Oregon Preview

Arizona State, riding a four-game losing streak, looks to bounce back by returning home to take on the Oregon Ducks. At 2-4, the Sun Devils have some work to do in order to qualify for a fifth straight post-season appearance. ASU leads the all-time series between the two schools 16-12. However, it's the Ducks who have won the last three contests, including the last two at Sun Devil Stadium.

OREGON DUCKS

2008 Record: 5-2, 3-1 Pac-10
Head Coach: Mike Bellotti

Last Week: Oregon had an extra week off following a 31-24 win over UCLA on October 11th.

OFFENSE
*Projected Starters

WR Jaison Williams, SR
LT Fenuki Tupou, SR
LG Jeff Kendall, SR
C Max Unger, SR
RG Mark Lewis, SR
RT Bo Thran, SO
TE Ed Dickson, JR
WR Jeff Maehl, SO
WR Terence Scott, SR
QB Jeremiah Masoli, SO
RB Jeremiah Johnson, SR

Four different quarterbacks have lined up under center for Oregon this year. It's unsure if Jeremiah Masoli, a four-game starter now, will relinquish the starting job back to Justin Roper but it wouldn't be out of the question to see both take snaps Saturday night.

Masoli led the Ducks to a win over UCLA two weeks ago by rushing for 170 yards on the ground. The sophomore was just 5 of 19 passing for 42 yards in the victory, however. Masoli has tossed a total of 579 yards, five scores, and one interception.

Roper, a 6'6" sophomore making a return from a knee injury, is a little sharper in the passing game. Roper has passed for 484 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions in the three games he's played this season.

Running back LaGarrette Blount tops the team in scoring, accounting for 60 points from his Pac-10 leading 10 rushing touchdowns. Blount, a junior college transfer, has rushed 592 yards this season and is averaging 7.2 yards per carry. The bruising junior teams with Jeremiah Johnson to give the Ducks, who average 275.1 rushing yards as team, a solid 1-2 punch on the ground. Johnson, who is a team captain in 2008, has netted 515 yards and seven scores. Suffice to say, both are capable of ripping off yardage in chunks if defenders don't use good pursuit angles and, more importantly, form tackling.

A pair of seniors lead the receiving group for the Ducks. Terence Scott and Jaison Williams each have 24 catches this season and have combined for five touchdowns. Scott, who had just two receptions all of last year, is averaging 46.1 receiving yards per contest, which tops all receivers. Williams has burned the Sun Devils in the last two contests, going over the 100+ receiving yard mark and notching two scores in each game.

Ed Dickson, a smooth pass-catching tight end, is a reliable target for whomever assumes the passing duties under center. Dickson has caught 23 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns this year. Sophomore Jeff Maehl has matched Dickson's 23 receptions and two scores. Freshman Chris Harper, who saw action at quarterback in the first five games, made a switch to wide receiver for the time being. Harper has recorded two receptions and one touchdown as a receiver. Sophomore Aaron Pflugrad is the top reserve.

DEFENSE
*Projected Starters

DE Will Tukuafu, JR
DT Ra'Shon Harris, SR
DT Cole Linehan, SR
DE Nick Reed, SR
SLB Jerome Boyd, SR
MLB Casey Matthews, SO
WLB Spencer Paysinger, SO
FS T.J. Ward, JR
ROV Patrick Chung, SR
CB Jairus Byrd, JR
CB Walter Thurmond III, JR

Defensive ends Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu have emerged as the conference's top pair of pass rushers. Both have 11.5 tackles for loss, which ranks 1st in the Pac-10. Reed's eight sacks lead both the team and conference. Tukuafu has collected six sacks at the opposite edge this season. The junior has also paced the defensive line with 34 stops. Seniors Ra'Shon Harris and Cole Linehan will get the start at the two tackle spots. Five of Harris' 25 tackles have been for a loss. Linehan has added another 10 stops this season. Reserves include defensive ends Kenny Rowe and Mike Speed as well as Brandon Bair and Tonio Celotto at tackle.

