Arizona State has lost two of its first three games for the first time since 1999, and the schedule won’t get any easier when the Sun Devils host No. 24 Oregon in the Pac-12 opener for both teams on Saturday night. The Ducks have won 10 straight games against the Sun Devils and are 3-0 this season, though their best win against Nebraska was watered down when the Cornhuskers lost at home to Northern Illinois the following week.
Arizona State’s defense needs to develop methods to get off the field quicker. The Sun Devils are last among 129 FBS teams in third down efficiency with opposing offenses converting 24-of-44 opportunities this season for a 54.5-percent success rate. Oregon lost one of its top third down targets when wide receiver Charles Nelson left with a right ankle injury in the first half against Wyoming on Saturday. Nelson, who has shined at offense, defense and special teams in his four-year career with the Ducks, was the team’s top pass catcher last season with 52 grabs for 554 yards and four touchdowns.
TV: 10 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network. LINE: Oregon -16.
ABOUT OREGON (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12): The Ducks still have one of the top running backs in the conference to lean on, so look for Royce Freeman to set the tone early in the ground game. He has rushed 150 yards or better, averaged at least 5.2 yards a carry in all three games this season and scored nine touchdowns, putting him well on course for a third 1,000-yard season. Oregon can rest Freeman at times without fearing a quick three-and-out, as senior Kani Benoit is averaging 10 yards on his 16 carries and has already scored six touchdowns.
ABOUT ARIZONA STATE (1-2, 0-0): The Sun Devils might have an extra tough time stopping Oregon, as their top pass rusher, Koron Crump, left last week’s loss at Texas Tech with a knee injury and is doubtful to play this week. If this game turns into another shootout, as it did in the 52-45 loss to Texas Tech, quarterback Manny Wilkins will need to perform even better than he did last week when he completed 27-of-41 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Wilkins has seven touchdown passes this season and no interceptions, so he’s done his part to avoid giving the opposing team a short field.
1. Arizona State is averaging 3.3 penalties per game, third-lowest in the nation.
2. The Sun Devils are giving up an average of 338 passing yards a game, seventh-most in the nation.
3. Oregon QB Justin Herbert owns the sixth-best quarterback rating in the nation at 88.5, nearly 12 points better than preseason All-American Sam Darnold of USC.
PREDICTION: Oregon 48, Arizona State 31