Oregon vs. Arizona State: Why This Ducks Team Looks Scarier by the Week

Alex Tam@alexctamCorrespondent IIIOctober 19, 2012

TEMPE, AZ - OCTOBER 18:  Cornerback Dior Mathis #3 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates with defensive back Erick Dargan #4 after Mathis intercepted a Arizona State Sun Devils pass during the fourth quarter of the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on October 18, 2012 in Tempe, Arizona. The Ducks defeated the Sun Devils 43-21. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

This scene was all too familiar for Oregon Ducks fans.

The No. 3 Ducks thoroughly dismantled Arizona State, 43-21, on Thursday night in Tempe, Ariz.,—a score that again did not reflect how much Oregon dominated.

But what makes head coach Chip Kelly's squad so scary right now?

We're already seven games in, and Oregon is seeing all of its games over by halftime. The defense—after what it has lost this season—ranks right up there with one of the best units in defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's tenure.

This was supposed to be the game that gave Oregon its stiffest test. The betting line, which opened with the Ducks being 12-point favorites by many sportsbooks, shrunk to nine as bettors put their money on Arizona State to cover (via OddsShark.com).

The Sun Devils were ranked as the Pac-12 conference's top scoring and overall defense, allowing just 14.2 points and 272.2 yards per game (via cfbstats.com). It set up the perfect scenario for Oregon to finally have a competitive contest.

Well, it just didn't quite work out that way.

The reasons why this Oregon team is looking so good this season? Read on to find out.


Offensive efficiency

Oregon racked up an amazing 6.8 yards per play in the first half. The Ducks finished with 454 yards of total offense and a staggering 406 of them on the ground.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota again did a terrific job running the offense, but he only racked up 46 yards in the air. Yes, 46 yards passing, and Oregon still put up 43 points.

Who figured this offense would be capable of putting up these numbers after losing LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, Lavasier Tuinei and David Paulson?

The ground game has so many weapons right now, with the headliners being Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. But Mariota rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown, and there was no need to even use Colt Lyerla. 

Barner had 130 yards rushing alone in the first quarter.

The Ducks made the Pac-12's best defense, statistically, just look like a junior varsity team on its home field. You just don't see that too often.

As much as Oregon is known as an offensive powerhouse, its strength is old-school football: running the ball down an opponent's throat. Opposing teams know what's coming, but they just can't stop it.

The Ducks are averaging more points per game this season (51.0) than they did last season (48.1) through the first seven games.


Defensive gem

As much as Oregon's offense is unstoppable, what makes the Ducks so scary is their defense might be just as good.

Oregon's defense allowed just 3.8 yards per play to Arizona State in the first half—an impressive number as the Sun Devils offense averaged 6.4 yards per play heading into the game.

The Ducks had four interceptions and continue to come up with timely turnovers that make you just sit back, laugh and ask yourself, "Is this really happening?"

They are fast. They are athletic. They are opportunistic.

This coming after the losses of leaders like John Boyett, Eddie Pleasant, Terrell Turner, Josh Kaddu and Anthony Gildon.

It truly makes for an entertaining game when the defense is just as exciting to watch as the offense.


Now the test comes

After a date with Colorado next weekend, Oregon finishes its schedule with three road games (USC, Cal and Oregon State) and one home game (Stanford).

The Ducks will certainly not make it look as easy as they did on Thursday.

The questions then become: Can Oregon continue to run the ball at the same rate? Can the defense keep its stranglehold over opponents when it wants to?

The last month of the season will truly show how good this team really is and whether another run at a national title is in its future.


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