Oregon Ducks

UO's Herbert and Freeman leave Cal game during 1st QTR

UO's Herbert and Freeman leave Cal game during 1st QTR

EUGENE - Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman and sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert left the field and headed toward the locker room during the first quarter of tonight's game against California at Autzen Stadium. 

The pair never returned to the game.

Freeman gained 13 yards on a run to the right side and then immediately left the field favoring his shoulder.  A few plays later Herbert threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Brenden Schooler to give the Ducks a 10-0 lead. After the touchdown, Freeman could be seen walking out of the stadium. 

Freeman's return was originally announced as "questionable."

On Oregon's next drive, Herbert scored on a short run in which he got hit pretty hard by a Cal defender. The touchdown made the score 17-0, UO.  Shortly after scoring, Herbert could be seen walking through the tunnel toward the Ducks' locker room. 

Freeman left the game with 51 yards on six carries. 

Herbert is 7 of 8 for 86 yards for one touchdown. 

The Ducks led 17-7 at halftime but gained just 32 yards in the second quarter after amassing 159 in the first quarter. 

Oregon led 31-17 midway through the fourth quarter after senior running back Kani Benoit scored on a 68-yard run. 

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson won't play tonight vs. Cal, return date unclear

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson won't play tonight vs. Cal, return date unclear

Oregon senior wide receiver Charles Nelson will not play tonight when the Ducks (3-1) host California (3-1) at Autzen Stadium, according to sources. 

Nelson, who sprained his right ankle two weeks ago during UO's 49-13 win at Wyoming, missed last Saturday's 37-35 loss at Arizona State (2-3, lost today at Stanford) and was seen this week still wearing a walking boot. 

How long Nelson will be sidelined remains unclear, but indications are that his return is not imminent.

Oregon hosts No. 16 Washington State (5-0) next week.  The Cougars upset No. 5 USC last night by the score of 30-27. 

Oregon clearly missed Nelson last week at Arizona State. UO started sophomore Brenden Schooler in place of Nelson and he managed to catch just two passes for 27 yards. Regular starters, sophomore Dillon Mitchell and freshman Johnny Johnson III have been steady but neither has demonstrated the consistency and play-making ability that Nelson has delivered for four seasons with the Ducks. 

Nelson ranks second on the team with 15 receptions and first with 243 yards. 

Mitchell, Johnson and Schooler are not ideal slot receivers in coach Willie Taggart's offense. But freshman Darrian McNeal has struggled thus far and junior Taj Griffin only recently moved to receiver after coming to Oregon as a running back. Both are listed as Nelson's backups on Oregon's depth chart. 

Oregon's young receivers dropped several passes against the Sun Devils and at times ran routes incorrectly or were not aligned properly, all typical mistakes for young receivers. 

Nelson was clearly going to be a go-to receiver for sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert and was on pace for to make roughly 60 receptions this season before his injury. 




Cal will challenge Oregon's resolve

Cal will challenge Oregon's resolve

We're about to find out if these Oregon Ducks have the resolve to tighten the screws and win a very losable game against California on Saturday night before the heart of the schedule kicks in and the season spirals out of control. 

Oregon has displayed some signs of brilliance through four games this season. The Ducks (3-1) have also demonstrated that they can be had and at times have proven to be their own worst enemy. These realities make Saturday's 15-point spread in UO's favor appear to be out of whack. UO simply has yet to display the consistency needed to warrant being such a big favorite over a 3-1, PAC-12 opponent. 

A converence leading 42 penalties, inconsistent play in the last three games, youth, new coaching staff and new systems are all playing roles in the erratic product we're seeing on the field. 

On merits alone, Cal (3-1) should be favored when the two teams meet at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at Autzen Stadium. The Golden Bears have better wins on their resume (at North Carolina and Mississippi) and a much better loss (No. 5 USC). Oregon's 3-1 record is deceiving. The Ducks are 1-1 against Power Five competition and has two cheap wins (Southern Utah and at Wyoming). The 42-35 win over Nebraska, which lost to Northern Illinois, is decent. But the 37-35 loss at Arizona State, a team that lost to San Diego State and narrowly defeated New Mexico, 37-31, is a head-scratcher. 

