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Place: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
The computers were unkind to No. 2 Oregon on Sunday when the first BCS rankings were unveiled. The Ducks can’t worry about perception right now, though. The reality is they have a tougher-than-expected road test Thursday against No. 24 Arizona State, which will try to snap a seven-game skid against Oregon in Tempe.
The unbeaten Ducks, who haven’t played since Oct. 6, are ranked third in the BCS rankings behind Florida because of the Gators’ impressive strength of schedule. Therefore, coach Chip Kelly’s second-ranked offense (52.3 points per game) will likely try to make a statement against the surprising Sun Devils.
In Todd Graham’s first season, Arizona State is atop the Pac-12 South thanks to efficient quarterback play and the nation’s eighth-ranked defense (272.6 yards per game). The Sun Devils, however, haven’t faced a team with anywhere near the type of speed Oregon possesses. In the most recent meeting, the Ducks cruised to a 41-27 victory in Eugene last October.
Oregon Ducks (6-0, 3-0 Pac 12): The Ducks obliterated Washington 52-21 prior to their week off, running the second-longest winning streak in the FBS to nine games. Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota threw four touchdowns and the dynamic backfield duo of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas totaled 197 yards and two scores.
Barner (727 yards, nine touchdowns) is 12th in the nation in rushing after racking up 122 yards. Meanwhile, Thomas – arguably the fastest player in the nation – averages 136.6 all-purpose yards, including an outrageous 11.3 yards every time he touches the ball. The Ducks aren’t all glitz and glamor, either. Oregon is fifth in red-zone defense (58 percent), seventh in turnovers forced (17) and 10th in third-down conversion rate allowed (29.7).
Arizona State Sun Devils (5-1, 3-0 Pac 12): Few people expected the Sun Devils, coming off a 6-7 campaign, to be in position to put a dent in Oregon’s national title hopes at this point. But they are vastly improved and one reason is because Taylor Kelly (1,600 yards, 14 touchdowns, two interceptions) is third in the nation in passing efficiency (175.9). The sophomore was 20-of-28 for 308 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-17 rout of Colorado last week – Arizona State’s third straight win.
Rashad Ross sparked a run of 31 unanswered points by returning the second-half kickoff 100 yards. The defense, led by junior defensive tackle Will Sutton (8.5 sacks), is second in the nation in sacks (4.3 per game). The unit is also fifth in the nation against the pass (144.1 yards per game).
1. Arizona State has lost 17 straight to top 10 teams.
2. Oregon has won nine straight conference games, eclipsing the 40-point mark in each victory.
3. Oregon is ranked sixth by the computers, but games against ranked foes Southern California, Stanford and rival Oregon State will boost its strength of schedule.