In what many believe to be a “trap” game, the No. 5 Oregon Ducks travel to the desert today to face a tough Arizona State team. ASU, coming off a heartbreaking loss to Wisconsin last week looks to bounce back with their opening PAC-10 game.
Oregon, who is averaging nearly 62 points per game, wont see the same type of defense it has in their first three games. As easy as the start of the season has been to the Ducks, don’t expect to see the same thing today.
Oregon, who has been susceptible to early season losses each of the last three seasons, has to watch for certain things to ensure another victory.
Here are four things Oregon has to be aware of.
Taking care of these crucial points and Oregon will surely be 4-0.
Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson has an unbelievable record in games like the one he faces today against Oregon. Erickson, who has faced a top five ranked team at home six times in his career, is an astounding 5-1.
Because the talent caliber of players on both teams is close to the same, this game could come down to the matching of whits between coaches.
Coach Erickson knows exactly what he’s up against in Oregon. In each of the last six games Erickson has faced against top ranked teams, the coach has attempted and succeeded in some sort of a trick play.
Expect to see at least one fake field goal, fake punt, flea flicker, or some other move Erickson pulls out of his hat.
Over 70% of the Ducks’ roster is from warmer weather climates, including California, Arizona, and Hawaii. However, living in Eugene Oregon, players have gotten used to the mild (what most call cold) Northwest weather seen 10 months out of the year.
There will be no mild climate today.
Temperatures in Arizona today are expected to reach near 105 degrees. Even with a late start, humidity is forecasted at over 90 percent and temperatures will still be about 87 degrees.
Yes I know, I’m a writer not a weatherman.
During the week of practice leading up to Saturday’s game, players and coaches try and prepare for anything and everything they could see on the road.
Pumping in crowd noise, running opponents’’ plays, even painting the turf blue in some cases (shout out to OSU), but it’s nearly impossible to replicate the heat and humidity Ducks players will see tonight.
Watch a team who loves to play fast for cramps and dehydration, especially late in the game.
If one player could break Oregon’s season single handedly, it might be ASU quarterback Steven Threet. Threet, a transfer from Michigan, is playing in his first season since transferring in 2008.
This will be the first “strong-armed” quarterback Oregon has seen since last years’ Rose Bowl against Ohio State.
And we all remember how that one turned out.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti teaches his kids to pride themselves on the bend but don’t break mentality.
Coach Aliotti and his players understand that, like any blitzing defense, they are susceptible to big plays. Threet’s strong arm and tall receivers have the ability to chuck the ball deep down the field.
Going against Oregon’s shorter secondary, tallest DB standing at 5’10, it could be a field day for ASU’s offense.
ASU is currently No. 12 in the country in pass yards per game averaging just over 300 yards per contest. Keep that 300-yard stat in the back of your mind.
If Oregon can hold Threet under 300 yards I believe it will be another win for the Ducks. However, if Threet and the ASU offense can find success throwing the ball today, it could be Oregon’s first loss of the season.
Tonight, 75 Oregon players will look across the field and see a very familiar face on the sideline. A player who for a long time wore the green and yellow with his teammates, will now be trying to avoid them on the field.
Though Oregon is on the road tonight, it will be somewhat of a homecoming for ASU receiver Aaron Pflugrad.
The former Oregon receiver, who started four games in his career at Oregon, transferred in ASU in 2008. After sitting out the 2009 season, Pflugrad has rejoined the PAC-10 as a Sun Devil.
Pflugrad’s father, Robin, left Oregon that same year for a head-coaching job at Montana. After finishing the 2008 school year at Oregon, and dominating the Ducks’ spring game with over 150 yards and two touchdowns, Aaron decided to leave the school.
Aaron had ten catches in his time at Oregon, and has already racked up fifteen for ASU this season.
In 2008, Pflugrad suffered an ankle injury and lost his starting role to Oregon’s current leading receiver Jeff Meahl.
Although Pflugrad would not say this was the reason for his transfer request, one wonders whether the sophomore receiver fell out of favor with the coaching staff after his dad left.
Pflugrad, who still stays in touch with many players, told me earlier this week that he looks forward to seeing old friends but is really just concentrating on beating the Ducks. The receiver, who got to see Oregon’s defense first hand in practice each day, has surely provided Coach Erickson with some insight into Ducks’ strategy.
Watch the receiver closely today to see if he torches his former team.