Cal is going to give Oregon all it can handle. The Golden Bears' defense made life miserable for USC quarterback Sam Darnold and the Trojans for three quarters before the dam broke and USC' talent took over and turned a 13-13 tie entering the fourth quarter into a 30-20 win.

Oregon isn't as talented or as experienced as USC and you can bet that Cal coach Justin Wilcox will have some good defensive schemes dialed up to try to confuse quarterback Justin Herbert, rattle the penalty-prone offensive line and fluster a young receiving corps.  The only way the Ducks could avoid a similar game from taking place that they could lose would be to clean up the problems that cost them at ASU and almost allowed Nebraska to come back from a 42-14 deficit at halftime to steal the game. 

Let's face it: A close win and a close loss against two mediocre teams makes the Ducks mediocre, as well. 

For that reality to change, Oregon must figure out how to cut down on penalties and execute consistently, especially on offense. That requires mental toughness when adversity strikes.  False starts are unacceptable. Technique flaws on offense and defense while under durress that lead to holding penalties can't happen. Alignment and assignment issues on offense and defense musn't be tolerated. 

The big problem for Oregon is that these issues might not be unavoidable this season. The team is simly too young. It needs time to mature. Time to develop that mental swagger to go along with the physical swagger. 

Or, maybe we've already seen signs of the Ducks slowly maturing before our eyes. They did hold on to win over the Cornhuskers after the tide turned. And, after falling behind 31-14 to the Sun Devils, the Ducks bounced back to take a 35-34 lead late in the game.

The smart money, however, is on the notion that this is simply who these Ducks are for the time being. We will know more on Saturday. Oregon, no matter how it plays, needs a win. Otherwise, with and upcoming slate of games against No. 16 Washington State, at Stanford, at UCLA, vs. No. 20 Utah and at No. 6 Washington, even becoming bowl eligibility could suddenly in doubt. 


Oregon vs. California

When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Autzen Stadium. 

T.V.: FS1. 

Betting line: Oregon minus 15.

Records: Oregon (3-1), Cal (3-1).

Last week: Cal lost 30-20 at home to No. 5 USC. Oregon lost 37-35 at Arizona State. 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (43-46, 3-1 at Oregon); Cal's Justin Wilcox (3-1).

Fear factor (five-point scale): 3.5. For the all of the reasons stated above, the Ducks could very easily drop this game. However, it's stretch to believe that Sam Bowers is going to be good enough to win at Autzen Stadium. He has thrown six touchdown passes with eight interceptions on the season. His 55.2 completion percentage ranks 11th in the conference. 

Final pick: Oregon, 37-27. This should be an interesting game but UO will pull it out in the end. 

Safety Khalil Oliver leaves Oregon program

Safety Khalil Oliver leaves Oregon program

Safety Khalil Oliver has left the Oregon program. The redshirt junior posted his decision on Twitter. 

Oliver began the year as a starter in the season opener against Southern Utah. He ended up getting injured during the 77-21 win and was seen the following week on crutches and wearing a walking boot on his left foot.  

Freshman Nick Picket replaced Oliver in the starting lineup against Nebraska and has started every game since for the 3-1 Ducks. 

Redshirt senior safety Tyree Robinson, who missed the first game, has started alongside Picket since the second game. Freshman Billy Gibson and redshirt junior Mattrell McGraw are the backups. 

Oliver is now healthy but has decided to transfer, according to his statement. 

Oregon hosts California (3-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. 

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Set TD mark in down game

Royce Freeman record watch 2017: Set TD mark in down game

Oregon senior running back Royce Freeman became the Ducks' all-time leader in rushing touchdowns Saturday when he scored on an 11-yard run in the second quarter of UO's 37-35 loss at Arizona State. 

