Oregon State Beavers vs. Arizona State Sun Devils: Complete Game Preview
The Arizona State football team is closer than ever to capturing the Pac-12 South title, but Oregon State will try to change that on Saturday night.
Arizona State escaped with a one-point win last Saturday over a feisty Utah squad. It was a defensive battle and a game that saw the Sun Devils high-powered offense struggle. In the end, ASU forced two critical turnovers down the stretch to seal the tight victory.
Oregon State has had a bye week to prepare for the Sun Devils and their high-octane attack.
The Beavers have had a disappointing 2013 campaign and are looking for a signature win over Arizona State to try and turn things around.
Oregon State is bowl eligible at 6-3 but has lost its last two contests to Stanford and USC.
The Sun Devils come into Saturday's game beaming with confidence and swagger, while the Beavers are trying to end a losing streak.
Here is all the information you need to know about this Pac-12 showdown.
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
Television: Pac-12 Network
Radio: Sun Devil IMG Sports Network, Oregon State Beaver Sports Network
Spread: ASU -13.5, according to Vegas.com.
Oregon State's Keys to Victory
Limit Three and Outs
Oregon State's defense currently ranks ninth in the Pac-12 and allows teams to gain almost 400 yards per game. For the Beavers to pull the upset, they need to keep Arizona State's high-scoring offense off the field for as long as possible; therefore, it's crucial Oregon State sustains drives and converts on key third downs to keep ASU's offense on the sidelines and tire the Sun Devils' defense.
Take Away ASU's Home-Field Advantage
Arizona is a fair-weather state, and right now Arizona State has captured their fanbase's attention. For Oregon State to win, they will need to score first and come up with an early takeaway to silence the Sun Devils' supporters. If they let Arizona State take the early lead, it will be hard to quiet the Sun Devils' fans.
On the road, Oregon State has forced 11 interceptions and four fumbles while only turning the ball over six times. To beat a better team on the road, the Beavers will have to force at least two turnovers and turn them into points.
Arizona State's Keys to Victory
Pressure Sean Mannion
Arizona State's pass rush has come alive the past few weeks and it's important they continue to play well this weekend.
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion leads the nation's second best passing attack into Tempe on Saturday, and the Sun Devils will need to apply pressure to knock Mannion off of his game.
Mannion threw three interceptions in the Beavers' last game against USC. Arizona State will need to pressure him to continue that trend.
Convert on Third Downs
The Sun Devils only converted three of their 13 third downs in last week's close call against Utah.
They will need to be better than that this weekend against Oregon State if they want to gain their sixth Pac-12 win. It's also important ASU convert on its third downs to keep Mannion on the sidelines.
Stick to the Game Plan
ASU is the better team in this matchup, and they need to remember that.
If Oregon State keeps this game close, like Utah did, the Sun Devils need to remember their identity and get the job done playing Sun Devil football. That's exactly what they did in crunch time when they beat Utah last weekend.
Oregon State Players to Watch
Cooks is currently the team's leading receiver and Oregon State's third-leading rusher. He's also the nation's leading receiver.
Cooks can do it all, and he'll have to against ASU if the Beavers want to pull the upset.
ASU will need to rely on cornerback Osahon Irabor and safety Alden Darby to shut down Cooks on Saturday night. It's not an impossible task considering the Sun Devils made Washington running back Bishop Sankey look human for the only time this year during their meeting in October.
Nelson has 43 tackles and five interceptions this year. The junior cornerback, along with teammate Rashaad Reynolds, will be tasked with stopping the recently productive receiving corps of Arizona State.
As Kerry Crowley of Houseofsparky.com wrote, Nelson will have to have a big game this weekend while likely playing one-on-one coverage:
Because the Beavers are willing to play their safeties, especially Murphy, up in the box, the cornerbacks are left on an island more often than other defensive backs in the conference. Rashaad Reynolds and Steven Nelson have proven more than capable in handling those responsibilities as the pair has combined for nine interceptions on the season.
Arizona State Players to Watch
It's no secret that Oregon State is a passing team.
That means guys like Bradford will be able to pin their ears back and blitz like crazy on Saturday. Bradford has emerged as arguably the Sun Devils' best defensive player this year, and he will continue that this weekend.
The junior linebacker leads the team in sacks and tackles for a loss and is fourth in total tackles.
This is the type of game that should provide Bradford with a stage to shine.
Sun Devil fans have had a love-hate relationship with Smith.
The wide receiver cost the Sun Devils after a late fumble against Notre Dame earlier this season and dropped numerous passes this year. Lately though, it appears he has turned things around after making a highlight-reel touchdown grab against Washington State and scoring the game-winning touchdown against Utah this past weekend.
It's time to see if Smith has really turned his game around or if these past few weeks were just a fluke.
What They're Saying
Oregon State offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf told Mitch Mahoney of the Daily Barometer that the Beavers are doing all they can to prepare for ASU's pass rush:
They give you a lot of pressure in different ways, by doing so they single up Sutton. We want to do our best not to be one-on-one with him, but by bringing a lot of extra guys, sometimes you get stretched out a bit and end up in some of those one-on-one positions.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham told Ben Haber of Houseofsparky.com he thinks Brandin Cooks is a special player:
No. 1 passer in the conference. No. 1 receiver in the conference. Obviously big play capabilities. Cooks, man he is really special...in my opinion, he's the best receiver that I've seen on film. And that's saying a lot when you got guys like Marqise Lee and Jaelen Strong.
On November 11, AZCentral's Doug Haller (@DougHaller) took to Twitter to share this fun fact regarding Oregon State head coach Mike Riley:
Fun fact: Oregon State coach Mike Riley was instrumental in both ASU co-DC Paul Randolph and WR Del Alexander getting into coaching.
Arizona State will honor American Veterans this Saturday, and Graham encouraged fans to help the cause this week:
Graham encourages fans to buy a ticket for veterans through ticket office, which #ASU will match with another ticket.— Josh Nacion (@Josh_Nacion) November 11, 2013
Oregon State 14, Arizona State 51
Arizona State is a different team at home. It's simple.
Oregon State just doesn't have the defensive depth and skill to slow down the Sun Devils' offense. With the crowd behind them, ASU's defense should be able to pressure Mannion plenty, knocking the junior quarterback off his game.
ASU is scoring 51.2 points per game at home this year, and that number should stay in tact after this weekend.
A win for the Sun Devils sends the team to Los Angeles for their biggest game of the year against UCLA, with the Pac-12 South title on the line.