Let’s be clear here: the Pac-12 Championship is going through Los Angeles and Southern Cal. I mention this because Oregon (No. 2 in polls, No. 3 in the BCS standings) and Arizona State meet Thursday night in a matchup of division leaders (the Ducks are tied with Oregon State atop the North) that could be a preview of December’s title game. But the loser on Thursday could be in some major jeopardy of missing that game because both Oregon and Arizona State still have to visit Southern Cal. In fact, they do it in back-to-back weeks. Thus, the Trojans should have a big say who goes to the title game – it will almost assuredly be them in the South Division’s spot should they sweep UO and ASU.
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Arizona State has been a huge surprise under first-year coach Todd Graham, the guy who bailed in spectacularly lousy fashion on Pitt last winter. The Sun Devils rank No. 1 in the Pac-12 (and ninth nationally) in scoring defense and total defense. Oregon leads the conference and is No. 2 nationally in scoring and a slight No. 2 to Arizona in total offense in the Pac-12.
The Sun Devils played last Thursday night and thumped Colorado, 51-17, although the Buffs only trailed by three at the half. A 100-yard kickoff return for a TD by the Sun Devils to start the second half started ASU on its way to the rout (some Arizona State players admitted they were looking past Colorado toward this game). ASU's 593 yards of offense was its most in a conference road game since 1996. Tyler Kelly threw five touchdown passes for Arizona State and leads full-time Pac-12 starters in QB rating. ASU hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in a game this season and actually is No. 2 to Oregon in scoring offense in the Pac-12.
Oregon continued its recent domination of Washington with a ho-hum 52-21 victory on Oct. 6. The Ducks haven’t scored less than 42 points this season – they have scored at least 42 in nine straight games -- and are beating teams by an average of 32.3 points. Their closest decisions came in Week 2 against Fresno State, a 42-25 win. An incredible 24 of Oregon’s 39 scoring drives have lasted less than two minutes, including 14 that have taken 60 seconds or less.
Oregon at Arizona State Betting Storylines
Oregon’s defense might be shorthanded. Senior linebacker Michael Clay was the team’s leading tackler before suffering a leg injury against Washington State on Sept. 29. He didn’t play last time out vs. Washington. Right now he is listed as the starter for Thursday (he also was vs. Washington). Senior defensive tackle Isaac Remington, suspended indefinitely after being cited for DUI last week, was not listed on the two-deep released Monday. But he has been practicing.
Oregon brings an 11-game road winning streak into this one, the longest in the nation. The Ducks' last road loss occurred on Nov. 7, 2009, at Stanford, which remains the only conference road loss under Chip Kelly. The Ducks have never lost a game under him anywhere from Week 2 through Week 8.
This will be Oregon’s first true road game of the season, and it should be a zoo as it’s only the sixth time a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the AP poll has visited Sun Devils Stadium and the first to do so since 2005. ASU fans are being asked to wear all black as part of a “blackout” campaign, and it’s a rare sellout.
Will the crowd get to Oregon true freshman QB Marcus Mariota? He has been excellent, ranking No. 2 in the Pac-12 in passer efficiency while completing 68 percent of his passes for 1,301 yards and 15 touchdowns with five interceptions. But his only game outside of Eugene was a neutral-site matchup vs. Washington State in Seattle, and at least half the fans in the stands were for Oregon. Still, that was Mariota’s lowest-rated game of the year by far and the only one in which he threw two interceptions.
Just like any team that faces Oregon, ASU will try and eat the clock. And the Sun Devils have a talented trio of backs in Marion Grice, D.J. Foster and Cameron Marshall. They have accounted for 19 of the team’s 30 offensive touchdowns: Grice with nine (five rushing, four receiving), Marshall with six (five rushing, one receiving) and Foster with four (two rushing, two receiving). Almost 33 percent of ASU’s receiving yards come from by the backs.
This series has been rather lopsided of late. The Ducks have won seven straight overall, and in winning four straight in Tempe are averaging 43.8 points per game.
Oregon at Arizona State Betting Odds and Trends
At BookMaker, the Ducks are 9.5-point favorites with the total at 68.5. Oregon is 2-4 ATS this season and 3-2 “over/under”. ASU is 5-1 ATS and 2-3 O/U.
The Ducks are 4-1 ATS in their past five road games. They are 2-5 ATS in their past seven Thursday games. Arizona State is 1-4 ATS in its past five games after scoring more than 40 points in its previous game. The over is 5-0 in Oregon’s past five after an ATS win. The over is 7-0 in ASU’s past seven Thursday games. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings. Oregon has covered five of the games in the current winning streak.
Oregon at Arizona State Predictions and Football Picks
I expect ASU to play very inspired football for a half or so, but the Sun Devils just haven’t played anyone of note this year. Therefore, I believe they are a fraud. Arizona State’s lone loss came at Missouri against a redshirt freshman backup QB, and the Tigers are currently winless in the SEC. Plus, ASU’s defense is just OK against the rush (No. 6 in Pac-12), and no one runs the ball better than the Ducks. Take Oregon and the over.
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