Here at DevilsInDetail.com, we know that hardcore ASU fans (the type who follow this site) have already read plenty about the strategies behind this week’s big Arizona State-Oregon contest. We won’t rehash the Xs and Os in this post. Instead, this preview addresses the more cerebral aspects of the upcoming game.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham understands the importance of defeating Oregon; the players know what’s at stake; and fans realize the implications of a nationally-televised match-up against the No. 2 ranked team in the country. So how can ASU come away with a historic victory on Thursday night?
Don’t dig an early hole. In the 2011 Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas, Boise State running back Doug Martin took the opening kick-off the length of the field to put his team on top 7-0. At that point, the collective air left the lungs of the Sun Devil Nation. ASU never regained its breath during a 56-24 thrashing. It cannot allow the same kind of start against Oregon. In our opinion, the first 10 minutes are the most critical—and dangerous—in a big game.
Keep emotions in check. Anyone who’s played competitive sports knows how adrenaline can influence your performance. ASU cannot get lost in the moment on Thursday. Despite the pressure of performing in front of millions of TV viewers, the Sun Devils have to adopt a steely-eyed resolve. Emotion must be balanced against execution. Let the opponent be the first to lose their composure.
Focus on the game plan. ASU coordinators Mike Norvell and Paul Randolph have spent many hours in the film room preparing for Oregon. Sun Devil players have been burning the midnight oil, too. ASU promises to have a solid game plan to address the Ducks’ dynamic attack. However, some teams throw preparations to the wind when adversity strikes. This week—more than any other time—it’s important to stay on the same page throughout all four quarters.
Rely on the “12th Man.” Much has been written about Arizona State’s lackluster attendance in recent years. Sun Devil fans have gained a reputation for arriving late, leaving early, and sitting on their hands during key moments in games. But anyone who remembers ASU’s “glory years” also knows that Sun Devil Stadium can be a living hell for opposing teams when the stakes are high. Just ask John Elway, who left Tempe in 1981 with thunderous chants of “NO WAY, ELWAY” ringing in his ears. If there were ever an opportunity for ASU fans to step up and will their team to victory, this is it.
DevilsInDetail.com Prediction: Arizona State: 30, Oregon: 28