(6) Arizona State Sun Devils (-9, 61.5 o/u) at Oregon State Beavers
After last weekend’s decisive 55-31 win over then-No. 8 Notre Dame, the Arizona State Wildcats (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12) are feeling pretty good about sneaking into the inaugural College Football Playoffs, currently sitting just two spots outside the coveted top-four. Tonight, they will face-off with the struggling Oregon State Beavers (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12) in Corvallis (10:45 p.m. Eastern).
Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham is proud of his team’s victory over the Fighting Irish, but warns that it’s not time to celebrate.
“It definitely has to be right there at the top (of our wins),” Graham said. “But 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 State.”
Leading Arizona State this season is quarterback Taylor Kelly, who threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame.
“We have a quarterback that I believe in more than anyone that I have ever coached,” Graham said. “This is the best offensive line we’ve had since we’ve been here, and I think we’re bigger and maybe at this point, better as a unit defensively than we have been since we’ve been here.”
The one blemish on Arizona State’s resume is a terrible 62-27 home loss to the UCLA Bruins. While they were five-point home underdogs in that early season game, it’s hard to find ways to justify the 35-point loss. Since that game, the Sun Devils have reeled off five straight wins – including four over ranked opponents – to put themselves back in playoff contention. While they stand a good chance of qualifying for the four-team playoff if they win-out, there is a certain segment of the population which believes Arizona State’s one bad loss is too much to overcome.
As for Oregon State, the season started well with four wins in the first five weeks, but the Beavers have now lost four straight (both overall and at home).
Said senior tailback Terron Ward, “All we have to know is these (losing streaks) happen in sports and not let it get to us, even if it’s hard to swallow.” The main problem for the Beavers is the defense, which surrenders 29.8 points per game (88th in the nation).
If the Beavers are going to have a chance at a home upset, the defense will have to step-up against the 20th-ranked ASU offense. Moreover, QB Sean Mannion, the Pac-12 record holder for career passing yards with 12,873, will have to find the endzone. While Manion is completing over 70 percent of his passes this season, he has thrown just ten touchdowns on 335 attempts. Last season, he piled up 37 TDs on just over 600 passes.
While many are predicting a shootout, the truth is the Beavers probably can’t live up to their end. That means the under (61) should be in play.
(Photo credit: Neon Tommy, “IMG_3284” (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)
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