It was Freeman's 10th rushing touchdown of the season and 54th for his career, putting him ahead of LaMichael James (53). Freeman now needs six rushing touchdowns to surpass former Oregon State running back Ken Simonton's Pac-12 Conference record of 59 rushing touchdowns (1998 to 2001). 

Freeman also rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries against the Sun Devils to move closer to breaking James' career rushing yardage record of 5,082. Freeman entered the season with 4,146 career rushing yards and needing 937 to break James' record. 



James' record: 5,082 yards.

Last week: Freeman rushed for 81 yards on 15 carries at ASU (2-2).  

Previous games: Freeman rushed for 157 yards at Wyoming, 153 yards vs. Nebraska and 150 against Southern Utah. 

2017 total: Freeman now has has rushed for 541 yards rushing in four games.  

Career total: Freeman has 4,687 yards career rushing yards. 

Freeman needs: He is 396 yards away from breaking James' record. 


James' record: 53.

Last week: Freeman rushed for one touchdown to eclipsed James.   

2017 total: Ten.

Career total: Freeman has 54 rushing touchdowns for his career. 

Next up: The Ducks host California (3-1) on Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. 

Oregon's penalties have reached ludicrous levels

USA Today

Oregon's penalties have reached ludicrous levels

The Oregon Ducks are no strangers to having officials throw numerous yellow flags at them during games but this year's team has raised the bar on infractions accrued to new heights. 

Oregon (3-1) was penalized 14 times on Saturday night during a 37-35 loss at Arizona State to run the Ducks' season total to a Pac-12-leading 42. It could have been worse. Technically, Oregon committed 17 penalties against ASU but the Sun Devils declined three.  

Oregon's 10.5 penalties per game are the most for the program since at least 2000 (see chart below). The most Oregon has ever committed in a season since 2000 is 8.8 in 2015. The Ducks have plenty of time to reverse the trend for this season but averaging double-digit penalties per game certainly is cause for alarm. 

"It's as frustrating as it gets," Oregon redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson said following Saturday's loss. "You can't expect to win games when you have over a 100 yards of penalties. We have a lot of stuff to cleanup this week."

Oregon was charged with 99 yards in penalties on Saturday and is averaging 89.2 on the season (third most in the Pac-12). The penalties hurt. Earning flags and a general lack of execution contributed to the Ducks converting on just one of 11 third down attempts during their loss to the Sun Devils. 

"I think penalties are a huge factor," UO sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert said. "Anytime when you're moving backwards it isn't a good thing." 

UO coach Willie Taggart said the proper technique is needed to avoid penalties such as holding (Oregon committed five total on offense and defense vs. ASU) and pass interference.

"We've just got to teach," Taggart said. "Teach and practice."

False start penalties on the offense were also a big problem against ASU (2-2). The Ducks committed five, four in the first half when UO managed to score just 14 points with one touchdown set up by a muffed punt return by ASU at its 11-yard line. 

'You can't do that," Taggart said of the false starts. "You've got to listen for the call."

Interestingly, while penalties have been a problem for Oregon over the years, they typically haven't hurt the team's won-loss record. The Ducks have ranked at or near the bottom in the conference for much of the past 17 years. In fact, Oregon has committed a whopping eight or more penalties per game in eight out of 17 seasons since 2000. 

In 2010, when Oregon went 12-1 and reached the BCS National Championship game under coach Chip Kelly, the Ducks ranked ninth in the Pac-10 in both penalties per game (7.2) and penalty yards per game (61.2). Kelly's teams ranked ninth in the conference in total penalties in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and ranked eighth in 2009. 

The 2014 team, which reached the national title game under coach Mark Helfrich, ranked ninth in the Pac-12 in penalties per game (8.2) and seventh in penalty yards (72). 

Some of the elevation in numbers over the years could be contributed to the number of plays generated by an uptempo offense. More plays could certainly lead to more penalties. But not enough to account for the poor overall rankings. And, tempo certainly wouldn't necessarily impact the team's conference ranking in that area during today's era when most teams run an uptempo offense. 

