Mike Slifer

Three Tines to Victory over Oregon


This Thursday, the ASU Football team takes on the visiting Oregon Ducks in a nationally televised game featured on ESPN.  Both Oregon and ASU are trying to find their footing with 4-3 overall records.  Both programs are enduring seasons that have fallen short of expectations.  Yet, the Ducks and Sun Devils still have something to play for and are desperate for a win.

Winsipedia All-Time Match-up – Oregon Ducks at Arizona State Sun Devils (-2.5)

First Tine to Victory:  Improve the Red Zone Offense

This is a no-brainer, but it’s a legitimate concern.  All throughout the season, ASU has been able to move the ball with reasonable success.  But they have been horrible in the red zone.  They often have to settle for field goaDemario Richard (2)ls or even worse, they’ve turned the ball over.  Historically, Oregon scores a lot of points.  Even in this “down” year for them, the Ducks’ offense is still potent with outstanding athletes all over the field.  It’s on the defensive side of the ball that Oregon is struggling.  It would not be a surprise to see ASU move the ball.  But when they get down inside the 20 yard line, they have to cash in.  They’ll need touchdowns (and several of them), not field goals if they want to win this game.

Second Tine to Victory:  Keep the Big Plays in Front of You

Translation: Back off the risky blitzing with man coverage that puts their exceptional athletes one-on-one with yours.  ASU head coach Todd Graham likes to bring pressure.  Everyone knows that, including Oregon.  And while it may not be a bad idea to see if they can rattle the Ducks’ senior quarterback Vernon Adams, it would be a mistake to think they can do that all night long without getting hurt.  It’s common knowledge in the coaching ranks that if you are out-manned by a prolific offense, you back off, play zone, keep the plays in front of you by giving up short gains and rallying to the football.  You force that prolific offense to sustain drives by being perfect.  And Oregon has been far from perfect this season.

Third Tine to Victory:  Answer The Scratch

Todd Graham sidelineHaving said all of that, it’s a good bet that Oregon is going to hit some big plays.  That’s their MO.  If and when that occurs, ASU cannot afford to mentally go in the tank.  They cannot let doubt creep into their minds.  They cannot question their game plan or their abilities.  If the Sun Devils make a costly mistake, they have to learn from it and then forget about it.  Because with this porous Oregon defense, they’ll always have a chance to create big plays of their own and win the game.  So, when Oregon comes out with the initial scratch of the game, ASU has to answer.

This should be a hotly contested football game.  With Utah losing last weekend, there is still hope for ASU to possibly win the South.  Oregon is somewhat in the same boat.  If the Ducks can right the ship and get some momentum going into their game with Stanford, they have a shot at winning the North.  Both teams also know that a loss on Thursday essentially ends that hope and they’ll be lucky to get a decent bowl game.  Neither team wants that.  This game will also be a measuring stick for both coaches.  The result of this game will cause people to evaluate Todd Graham and Mark Helfrich on their ability to manage the preparation and mental handling of their players.

It’s a big game, folks.  Don’t miss it.

About Mike Slifer

Mike Slifer

Mike Slifer has been a teacher and football/basketball coach at the high school level for 17 years. He brings a unique perspective to the analysis of the game. Mike’s experience as a position coach, coordinator and head coach provides him with unique insights. He is interested in writing for an audience that wants more details, technical explanations and “coach think” as part of the discussion of the sport.

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