Five things to watch as Oregon travels to the desert to take on Arizona State:
1. How Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. handles the blitz: Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost estimated that the Sun Devils blitz on 55 to 60 percent of snaps, and that kind of pressure has allowed Arizona State to record 23 sacks already this season. Considering Adams' inexperience in the Oregon offense, that’s not awesome. But at the same time, Arizona State has given up 38 plays of 20-plus yards, so the opportunity for big plays is there. “There are going to be some series they win, when they’re going to be aggressive and gamble,” Frost said. “They’re going to make their share of plays. We just have to hit on our share of plays, too, and hopefully when we hit on our share of plays, they’re big plays.” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said it was important for the offense to stay “aggressively patient.” We’ll see how Adams does with that.
2. Running back Demario Richard's return: Richard didn’t play against Utah after suffering a knee injury in the Colorado game, and without him Arizona State's running game struggled. Kalen Ballage rushed for 49 yards at 2.7 yards per carry, and the Sun Devils finished with just 15 total rushing yards because of the negative totals of D.J. Foster and Mike Bercovici. Richard is expected to play this weekend, against an Oregon defense that has given up 155 rushing yards per game.
3. How Arizona State's QB, Bercovici, fares against the Oregon secondary: Bercovici will be one of the better quarterbacks the Ducks have faced this season. He’s only completing 59 percent of his passe,s but 44 percent of his completions are for 10 or more yards and 16 percent of his completions have gone for 20-plus yards. This season the Oregon secondary has struggled, giving up 29 pass plays of 20-plus yards and allowing a Pac-12-worst 22 passing touchdowns.
4. The paths of these two teams: Who would’ve guessed that when this game came around neither team would be ranked? Two months ago some might’ve said this could be a Pac-12 title game preview, given that Oregon was ranked No. 7 and Arizona State No. 15 in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. Instead this game features two 4-3 teams who’ve lost two conference games apiece. Most would agree that both of these teams were overhyped in the preseason.
5. Turnovers: Oregon is plus-10 in turnover margin, while Arizona State is a disappointing minus-4. Worse than the minus-4 turnover margin is the minus-27 point margin off those turnovers (meaning Arizona State has allowed opponents to score 51 points off its turnovers while the Sun Devils have only scored 24 points off their opponents’ turnovers). Both teams have shown they can play against good competition while taking care of the ball (Arizona State only threw one pick against UCLA, Oregon didn’t turn the ball over at all against Washington), but what they do against one another could be what determines the outcome of this game.