As the 5th-ranked Ducks grind through the tepid temperatures inside the Moshofsky Center this week as they prepare for the heat in their Pac-10 opener down in Tempe this Saturday, the focus during Oregon head coach Chip Kelly's media conference was on Arizona State and the challenge they pose to Oregon this weekend. Coming off a gut-wrenching defeat against 11th-ranked Wisconsin at the hands of a blocked extra point in Madison last Saturday, the Sun Devils focus now turns to an Oregon squad who boasts the nation's top offense and defense, statistically speaking through 3 games. However, for Kelly, stats at this point in the season can be somewhat of a misnomer due to the varied levels of competition that some teams have played.
"The hard part right now with statistics is that people play so many varied different (opponents) that it's hard to say because you don't know who the other team played against," said Kelly.
"They may have played against three top ten teams and we played against one D1-AA team, one Mountain West conference team, and one SEC conference team. So you're comparing things that you really can't compare."
How the Ducks compare against Arizona State, particularly in the trenches where the Sun Devil defensive front seven will pose arguably the toughest matchup for Oregon's offensive line's to date, is one of the most glaring questions right now according to Kelly.
"That's where the challenge is going to be," stated Kelly. "They've got four talented defensive linemen, three really, really good linebackers. For us to be successful offensively, it's going to be 'How does our offensive line handle their front seven?'"
With the Ducks sporting a handful of injuries coming out of the Portland State game, the onus will be on a handful of backups to play meaningful roles come Saturday. Senior tight end Malachi Lewis and sophomore cornerback/punt returner Cliff Harris figure to be two players that could assume prominent roles should David Paulson (hip) and Kenjon Barner (hip) be limited at their respective positions. Lewis was specifically singled out this morning by Kelly as a guy who the Ducks could really end up relying upon in Tempe.
"Mal is huge for us right now," admitted Kelly. "We have some depth issues (at tight end), but he didn't play against Tennessee and he played a little bit for us against Portland State. We still need more production out of him so that we could expand upon our two tight end package. He's still a work in progress and we're hoping he comes along."
Official Oregon Injury Report:
RB Kenjon Barner (hip), OL Everett Benyard (ankle), QB/RB/WR Daryle Hawkins (knee), OL Trevor Fox (knee), LB Bryson Littlejohn (hip), LB Spencer Paysinger (hamstring), TE David Paulson (hip), OL Darrion Weems (back), TE Curtis White (shoulder, hamstring), TE Brandon Williams (hand)
Arizona State Week: Coach Kelly Media Day
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