Arkansas State will offer national powerhouse Oregon its first chance to show off in front of a home crowd.
This matchup is one of several contests that will likely produce a lopsided score line as a top program takes on a team from the fringes of college football.
Last season, the Ducks won the Pac-12 and beat Wisconsin in a shootout at the Rose Bowl. The Red Wolves won the Sun Belt Conference but failed to cap off their season with a victory over Northern Illinois at the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Here is everything you need to know about this game.
Where: Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Or.
When: Saturday, September 1, 10:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Listen: KFIN 107.9 (Arkansas State), Oregon Radio Affiliates
Betting Line: Oregon -37, according to Sports Book
Arkansas State Injury Report (via USA Today)
Tres Houston—the sophomore wide receiver is suspended for the season due to violating team policy.
Oregon Injury Report (via USA Today)
Carson York—the senior offensive lineman is doubtful for this game as he continues to recover from a knee injury.
BCS/Top 25 Poll Implications
Oregon will have its sights set on the No. 1 overall spot on the AP Top 25 poll, but currently sits at No. 5. Blowing out Arkansas State would not help their ranking much, but it would prove that they are ready to compete at the highest level once again this year.
Arkansas State is not currently on Top 25 watch, but a win against Oregon after going 8-0 in conference games last season would certainly cause voters to take a look at the Red Wolves.
What They’re Saying
Associated Press writer Anne M. Peterson quoted Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin talking about the style of football his team will take to Eugene. Aplin said, via Yahoo Sports:
A lot of people are probably doubting us and saying we're going to get killed and whatnot, but that's just fuel to our fire. We're going to go out there and give them hell and do what we do best, up-tempo, and hopefully put a shock to them.
Despite Aplin's claims, the Red Wolves do not appear ready to pose a serious threat to the Ducks. However, John Henderson of The Denver Post notes that a much different danger looms over the Oregon football program.
Stay tuned. Documents released in February showed seven recruiting violations. Only three were revealed. Both sides could be headed toward a summary disposition, which means they're in negotiations that would satisfy both parties. Then again, nothing is finalized.
Arkansas State Player to Watch: Taylor Stockemer
Dwayne Frampton was the main target in Arkansas State’s high-flying attack last season, reeling in 94 receptions. Stockemer managed to grab just 48 passes, but he did lead the Red Wolves with seven touchdown receptions.
He will be bumped up the depth chart now that Frampton has graduated, and he will receive more looks this year. Against Oregon, the Red Wolves will need to start fast and they will be looking for Stockemer in the end zone.
Oregon Player to Watch: De’Anthony Thomas
The sophomore will take hand-offs, catch passes and return punts. Chip Kelly wants the ball in Thomas’ hands as much as possible because he is a threat to score on any play.
Thomas is an electric playmaker with blinding speed and video-game worthy jukes. Any time the ball is in his hands, something amazing could happen.
Key Matchup: Arkansas State Passing Game vs. Oregon Secondary
The Red Wolves had the 16th-best passing attack a season ago, while Oregon had the 88th-best passing defense. Arkansas State will take to the air early and often, and the team’s only hope to win will be outscoring Oregon.
This will not be an easy task considering the Ducks averaged 46.1 points per game last year. Still, as an underdog, Arkansas State will have to play to its strengths to try and pull off an upset.
Key Storyline: Marcus Mariota’s First Start
The redshirt freshman beat out Bryan Bennett for the starting job, and he will be trying to prove that Kelly made the right decision. Mariota is a dual-threat quarterback and has the potential to carve up Arkansas State on the ground or through the air.
Mariota will be key to Oregon’s success this season, and he must gain the respect of his teammates and the confidence of his coaches by leading the Ducks to a convincing victory over the Red Wolves.
Prediction: Oregon 51, Arkansas State 17
This game will be one of several opening weekend blowouts and the Red Wolves will not come close to stopping Oregon’s incredible arsenal of offensive weapons.