The Beavers will need a strong game from quarterback Sean Mannion if they
want to avoid their third straight loss. Photo: USA Today
Oregon State at No. 21 Arizona State
Saturday, 9:30 PM, Pac-12 Network
Line: Arizona State -14
When the season started, most people outside of Tempe would not have chosen Arizona State to finish first in the Pac-12 South. Yet that is where the Sun Devils find themselves here in mid-November, with a one game lead on UCLA and USC.
Oregon State finds themselves in third place in the Pac-12 North, with only a slim chance right now of winning the division after consecutive losses to Stanford and USC. A ten win season is still a possibility, but the road to getting there is much harder now.
The Beavers have actually been a better team on the road this season than at home, which is where all three losses this season have occurred. However, none of the road opponents so far for Oregon State are of the caliber that Arizona State presents. The Sun Devils are undefeated at home. Something will have to give in the desert this Saturday night.
For Arizona State to win: Avoid a slow start. The Sun Devils managed to escape from Salt Lake City by waking up in the fourth quarter and scoring two touchdowns to grind out a 20-19 win over Utah. While Oregon State’s offense has sputtered a bit the last couple of weeks, it is still dangerous enough to cause havoc for Arizona State. If the Sun Devils get off to a slow start, it could give an Oregon State team that is comfortable playing on the road an advantage.
For Oregon State to win: Rediscover the passing game. After an explosive start, the Beavers passing game has fizzled out the last two weeks against two solid defenses. After seven straight 300 plus yard passing games (including three straight 400 yard games at one point), the Beavers have thrown for less than 300 yards the last two weeks while giving up eight sacks to Stanford and three interceptions to USC. Arizona State can put points up on the board, and it will be necessary for Oregon State to find a way to make big plays again in the passing game and get into the end zone if it wants to stay in the game.
Key Player, Arizona State: Marion Grice, running back. Grice is a key part of a versatile Sun Devils offense. Grice has scored 18 touchdowns this season (12 rushing, six receiving) and while not a huge part of the offense out of the backfield as a receiver, he is a threat in the open field. Grice’s ability to find the end zone has helped key the Sun Devils, and if Arizona State is to win this game at home, Grice’s contributions will be key.
Key Player, Oregon State: Sean Mannion, quarterback. As Mannion has gone, so has the offense. As mentioned earlier, eight sacks against in one game and three interceptions in another game is not going to get it done, especially for a team that is struggling to run the ball this year. Oregon State is only averaging 2.66 yards per carry on 235 rushing attempts. The passing game is the way that the Beavers have had to move the ball, and unless the ground game gets churning this week, Mannion has to make better decisions in order to pull out a road win.
Key Stat: Four. The Sun Devils are on a four game winning streak right now, outscoring their opponents over those four games 182-77. This streak is the longest in-season winning streak for the Sun Devils since 2007, when they opened the season 8-0.