There will be an upset that takes place tonight.
The No. 3 ranked Oregon Ducks will travel to Tempe, AZ to take on the unranked, but very talented Arizona State Sun Devils team. We have seen many Top 5 teams already suffer upsets through the first half of the regular season, but this would likely destroy Oregon's shot at reaching a BCS National Championship.
Like many Chip Kelly coached teams in the past, Oregon is an explosive offensive club that has many fans excited to see what this squad is actually capable of long-term. But first-year head coach Todd Graham has done a terrific job with his program, as the Sun Devils are 5-1 and still looking for that key win that catapults them into the Top 25. His team is also capable of producing points, as Arizona State is currently averaging 40 points per contest.
Here is why the matchup will be much closer than you think and why there is a great possibility we all will witness an upset on Thursday night football.
It’s a Thursday Night Home Game
Maybe it’s because it takes players out of their normal routine or maybe it’s because the college football gods enjoy seeing upsets when everybody least expects them. But it seems like weird things always happen on Thursday night football games.
Washington upset Stanford on a recent Thursday night, as USC nearly choked to Utah a couple weeks ago on Thursday. Last season, Pittsburgh destroyed a No. 16 ranked South Florida, while an unranked Arizona State team beat a No. 23 Arizona team in double overtime back in 2010.
And if you aren't really a believer in the whole Thursday night magic, this game will take place in Sun Devil Stadium, where more than 70,000 people will be dressed in black and cheering on those Sun Devils. Arizona State isn't exactly known for great home atmospheres, but this will actually be a sellout according to reports and will also be a "blackout" game.
Last season's "blackout" game resulted in an overtime upset over Missouri and you would think this game would be a little more hectic considering it is a Top 5 team stepping on their turf. Crowds don't win games for football teams, but they certainly help, especially on a Thursday night when the rest of the college football world is watching.
Arizona State Can Play Defense
Oregon has yet to run into a defensive unit that has been able to slow them down. The Ducks have scored at least 42 points in each of the six games and are averaging 52 overall for the season.
When trying to stop this explosive attack, it is all going to start with getting pressure in the backfield and making those speedy players think twice about which hole they want to hit. Arizona State has a great defensive line that has been able to generate consistent pressure up front and has produced 25 sacks on the year, which leads the Pac-12. The athletic front seven of the Sun Devils should create problems for an undersized Ducks offensive line.
The linebacker corps, led by senior Brandon Magee, are all very athletic, cover a ton of ground and have shown the ability to tackle in space. Those things are key when going up against speedy players such as Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas, who make majority of their big plays happen by making defenders miss in the open field.
Arizona State simply makes you work for everything on the offensive side of the ball, as the unit is barely allowing two touchdowns per contest and has only allowed 16 red zone trips, which is tied for the lowest in the Pac-12. Simply put, this is a physical and fast defense that will make things difficult for this offensive unit that hasn't seemed to run into much trouble through the first half of the season.
If this athletic defensive front can keep Oregon's explosive playmakers in front of them and limit the big plays, the Sun Devils will have a much better chance to knock off the Ducks than the previous six teams that have tried.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.