Arizona State Week 8 Preview: Hosting the #2 (AP) Oregon Ducks

ASU (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) will take on #2 (#3 in BCS) Oregon (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) at home in Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Call it talk, call it hype, all of the energy that has been directed toward ASU’s season this year will come to a head on Thursday night, when ASU hosts the Oregon Ducks .  Maybe you’ve heard of them: ranked #2 in the nation, the Oregon Ducks are undefeated and more likely than not are treating ASU like a kid brother Pac-12 team (oh you’re first in the South?  How cute.).

Not much needs to be said about Oregon, I can sum it up in two words: they’re good.  I’m not one to live and die by rankings as the only measure of a team’s quality, but Oregon has always proven worthy of their consistently high ranking.  Although the intensity of their schedule has been lacking this season (and their BCS ranking reflects that), Oregon has still scored 42 points or more in nine straight games, and they are a formidable opponent for an upstart ASU team.

ASU/Oregon has never been a strong Pac-12 rivalry, but a recent video back-and-forth between Oregon’s and ASU’s mascots has upped the ante on everyone’s desire to beat the other team. ASU has had some success in past match-ups (the teams first started playing each other in 1966) but Oregon has won the last 6 games. A victory for ASU tomorrow would mean more than breaking Oregon’s win streak, it would vault ASU into a broader spotlight (and get the Devils a place in the college football conversation that would hopefully be maintained by continued performance).  For the first time this season, ASU has been ranked as #23 and #24 by ESPN and USA Today, respectively, although a spot in the AP Top 25 has still eluded the members of the Sun Devil squad.

Taylor Kelly and the Sun Devil offense include an absurd number of capable receivers, and Will Sutton and the defense have significantly improved their performance as the season has progressed.  All said, faithful Sun Devils fans are dreading the sense of déjà vu that tends to hit at this time of the season, where a gauntlet of power teams lie ahead and the Devils squander a solid start.  Where this year may be different, though, is in the physical fitness of the players.  Todd Graham has gotten the Devils into fighting form, and their second-half performances have shown that.   Their physical prowess, along with the stop ability of the Sun Devil defense, are the two things to watch for during Thursday’s game.

Things are abuzz in Tempe right now and, regardless of outcome, Thursday night is destined to be memorable.