At linebacker, Spencer Paysinger tops the group with 44 stops. The sophomore has been battling a hamstring injury since the USC game but is expected to return to the starting lineup at close to full strength this week. Jerome Boyd has totaled 33 tackles and two sacks on the strong-side. In the middle, Casey Matthews has 26 stops, including 5.5 for a loss, and two sacks. John Bacon and Eddie Pleasant have combined for 26 stops off the bench.

The defensive backfield is stocked with several playmakers but the unit has had its share of struggles lately. Free safety T.J. Ward leads the team in stops with 50 tackles as a first-year starter. Ward finished with a career-high 11 tackles in the UCLA win. Patrick Chung is just behind Ward with 46 stops. Chung, last year's team leader in tackles, notched 15 stops against Arizona State a year ago.

The senior joined cornerback Jairus Byrd on pre-season watch lists for the Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards. Byrd has tallied a team-leading three interceptions and twelve passes defended as well as 45 tackles this season. Opposite Byrd, Walter Thurmond has added 32 stops and two takeaways. Reserves Talmadge Jackson and Willie Glasper have a combined 30 tackles and one interception.

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Matt Evensen, SR
P Josh Syria, SR

KR Andre Crenshaw, JR
Patrick Chung, SR
PR Jairus Byrd, JR

Matt Evensen is 8 of 13 on field goal attempts in 2008. The senior placekicker's longest conversion of the season was a 41-yard make in the season-opener against Washington. Evensen is 1 of 5 on attempts of 40 yards or more. Senior punter Josh Syria has turned in a 41.4-yard average on 33 punts this season. 6 of those have gone for 50+ yards while 11 have been placed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

Jairus Byrd is averaging 15.2 yards on punt returns, which ranks 1st in the Pac-10. The defensive back has also scored on an 87-yard punt return this season. The Ducks also sit atop the conference in kickoff returns as they average 25.2 yards per return. Andre Crenshaw and Patrick Chung are both capable returning kicks. Crenshaw tops all kick returners, averaging 31 yards per return, while Chung has a team-best 62-yard kickoff return on his resume this season.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR ARIZONA STATE

1. Force Oregon Into Passing Situations: While the Ducks do have some weapons to throw the ball to, stopping the run is priority number one in keeping this offense grounded. That includes winning the battle on first and second downs. Easier said than down, however, as Oregon leads the Pac-10 by a wide margin in rushing offense with a 275.1 yard average.

2. Protect Carpenter: If ASU is going to win the game, quarterback Rudy Carpenter must remain in the game. The signal-caller, who is nursing a bum ankle, will likely be hurried by the Pac-10's top pass-rushing duo in Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu. Carpenter needs no introduction to Reed, who collected 3.5 sacks in last year's game against ASU.

3. Fast Start: Do something early. Whether that's a scoring drive on offense or a 3-and-out for the defense, this team needs something to juice themselves and the home crowd up. Riding a four-game losing streak, any confidence booster is a help right now.

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR OREGON

1. Run Effectively: Not a very hard task for this offense as the offense line and backfield are capable of putting up solid numbers each week. Keep on running the ball to milk the clock and limit the possessions for a struggling Arizona State offense. Unless the Sun Devils have magically found an offensive identity over the bye week, it's hard to believe they can keep up in a shootout.

2. Shore Up the Secondary: Currently, the Ducks are giving up an average of 268.7 passing yards per game, which ranks 9th in the Pac-10. For a secondary that boasts veteran playmakers like Patrick Chung and Jairus Byrd, a framework definitely exists for improvement.

3. Bye Week Success: Under Mike Bellotti, Oregon is 13-2 following a bye week. The Ducks held serve 12 consecutive times before snapping the streak with a loss at Arizona last season. The Ducks had a light week of practice last week before donning full pads again this week. The Oregon skipper is hoping that translates into fresh legs this Saturday.

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