up an average of 6.83 TFL per game - 102nd in the FBS
LAST TIME OUT: Rashad Ross returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to break open a close game, and Taylor Kelly threw three scoring passes to tailback Marion Grice in Arizona State's 51-17 victory over Colorado on Thursday night. Grice caught touchdown throws of 37, 16 and 20 yards from Kelly, who threw for 308 yards and five TDs with no interceptions thanks to a steady diet of successful screen passes. He also tucked it and ran for 67 yards through huge chunks of open space all night long. Ross took the kickoff a yard deep in his end zone and darted down the right sideline untouched, reaching the other end zone 11 seconds later to make it 27-17. That jump-started a 31-0 second-half onslaught by the Sun Devils. Grice's third touchdown, from 20 yards out, made it 34-17 heading into the fourth quarter.
OTHER NOTES FROM COLORADO:
-ASU racked up a season-high 593 total yards of offense, including 261 rushing yards and 332 passing yards. ASU's 593 yards is the most in a conference road game since it had 651 yards at Arizona on Nov. 23, 1996 in a 56-14 win that clinched an 11-0 regular seaon.
-The win over Colorado gives ASU back-to-back road wins in conference play for just the second time in 15 seasons.
In its 2007 Pac-10 Co-Championship season ASU beat Stanford 41-3 on Sept. 29, 2007, and then won at Washington State 23-20 the next weekend (Oct. 6) en route to sharing conference title honors. Back-to-back road wins also have included 2004 (beat Northwestern 30-21 on Sept. 11 and then won at Oregon 28-13 on Oct. 2 en route to a 9-3 mark) and 2002 (won at San Diego State 39-28 on Sept. 14 and then had one of the best wins in school history with a 45-42 win at No. 6 Oregon on Oct. 19 as it went 8-6).
-ASU held Colorado to a season-low 75 net rushing yards. They had 32 attempts and averaged 2.3 yards per carry. The previous season low was 88 yards against NAU.
-Marion Grice's 37-yard catch and run was the longest scoring play of the season for ASU. It was also Grice's longest catch of the year. Taylor Kelly had his longest run of the season with a 23-yard scamper in the first quarter. Cameron Marshall had his longest run of the season with a 19-yard run in the first quarter.
LEADING THE PAC: Entering this week's matchup, Arizona State leads the Pac-12 Conference in several statistical categories: pass efficiency defense (89.38), total defense (272.67), scoring defense (14.17), kickoff returns (26.23), pass defense (144.17), passing efficiency (173.93), quarterback sacks (4.33) and tackles for loss (9.83). Additionally, Taylor Kelly leads the conference in passing efficiency at 175.98.
STRIKE FIRST...STRIKE FAST: ASU has made a habit of scoring first this season, doing so five times and winning all five games, including the last tilt against Colorado. The Sun Devils scored on five consecutive possessions against the Utes (getting on the board first for the third time this season) to start the game and put it away early. Arizona State scored on six of its first seven possessions against NAU and four of its first five against Illinois. ASU has done itself favors early in games this year, outscoring the opposition 62-10 in the first quarter, and shutting out NAU, Illinois, Utah, Cal and Colorado. The Sun Devils didn't have a scoring drive longer than three minutes against the Fighting Illini, its longest lasting 2:59. The quick-hitting offense has been the staple of this year's team, with 26 of ASU's 37 scoring drives this season coming in three minutes or less.
FINISH STRONG: While ASU has gotten out to several fast starts this season, the team has closed impressively, allowing its first fourth quarter points this season against Cal but still outscoring the opposition 64-7 in the frame.
PUSH `EM BACK: ASU has prided itself on its aggressive defense through four games this year, having forced 59 tackles for a loss of 258 total yards - a mark that is second in the nation after posting 10 such plays against Colorado. Not only is ASU getting into the backfield, but it has been a team effort as 17 different players have logged a TFL through five games. As a whole, ASU has a combined 78 defensive plays that have gone for a loss or no gain out of 417 offensive plays the opposition has run. That means an impressive 18.7 percent of the plays run by opponents this year have not advanced beyond the line of scrimmage. If you tack on incomplete passes to the mix, then ASU has forced 168 plays that did not result in positive yardage (40.3 percent of opponent's plays from scrimmage).
FOREVER YOUNG: One of the driving forces behind ASU's tackle for loss numbers has been SPUR linebacker Chris Young, who has 10.5 tackles for loss this season through six games. His 1.75 TFL per game ranks t-14th in the nation and is currently tied for fourth in the conference. To put that number into perspective, Arizona State had no player with more than eight tackles for loss on the entire season in 2011 (Oliver Aaron finished with 8.0). With 40 total tackles, Young is second on the team.
A SUTTON IMPACT: Perhaps no player on ASU's roster has earned as much praise from Todd Graham as junior defensive tackle Will Sutton. Sutton has been a beast on the interior line for ASU, especially against Cal, where he finished the game with four tackles-for-loss, including two sacks, for a total loss of 21 yards. He recorded three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an 8-yard sack in the first quarter. Sutton's forced fumble was his first of the season.
Sutton was honored as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and MAACO Bowl Las Vegas Pac-12 Player of the week for the performance. Sutton added three more TFLs and two extra sacks against Colorado to keep the momentum going. Sutton has posted 13.0 tackles for loss on the season (leads team), 8.5 sacks (leads team) and 39 total tackles (third on team). Sutton is currently ranked fifth in the nation at 2.17 TFL per game and second in the nation with 1.42 sacks per game.