In 2004, the year before the Ducks moved to the spread offense and began running some no-huddle, the Ducks committed 8.6 penalties per game, the third most (counting this season) since 2000.

While great UO teams, such as the 2010 and 2014 squads, were able to overcome their penalty totals, lesser Duck teams did not. The aforementioned 2004 Ducks went 5-6 that year. The 2016 season, the program's only other losing campaign since 1993, saw the Ducks rank last in the Pac-12 at 8.3 turnovers per game. 

This Oregon team is closer in playing level to the 2004 and 2016 teams than it is to any of the Ducks' championship teams. These Ducks are simply too young and too inexperienced to be good enough to win many close games while giving away yards through penalties. 

Oregon and Taggart had better clean up this penalty mess or more close, frustrating defeats will surely come their way this season. 


2017 (3-1)

Penalty per game game = 10.5 (12th PAC-12)

Penalty yards per game = 89.2 (10th)

2016 (4-8)

Penalty per game game = 8.3 (12th)

Penalty yards per game = 75.8 (12th)

2015 (9-4)

Penalty per game game = 8.8 (10th)

Penalty yards per game = 61 (10th)

2014 (13-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.2 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 72 (7th)

2013 (11-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.2 (12th)

Penalty yards per game = 70.2 (10th)

2012 (12-1)

Penalty per game game = 7.9 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 71.1 (9th)

2011 (12-2)

Penalty per game game = 7.2 (9th)

Penalty yards per game = 65 (7th)

2010 (12-1)

Penalty per game game = 7.2 (9th PAC-10)

Penalty yards per game = 61.2 (9th).

2009 (10-3)

Penalty per game game = 7.3

Penalty yards per game = 62.7

2008 (10-3)

Penalty per game game = 7.3

Penalty yards per game = 62.7

2007 (9-4)

Penalty per game game = 6.1

Penalty yards per game = 55

2006 (7-6)

Penalty per game game = 7.5

Penalty yards per game = 60

2005 (10-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.0

Penalty yards per game = 72.7

2004 (5-6)

Penalty per game game = 8.6

Penalty yards per game = 79.7

2003 (8-5)

Penalty per game game = 7.8

Penalty yards per game = 69.7

2002 (8-5)

Penalty per game game = 8.5

Penalty yards per game = 71.2

2001 (11-1)

Penalty per game game = 6.4

Penalty yards per game = 57.9

2000 (10-2)

Penalty per game game = 8.0

Penalty yards per game = 72.0

Oregon reveals true self in loss at ASU, and it's not all bad

USA Today

Oregon reveals true self in loss at ASU, and it's not all bad

TEMPE, Ariz. - Oregon's zany and quite entertaining 37-35 loss at Arizona State Saturday night might best be defined by one sequence of events involving a spectacular play followed by a selfish moment and a butt chewin' to end all butt chewins. 

UO running back Tony Brooks-James caught a 22-yard touchdown pass near the right sideline of the end zone to draw Oregon to within 31-28 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter after Oregon had fallen behind 31-14. For whatever reason, the redshirt junior decided to spike the ball, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the ire of UO coach Willie Taggart. 

The television cameras at Sun Devil's Stadium caught Taggart ripping into Brooks-James on the sideline as if he were his son who had broken curfew and shown up at home with a speeding ticket from another state. 

"I was trying to teach him a lesson," Taggart said. "You've got to understand, we're down in the football game, you make a hell of a play, you just can't do that. That's selfish."

In that one moment you saw where these Oregon Ducks truly are as a team. They are inconsistent and undisciplined enough to fall behind in a game they were favored to win by 14 yet talented enough to fight back on the road to eventually take the lead. In the end, however, costly mistakes prevented the Ducks from pulling this one out revealing that they clearly remain a work in progress. 

