GAME NOTES: The seventh-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils will attempt to stay
atop the Pac-12 Conference’s South Division standings when they face the
Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium on Saturday night.
When the Sun Devils were routed, 62-27, by UCLA at home at the end of
September it appeared that they were in for a rough ride. Fast forward to
today and Arizona State is in first place in the Pac-12 South (5-1), while
sporting an 8-1 overall record thanks to five straight wins. The most recent
was a 55-31 stomping of Notre Dame, which also propelled the Sun Devils into
the College Football Playoff discussion.
“We just go about our business and really work hard on being focused and being
proactive. We have been focused keeping our guys humbled and hungry,” Arizona
State coach Todd Graham said, while maintaining a focus on bigger plans. “Our
top priority and goal is to win the Pac-12 Championship, the Rose Bowl, and
then obviously the National Championship and we haven’t accomplished those
goals yet and we have to move on in the locker room and get ready for Oregon
The Oregon State team that Graham and company are preparing for is reeling
right now. The Beavers have lost four straight games, including back-to-back
decisions at home to California (45-31) and Washing State (39-32). They are
now 4-5 overall and in danger of missing out on bowl season.
“We just have to keep our heads on our shoulders, show up every week, keep
practicing hard and there is no doubt in our team,” Oregon State coach Mike
Riley said. “We just keep fighting. We’re going to have those ups and downs,
but, like I said, we have to show up every week and play our ball game.”
Arizona State has won twice as many games as Oregon State in the all-time
series (26-13). The Sun Devils pulled out a 30-17 triumph last season, their
second win in the last three meetings, although Oregon State has taken four of
the last six.
Taylor Kelly is officially back. The Arizona State quarterback missed an
extended period of time due to injury, including the loss to UCLA, but he has
been back in the driver’s seat the last two weeks. He threw for 224 yards and
three touchdowns against Notre Dame, all while completing 60.7 percent of his
pass attempts, although he was intercepted once. He has 1,234 yards, 12
touchdowns and three picks in six games this season.
Kelly is much more than a passer, with a talent for taking off and moving the
ball with his legs. He had 55 yards rushing against Utah, but was limited to
18 yards against Notre Dame, although he did score a touchdown on the ground
in the victory.
D.J. Foster finally got back on track against the Fighting Irish, picking up
120 yards on 21 carries. It was his first 100-yard game since week three
against Colorado. Foster has tallied 821 yards and six touchdowns this season,
in addition to 462 yards and two scores on 39 receptions. Demario Richard
(3302 yards, two TDs) has proven to be an important piece of the offense of
late, with at least 50 yards in each of the last three games.
Jalen Strong is the team’s best wideout, and it’s not even close. Strong has
879 yards and nine touchdowns on 62 receptions. Foster is second on the team
in catches and receiving yards. Strong pulled in five passes for 58 yards and
a touchdown against Notre Dame, marking his fifth straight game with a
touchdown catch. Cameron Smith (27 receptions, 3945 yards, four TDs) is the
only other player with more than 20 receptions.
Arizona State is one of the better defensive teams in the conference, as well
as one of the best on offense. The Sun Devils are third in the league in yards
allowed (396.6 ypg), while tallying 475.7 yards per game themselves.
Oregon State is not nearly the offensive force that Arizona State is, as the
Beavers are only accumulating 389 yards per game, while scoring the second-
fewest points in the conference (26.8 ppg). They enjoyed a brief bump in those
numbers against Washington State, tallying 456 yards to go with 32 points.
Sean Mannion threw for 419 of those yards, completing 31-of-41 passes to do
so. However, he had only one touchdown pass in the game. Mannion, who was
second in the country in passing yards last season, has had a more pedestrian
2014 campaign. He has completed 63.9 percent of his pass attempts, but for
just 2,437 yards and 10 touchdowns, as well as six interceptions.
Victor Bolden has been Mannion’s most reliable target, with the Oregon State
receiver totaling 568 yards and a single touchdown on 51 receptions. No other
player on the roster has more than 30 catches, with Connor Hamlett and Terron
Ward tied for second with 27 apiece.
Ward is also the team’s leading rusher, with 548 yards and nine touchdowns to
his credit. He is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, while Storm Woods has
averaged 6.1, while adding 466 total yards. However, Woods did not have a
carry against Washington State after leading the team with 78 yards against
At least Oregon State can compete with Arizona State on the defensive side of
the ball. The Beavers are second in the Pac-12 in yards allowed (384.7 ypg),
and that comes after facing Washington State and California, who rank second
and third, respectively, in the Pac-12 in total offense, in back-to-back
Although Oregon State may be a solid defensive team, it still doesn’t have
enough strength to completely halt a versatile Arizona State attack. With
Kelly back as the starter, the Sun Devils should be a heavy favorite playing
just about anyone, and that includes the Beavers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arizona State 41, Oregon State 28