Five Reasons the Oregon State Beavers Shouldn't Overlook Arizona State
Although Oregon State should be taking in a deep sigh of relief, having gone through a fierce non-conference schedule, focus must now shift on an unpredictable Arizona State squad that actually showed up against the #4 Oregon Ducks.
The Beavers shouldn't be fooled by The 2-2 record of the Sun Devils, because as OSU knows, there are circumstances that make it difficult to be noticed. Flying under the radar might be an advantage for ASU, and if Oregon State isn't careful, the program may just get alley-jumped.
Here are five reasons the Beavers of Oregon State should be wary of the Arizona State Sun Devils.
5. Both ASU Losses Are To Highly AP Ranked Teams
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Arizona State is a victim of a tough schedule, and the Beavers could be 3-0 too if they played schools like UNLV, San Jose State, and Austin Peay (Wisconsin's other three opponents besides ASU).
Not only did Arizona State stay in the games against Wisconsin and Oregon, ranked No. 11 and No. 4 respectively, but they nearly topped them. The Sun Devils lost to the Badgers by just one point, and were poised to send the game into overtime before a blocked extra point with just seconds remaining sent them packing.
Against the Ducks, ASU lost by 11 points despite seven turnovers. Oregon entered the game as the leader in the nation for points scored, total offense, and total defense. However, for most of the game, the offense sputtered while given several chances to pull away.
Besides the losses to ranked teams, the Sun Devils have blow-out capabilities against smaller schools, a characteristic that gets the attention of pollsters. ASU blew out the meager Portland State in its opener 54-9, which shows the improvement of the program over the last few seasons under Dennis Erickson.
In fact, Arizona State was only a few points away from national attention last season, but was the victim of a tough Pac-10 schedule and timely miscues. They lost to No. 21 Georgia by a field goal, No. 24 Cal by two, and No. 12 USC by five.
Make no mistake, Arizona State's record doesn't reflect the talent on this team.
4. Dennis Erickson Is a Worthy Foe, and Former Coach
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Sun Devils Head Coach Dennis Erickson has been coaching college football since 1982, with small breaks in between while coaching in the NFL.
Erickson has compiled a collegiate coaching record of 167-83-1, and is familiar with Oregon State, having coached them from 1999-2002. Deja vu may be on Erickson's side in Corvallis, and he is highly regarded as the founder for OSU's modern football era.
Erickson will face another successful coach in Mike Riley, and the two will match up well on Saturday. While Riley's style of offense is different than Erickson's, both sides will be doing their research, and Erickson is no slouch when it comes to adapting quickly.
It's no surprise that ASU is arriving back on the competitive side of college football, and Erickson is likely to blame.
3. Arizona State Features a High-Powered Passing Game
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Junior quarterback Steven Threet has already passed for 1,228 yards and eight touchdowns in just four games this season, an average of 307 yards and two touchdowns per game.
As mentioned earlier, the Sun Devils aren't just playing small schools, Threet has amassed those stats against against schools like Wisconsin and Oregon.
Threet passed for 211 yards on 21-of-33 attempts on the road against No. 11 Wisconsin. The stats should decline against No. 5 Oregon, but instead they increase. Threet attempted 53 passes against the Ducks while racking up 387 yards and three touchdowns. Had it not been for a few receiver miscues leading to four interceptions, we may be talking about a ranked ASU team.
Arizona State ranks fifth in the country in pass offense, while Oregon State has struggled all season to stop the passing game, and ranks 99th in points allowed.
The Beavers could easily be ranked and possibly have a winning record if their defense could stop ANYBODY. OSU's offense doesn't exactly dominate, but they have scored an average of 27 ppg, which is respectable when defense shows up.
If the stats are any indication, and they were last week, the Beavers are in trouble against ASU.
2. James Rodgers Listed As Questionable For Saturday's Game
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After exiting the game early in the third quarter following a helmet-to-helmet collision with Boise State safety Winston Venable, senior wide receiver James Rodgers is listed as questionable for Saturday's game against ASU.
Rodgers was knocked unconscious by the blow, and he suffered a mild concussion according to multiple sources.
Concussions are complicated situations. It can be difficult to determine the effects they have on the brain immediately after they occur. Historically, players have been rushed back on to the field following these types of injuries. However, recent research has uncovered the severity of this type of injury, so Oregon State won't be taking any chances.
James represents a huge piece of the success of the Beavers' special teams. His 54-yard punt return for a touchdown against Boise State gave the Beavers momentum, and perhaps set the tone to keep them in the game while the defense struggled to stop Kellen Moore and the Broncos offense.
If Rodgers has to sit out against Arizona State, OSU may not have sufficient field position to boost a premature offense. His loss could be a critical blow to Oregon State. We'll find out later this week if he will play or sit.
1. Beavers Are Still Struggling To Find Identity
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A young quarterback and a struggling defense have left the Beavers struggling to find a solution to issues that have continued to rise in the first three games.
While it appears sophomore QB Ryan Katz is becoming more comfortable in the pocket and offensive scheme, he is still inexperienced and it shows. Several of his passes could have been intercepted last week, and some timely penalties and lucky breaks prevented exposure of his mistakes.
Oregon State's defensive line is solid, but if penetrated, the linebackers and secondary can't pick up the slack. Against a powerful passing game like ASU possesses, the cornerbacks and safeties may get torn apart.
Effective playcalling and constructive passing will be the key to success for the Beavs on Saturday, freeing up Jacquizz Rodgers to find larger holes in the defensive line while the line expects passing.
This will undoubtedly be a hard-fought, fast-paced game on Saturday. So Beavers beware: It doesn't get much easier this weekend.