And all of that is okay and should have been expected. Oregon is 3-1 after going 4-8 last season. Clear progress has been made. But for anyone who had been seduced by the team's 3-0 start, Saturday night was a wakeup call. Keep expectations in check or prepare for some maddening disappointment mixed among flashes of potential greatness.  

We can expect more games like Saturday's during the season. Oregon, for the first time this season, on Saturday faced a solid offense with a dual-threat quarterback who had some very impressive athletes to get the ball to. Quarterback Manny Wilkins threw for 347 yards with no interceptions and rushed for 56 gross yards (35 net) and two touchdowns. Oregon sacked him four times, three defensive end Jalen Jelks delivering three. But Wilkins managed to overcome adversity much of the night and create big plays. 

"I think they had a hell of a lot more explosive plays than anyone had on us all season," Taggart said. 

ASU's much-maligned defense used its aggressive style to take advantage of Oregon's mistakes. Senior running back Royce Freeman, who entered the game with 460 yards rushing, managed just 81 on a season-low 15 carries. Sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert was a bit off with his touch on some deep passes and several drops by a young receiving corps minus senior Charles Nelson hurt his completion percentage (19 of 35 for 54 percent). Herbert still passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. 

"Penalties and dropped balls," Taggart said of his team's struggles. "It's hard to get into a rhythm... It's hard to go faster like we want to do when you're off schedule."

Oregon committed 14 penalties to bring the season total to a whopping 42 infour games. 

The greatest positive is that Oregon battled back on the road in a Pac-12 Conference game. Consider that the Ducks trailed 31-14 in the third quarter with one of their touchdowns coming courtesy of a muffed punt at the ASU 11. It was a vast departure from the huge leads gained against Wyoming and Nebraska. To that point in Saturday's game, however, little evidence existed to suggest that Oregon would mount a comeback. Yet, the Ducks did just that. Oregon led 35-34 following a four-yard scoring run by Herbert with 6:41 remaining in the game.

"I thought we responded well," Taggart said. "We got ourselves back in it and took the lead in the fourth quarter. I was impressed with out football team by doing that and not giving up and not quitting."

But the Ducks couldn't close. After ASU took the lead with a field goal, Oregon did next to nothing on its final two desperation drives drives. 

"We just didn't do enough to finish it," Taggart said. 

That's because these Ducks weren't ready to win a game like this, just yet. They were used to playing from ahead and didn't have the experience and discipline to win in this situation on the road. 

After the game, players took accountability for their performance. Brooks-James said he had to learn from his selfish mistakes. Redshirt sophomore center Jake Hanson blamed himself and the entire offensive line for not clearing the way for Freeman and better protecting Herbert, sacked late during one of the final drives. Sophomore inside linebacker Troy Dye blamed his play and the defense. 

These are all good signs of great things to come. But the road to get there is going to be a bumpy one with the heart of the Ducks schedule kicking into gear real soon. 


What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

Oregon's 37-35 loss at Arizona State Saturday night was one big, hot mess.

A lot of things went wrong, plenty of mistakes were made and there was blame enough to go around. But I came away from the game amazed at how much improvement Oregon has made on the defensive side of the ball. And also wondering just what in the world the Ducks are attempting to do on offense.

First, the defense. This is a far cry from the group last season that couldn't tackle consistently and was seemingly out of position all night. The Ducks this season are organized and most often in the right position to make plays, even though -- like all college defenses this side of Alabama -- they don't always make them. They even covered receivers one-on-one pretty well when it mattered. Sure, you'll say, they gave up 37 points Saturday night to the Sun Devils.

Of course they did. A lot of that was because of the inconsistent and sometimes even inept offense. Oregon's offensive failings kept its defense on the field for 38:06 of the game. The Oregon offense managed just 21:54 of playing time. That's awful. And folks, don't blame Oregon's uptempo offense. ASU was not huddling, either.

I just don't understand what it is the Ducks want to do with the ball. Going into the game at Tempe, I assumed this was a team that was going to hang its hat on a power running game, running downhill behind powerful Royce Freeman. Well, where did that go?

