Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) has a lot of mojo going for it, including another Pac-12 North Division title, nine consecutive wins, and the first 7-0 start in conference play since 2012. Oh, and there is that College Football Playoff spot the Ducks are playing for too.
Meanwhile, Arizona State's (5-5, 2-5) season has soured quickly. Despite a solid 5-1 start to the season, they are still looking for their sixth, bowl-qualifying win. It has to happen either here or in the Territorial Cup game vs. rival Arizona or the Sun Devils will be sitting at home in December.
Oregon at Arizona State
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Oregon -14
When Oregon Has the Ball
Good distribution. Living up to his hype, Justin Herbert has been on-point this season, connecting on 70 percent of his passes and throwing just three interceptions in 316 attempts thus far. But he also has done a great job of spreading the wealth. In the 34-6 win over Arizona last Saturday, he threw four TDs to four different receivers. In fact, nine different players have at least 13 receptions this season. Keep an eye on emerging tight end Spencer Webb, who is just a freshman, but has nine catches and two TDs in the last four games.
Putting the Devils through hell. That offensive line for the Ducks, man, they just wear you down to a moist spot in the dirt. The line has four seniors in the starting five and a combined 198 starts to their credit, the most in the entire FBS. They love to pound on people for 60 minutes, getting more and more of a lean on opponents as the game goes on. Watch for the big uglies of the Ducks to wear down the youthful Sun Devil front six in the latter stages of this one.
Don't get into a kicking contest. The bad kicking gene has returned to this program. This year, Camden Lewis is just 5-of-9 on field goals, including missing a 20-yarder and an extra point against Arizona. And for God's sake don't go into overtime with anybody.
When Arizona State Has the Ball
Establish some early confidence. Arizona State is a bunch of youngins to say the least as seven freshmen started last week's game with Oregon State and 32 freshmen play regularly. Not surprisingly the Devils have struggled to get out to early leads, being outscored 87-45 in the first quarter alone. Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels must hit some safe passes early and establish a rhythm, which he did vs. the Beavers last week, but the defense didn't help much. OSU quarterback Jake Luton went 13-of-15 for 172 yards and three TDs in his first three drives of the game. Justin Herbert could do even more damage to ASU, which is why playing some keep-away with their own offense is vital.
Be wary of down and distance. Last week against Oregon State, the Sun Devils stayed in the game by avoiding a lot of 3rd-and-longs, keeping them in their comfort zone. Running back Eno Benjamin has not been as dynamic as he was last year (1,642 yards/5.7 ypc), but if he can put together some strong runs on first and second down it will help keep the Ducks at bay and keep the offense from being behind the sticks.
Aiyuk 'em to death. Wide receiver/returner Brandon Aiyuk has been a dynamo for the Sun Devils. He leads the team with 53 catches and seven touchdowns, while also averaging 32 yards per kickoff return and 16 yards per punt return. He had 10 catches for 173 yards and took a punt back 63 yards to the house against Oregon State last week. The Ducks' defense will be keyed on him, but Aiyuk has been so good, he'll still get his touches and be a difference-maker.
This is the first time since 1960 that Oregon has held six opponents to less than 10 points. THAT is the difference in this year's Ducks squad as opposed to the recent teams that have stalked the summit on the gridiron.
Obviously with the Pac-12 North wrapped up and Arizona State motivated to win out and make the postseason you have to worry about the Ducks being a little too lax coming into this one. But the defense is stout, giving up just 14.8 points per game, which is 10th nationally. This Sun Devil team is just too young to give Phil Knight U. a good tussle.
Prediction: Oregon 31, Arizona State 9
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.