Welcome to Tempe, home of heat, heat, and more heat. While I'm certain Arizona and specifically Phoenix and its surrounding areas, have significantly more to offer, it's the heat which will forever be linked with the "kiln" that is the Valley of the Sun. If not for air conditioning, ice cold beverages, and looks from attractive women shortly following a sub par pickup line, I'm certain its populous would have long ago melted like the Wicked Witch of the West. Saturday's forecast calls for mid 90's at kickoff, with a high of 103 degrees. In other words, it's going to be hot! Not the kind of hot which can be described as an inconvenience, nor the kind which requires SPF 8 sun screen, but the kind of hot which causes tires to melt, babies to cry (sometimes even grown men), and football teams to wilt under the "Devilish" late-September sun. While the ASU faithful hope cooked fowl is on the menu, it may be the bird which has the last laugh.
Certainly Duck fans making the pilgrimage south for this pivotal Pac Ten game will be expecting greatness from their Quacks, but while the importance of this game rings loudly in the ears of Oregon and their fans, it may carry increased weight for Arizona State and specifically their man at the top. While Dirk Koetter has made a career out of victories over less-than-quality non-conference opponents, it has been his performance in the big games which may ultimately lead to his demise.
Koetter has been taking a beating of late for his inability to win on the road, specifically in the state of California where he has yet to win a Pac Ten game. (0-11) In addition to his futility in the "Golden State," Koetter is 1-10 versus teams ranked in the top ten, 2-17 versus ranked teams in general, and 33-28 overall as coach of the Sun Devils. Mix in his 17-23 conference record during his time in Tempe and you've got a man squarely planted on the hot seat.
To make things worse, Koetter's Devils are coming off of a 49-21 drumming at the hands of the California Golden Bears last weekend, and may be on the verge of a season-ending meltdown triggered by a potentially disappointing performance versus Oregon Saturday. On the other hand, a victory over the Ducks could help silence his critics as well as return buoyancy to a ship taking on more water than the Titanic.
What will happen on Saturday? Allow me to tell you;
History tells us there will be a lot of points scored. These two teams have combined for nearly 700 points in there last ten meetings, with the Ducks averaging thirty three, to the Devils thirty seven. Expect the scoreboard to remain active with very little opposition from either defensive unit.
There will be a number of above-average looking coeds in the stands…after all, it is Tempe and they are in the sun 365 days a year.
Dirk Koetter will relentlessly attack the young Duck corners from the get-go, most likely over the top. Koetter will always remember the infamous 02' game in which Andrew Walter threw for nearly a thousand yards against a pair of freshman corners who shall remain nameless. Ok, maybe it wasn't a thousand, but it certainly seemed like it.
Dennis Dixon will continue to grow before our very eyes, gaining confidence, showing maturity, and building his legacy as one of the greats in Oregon history. He seems to get better with every game, and let us not forget, this will only be his eighth start.
There will be endless references to the "Replay-gate" incident two weeks ago, before, during, and after the game. Trust me; this one's never going away.
Jaison Williams and Jonathan Stewart will increase their level of notoriety through outstanding performances on the field. It seems like it's their year to shine, with a lot of help from countless guys around them.
Rudy Carpenter will either resurface as a viable quarterback in the Pac Ten Conference or continue to hear "I told you so's" from a certain someone in Lincoln, Nebraska.
What will not happen on Saturday?
Without question there will be nary a turtleneck anywhere to be found.
Bob Stoops will not address the media prior to network coverage apologizing to the Pac Ten Conference and the Oregon Ducks for continually resuscitating an issue best left alone. As refreshing as it would be, accountability and quality sportsmanship are apparently unnecessary lessons to teach to our youth. When in doubt, just point a finger in someone else's direction. There's never a good reason to accept responsibility.
A compliment will not be made about the Ducks uniforms…regardless of which one's they'll be wearing.
Sam Keller will not throw a pass. Much to the chagrin of everyone who asked for the anointment of Rudy Carpenter and who may live to regret it.
No one in the stadium will think to themselves, "I'm sure glad they opted to play this game at 12:30 PM opposed to 7:00 PM. There's nothing like sitting in the stands for 4 hours in 103 degree heat."
Those were just a few things I believe will and will not happen Saturday afternoon. While some may seem detrimental to the Ducks' effort, they all will in some way work in Oregon's favor, for I believe they will win this game and do so in impressive fashion. This team has something to prove, not only to their critics, but to the rest of the Pac Ten and everyone doubting their place in the national picture.
And they may do so at the expense of a team and coach circling the drain.
Welcome to the Valley of the Sun
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