Freeman averaged 5.4 yards per carry but ran the ball only 15 times. Oregon attempted only 30 rushing plays and 10 of those were assigned to quarterback Justin Herbert. Please tell me why on earth the Ducks didn't come out and establish their running game?

It seemed to me that once Oregon fell behind it panicked a bit and began to lose patience with the run game. And I will say, this is not exactly the most diverse offense Oregon has put on the field over the last decade. There was not a lot of deception or variation. There is a lack of creativity.

And a couple of other things, while I'm at it:

Going 1 for 11 on third down with all the offensive talent Oregon has in the backfield is just crazy. Most of that was because there were way too many long-yardage situations on third down. Too many times when Herbert had to pass on third-and-long and everyone knew it.

And yes, 14 penalties is ridiculous. And just an obvious point -- penalties are a direct result of coaching. Or lack of it. You can talk all you want about cleaning that up, but the bottom line isn't talking, it's doing. It's been a problem all season and that's on the coaches.

Lastly, Oregon had two cracks late in the game at running a two-minute offense and looked sadly unprepared to do so. I'm shocked that Herbert wasn't able to work the ball down the field at least close enough for a long field goal. He's too good back there not to be able to do that. Yes, Oregon's receiving corps is decimated and seemingly lacking in speed. But the Ducks either couldn't protect Herbert or he was having trouble judging where his receivers would be when he cut the ball loose. The defense got late stops when needed and the offense just couldn't even get close to paying it off.

So Oregon may be at a point where the defense is more reliable than the offense.

Who saw that coming?

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson will not play tonight at ASU

SOURCES: UO WR Charles Nelson will not play tonight at ASU

TEMPE, Ariz. - Oregon senior wide receiver Charles Nelson, who sprained his right ankle last week, will not play tonight at Arizona State, according to sources. 

Nelson injured his ankle in the first half of the No. 24 Ducks' 49-13 win at Wyoming. He appeared later on crutches and in a walking boot. After the game, UO coach Willie Taggart said the injury wasn't as bad as originally feared. Earlier this week Taggart said that the team hoped to have Nelson in action against the Sun Devils (1-2). That won't happen and Nelson's status for next week's home game against California (3-0) is uncertain. 

Freshman nose guard Austin Faoliu is also expected to return tonight after missing last week's game, according to a source. 

Kickoff tonight is 7 p.m.

Replacing Nelson in the slot could be junior Taj Griffin, who returned to action at Wyoming for the first time since tearing an ACL late last season and caught a 20-yard touchdown against the Cowboys. Freshman Darrian McNeal is also a candidate. 

Without Nelson, Oregon will be relying on a very inexperienced receiving corps. After Nelson, the next leading returning pass catcher from last season is redshirt sophomore tight end Jacob Breeland, who caught six passes for 123 yards in 2016. Nelson caught 52 for 554 yards and five touchdowns, second only to Darren Carrington Jr., who transferred to Utah after Taggart dismissed him from the team for getting arrested and charged with a DUII in July. 

Nelson leads the team with 15 receptions for 253 yards. Sophomore wide receiver Dillon Mitchell's 13 receptions ranks second (156 yards) while freshman Johnny Johnson III is second on the team with 172 receiving yards (10 receptions).

Who starts in place of Nelson is likely irrelevant. Oregon will probably juggle a glut of receivers at multiple positions as it did last week at Wyoming. 

Oregon at ASU won't reveal much unless Ducks lose

Oregon at ASU won't reveal much unless Ducks lose

The No. 24 Oregon Ducks enter Pac-12 play under Willie Taggart as a mystery team. That probably won't change much come late Saturday night. 

For the first time this season UO will face an opponent capable of putting up numbers on offense and getting after the quarterback on defense when the Ducks (3-0) play at Arizona State (1-2) Saturday night in Sun Devil's Stadium. When the game is over, Oregon should be 4-0 and by Sunday morning ranked as high as No. 20.  Yet, this game probably won't reveal much about what these Ducks are really all about. That is, unless, of course, they were to lose. 

