The Sun Devils have become bowl-eligible and are in the unique position to control their destiny in the South against Oregon tonight. Multiple scenarios exist for how ASU can win the division; however, they will not need any help if they can handle their business in Eugene. Here are some keys to secure a win in this matchup.
For ASU to win the division title tonight, they must beat Oregon, Colorado must beat Utah, and Washington State must beat Arizona. If ASU and Utah win today, ASU needs to win the Territorial Cup next Saturday to take the division title.
Sun Devil Offense
Sophomore RB Eno Benjamin has kicked the door down into semi-finalist status for the Doak Walker Award given to the best RB in the country. He will face a Duck defense that has given up over 160 yards in their last three games to opposing running backs. Because Eno has been so effective, the door for ASU’s formidable passing game has been opened… widely. Defenses have been forced to drop a Safety into the box in an attempt to thwart the Devils’ rushing onslaught, only to leave Defensive Backs on the preverbal island to single-cover N’Keal Harry and ASU’s receiving corp.
ASU’s Offensive Line has allowed only 11 sacks this season. Much of that can be attributed to their ability to pave the way for the running game and allow QB Manny Wilkins to pass as an option instead of out of necessity. Oregon will combat that with a fast and talented defensive line. Playing a smashmouth style of football tonight with the implementation of the Fullback in short-yardage situations will be pivotal. The Devils should use Junior Nick Ralston to lead the way for Eno Benjamin in the cold of Eugene. With multiple Oregon defenders banged up after a loss to Utah last week, most notably LB Justin Hollins, ASU’s run game could be just what Sparky ordered to jump on them early and control time of possession. I also expect to see a healthy dose of screen passes and run/pass option plays to keep the Duck defense honest, on their heels, and on the field for chunks of time.
Sun Devil Defense
6 foot-six Oregon Junior QB Justin Herbert is projected to be the first overall QB picked in the 2019 NFL draft if he elects to forego his senior season. His main receiving target is 6 foot-two WR Dillon Mitchell who has scored four touchdowns in the past two weeks, leading the conference in receiving yards. ASU has struggled with bigger receivers and mobile QB’s this season and will have their hands full with Herbert and Mitchell. What may ease the burden and allow the Devils’ secondary to bracket cover Mitchell is the fact that Oregon’s running backs, CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio, are both nursing injuries. The Sun Devils have improved on their open-field tackling as of late and will need to continue to fly to the ball and negate yards after initial contact.
— Sun Devil Football (@ASUFootball) November 7, 2018
Starting Sun Devil Freshman, LB Merlin Robertson, is ineligible to play in the first half due to a (questionable) targeting violation against UCLA last week. ASU Defensive Coordinator, Dany Gonzales, will dig into the depth chart in order to maintain some continuity that his defense has found as of late. Also, starting Tillman Safety and leading tackler, Jalen Harvey, re-aggravated a stinger last week. We won’t know until kick-off if Harvey will be playing.
At the end of the day, ASU’s young and athletic defense must continue to grow up while maintaining the same fire and intensity that made them so successful against USC and Utah.