Oregon Ducks (4-3 SU, 3-4 ATS) vs. Arizona State Sun Devils (4-3 SU, 2-5 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date/Time: Thursday, October 29, 2015 at 10:30PM EST
Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: ORE +2.5/ASU -2.5
Over/Under Total: 66
Thursday night features Pac-12 action, with the Oregon Ducks coming down to Tempe to face the Arizona State Sun Devils. Oregon last played on the 17th, with a 26-20 win at Washington. Its been a tough season for the 4-3 Ducks, who are accustomed to better results in recent seasons. With the extra time off and a good conference road win in their back-pocket, maybe they can make a second-half push. To do so, theyll need to upend an enigmatic ASU bunch, who also last played on the 17th in a loss to Utah. Both teams enter this game at 4-3 and with 2-2 conference records.
Both teams have been disappointments, as attested by their combined 5-9 ATS record. Each team was cited before the season began as likely conference contenders and it just hasnt worked out. Arizona State has been extremely erratic. They looked very ragged to begin the season, not covering the spread in their first 4 games, while looking lost and completely unprepared. But after a 41-14 beating at the hands of USC, the Sun Devils showed some pep, beating the then-highly-ranked UCLA Bruins at home by 15, before crushing Colorado in another conference meeting. And against then-unbeaten and top-five ranked Utah in their last game, they may have lost 34-18, but they were leading on the road going into the 4th quarter. In the first month, they couldnt do much of anything right, but in the last several games, they have shown a spark and should be a robust test for Oregon to face on the road.
Its hard to pinpoint what has exactly gone wrong in Eugene with the Ducks, one of the more dependable winners in the Pac-12 over recent seasons. Not having a dependable force under center has hurt, with Jeff Lockie not impressing, as hyped transfer Vernon Adams has found the going tough. Sometimes a team has a formula for success and different things happen to disrupt the recipe. Departures, injuries, and young players taking longer than suspected to blossom has rendered the Ducks just another conference team. Losing at Michigan State early in the season was a forgivable loss. And dropping a game to a good team like Utah is not the end of the world, but it might be when it happens at home by a 42-point margin. But losing at home to Washington State was a really bad setback. Thats why it was such a positive sign when they were able to notch the big road win in their last game against the Huskies.
Vernon Adams was pretty good against Washington, offering some hope as the Ducks try to salvage the season. He threw for 272 yards with a pair of TD strikes, with no interceptions. It was Adams best showing of the season and the first hint that he could possibly come around after an uneven start plagued by an injured finger and inconsistent play. This is still an offense that can do damage. RB Royce Freeman has 11 touchdowns and remains a handful coming out of the backfield. And the return of WR Darren Carrington gave the Ducks aerial attack more juice immediately, as he caught two touchdowns with 125 yards against Washington. WR Bralon Addison also had a big game and if Adams and his playmakers can continue getting on the same page, there is hope moving ahead. At the same time, losing guys like Byron Marshall, Pharaoh Brown, and Thomas Tyner from the offense has hurt. They still have a lot of weaponry, however.
Defensively, the Ducks are having a really tough year. The first evidence was giving up 42 points to FCS opponent Eastern Washington in week one. Then came the 62-point explosion from Utah. The 45 points allowed to WSU wasnt a good sign, either. On one hand, its an offensively-geared conference where teams put up big points sometimes. But the Ducks D is having big trouble against the pass, ranked among the worst teams in the country. Theyre averaging an alarming 36 points a game and havent been awfully-stout against the run, either, allowing over 150 yards per game.
With ASU picking up steam after such a horrible start, it was dismaying to see them melt in the 4th quarter against Utah in their last game after carrying a lead into the final quarter of action. But that doesnt take away from the strides made by this team in the past several weeks, where they at least offered a glimpse of the things that had people so excited to begin the season. QB Mike Bercovici has 14 TD passes and 5 picks. He relies on his weaponry, in the form of game-changing backs Demario Richard and DJ Foster, who is also a major threat now as a receiver. UCLA transfer Devin Lucien is leading the team in receiving, while Tim White has caught 5 TD passes. They have a nice deep threat in Gary Chambers. This is an offense that can do damage. Not that they always do, as this can be a pretty inconsistent and underachieving group.
The Arizona State defense has been up-and-down. One troubling aspect is their tendency to not deliver at the most crucial points in games. The team is really only a handful of stops away from having this season be completely different, but they were unable to get it done. Theyll play decently, but suddenly crumble at the most inopportune of times. It can be hard to back a team that seems to have such a propensity for giving up key plays late.
This has the looks of a wild one down in Tempe. And with the Pac-12 being so difficult to predict this season, one could easily see this one going any number of ways. Perhaps Adams is ready to step it up a notch as he progresses in his first year playing with the big boys. Ill take the Ducks and the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Oregon Ducks plus 2.5 points.
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