How could that happen?

For starters, unlike previous opponents, Nebraska and Wyoming, the Sun Devils have some pop on offense and they will spread that talent out across the formation seeking mismatches. UO defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt said facing such a team loaded with speed on the outside and at running back will be a challenge for UO. 

"We haven't seen athletes like these guys, yet," he said. 

Oregon redshirt senior safety Tyree Robinson said he believes ASU, averaging 412 yards and 34 points per game, will try to establish the run with 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior running back Kalen Ballage, who runs with power and speed.

"We have to gang tackle," Robinson said.

Maybe. Then again, ASU is averaging a weak 97 rushing yards per game on 2.5 per carry.

ASU, according to Robinson, will use a lot of formations and motions in an attempt to catch Oregon's defense napping. 

"We just have to do a good job of communicating and being in the right place," Robinson said. 

Surely tested will be true freshmen defensive backs Nick Picket and Thomas Graham Jr. They have performed very well so far but have yet to see a wave of plays and athletes coming at them over and over like they will on Saturday.  ASU quarterback Many Wilkins is a threat to run and will certainly extend plays better than Wyoming's Josh Allen did last week. Wilkins has thrown seven touchdown passes with zero interceptions. He is certainly a threat to make some plays on Saturday. Enough to win? Probably not. 

Oregon's defense might allow its share of points but the Ducks certainly won't get run through like many teams did to them last season. More importantly, Oregon's offense should have its way with ASU's defense, which has allowed 37.7 points and 505.3 yards per game.  

For that reason alone, UO should leave the state of Arizona with a win. Only a flow of turnovers could derail Oregon. Yes, the Sun Devils lead the conference with 13 sacks. And yes, they will throw heavy pressure at UO sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert. It simply won't matter. Herbert gets rid of the ball too quickly, which will lead to big plays against pressure. Plus, let's not forget, that last year he tied a program record with 489 yards passing against ASU in one of his only two victories as a starter last season. 

The Ducks will score a ton of points and win. They might even score a nice chunk of those points in the second half, which would be a departure from the previous two weeks. 

Maybe the most significant fact that will come out of a win Saturday is that Oregon would have matched last season's win total (4-8) four games into the season. By any measure, that's great progress. We just won't know if the Ducks are very good, or simply better than the mediocre competition they would have faced to date. 


Oregon at Arizona State

When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz. 

T.V.: Pac-12 Networks. 

Betting line: Oregon minus 14 1/2.

Records: Oregon (3-0), Arizona State (1-2).

Last week: The Sun Devils lost 52-45 at Texas Tech. Oregon won 49-13 at Wyoming. 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (43-45, 3-0 at Oregon); Sun Devils' Todd Graham (89-57, 40-28 at ASU).

Sun Devils' impact players: Quarterback Manny Wilkins is off to a pretty hot start, averaging 308 yards passing with seven touchdown tosses and has yet to throw an interception. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes. Wilkins, a redshirt junior, was the No. 6-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation when he came out of high school in 2014.

"This will be the first time we've had a good mobile quarterback that we've had to go against," Taggart said. 

Senior running back Kalen Ballage has rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns but is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. 

Sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry is Wilkins' top target. The 6-foot-4 Harry has caught 24 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. 

ASU's defense is led statistically by two freshmen. Defensive end Jojo Wicker has three sacks on the season and linebacker D.J. Calhoun is averaging 10.3 tackles per game. 

Linebacker Koron Crump (knee), who leads the conference with four sacks, is out for ASU. 

Fear factor (five-point scale): 3.5.  It's a road game. It's a conference game. It's against what will be by far the best offense the Ducks will have faced this season. There's a lot to be worried about for Oregon. However, ASU is about as bad on defense as the Ducks were last season. If the Ducks take care of the football they would once again surpass 40 points. We will know after this game if UO's defense truly has bite if it can keep the Sun Devils in check. 

Final pick: Oregon, 47-33.