ASU Football: A look at the Oregon Ducks

EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Justin Herbert
EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 09: Quarterback Justin Herbert /

ASU football hosts No. 24 Oregon in the first conference game of the season with the Ducks sitting at 3-0 after wins over Nebraska and Wyoming.

As the Oregon Ducks fly into Tempe to face ASU football this weekend they bring a lot of momentum with them. First year head coach Willie Taggart has his team ranked 24th in the nation as conference play kicks off. After an uncharacteristically bad season in 2016 where they finished 4-8, the Ducks look to once again be a factor in the Pac-12 North.

After two wins at home, Oregon earned an impressive victory against Wyoming last weekend easily defeating the Cowboys and projected NFL first round pick Josh Allen.

Oregon has averaged 56 points per game through their non-conference schedule and a big reason for their offensive success has been senior running back Royce Freeman. Freeman battled injuries a season ago and was part of why Oregon struggled as a team. Now healthy Freeman has rushed for nine touchdowns and 468 in only three games.

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Taggart has used his rushing attack to dominate defenses so far and his game plan most likely won’t change against the Sun Devils. Complimenting Freeman in the running game include redshirt junior Tony Brooks-James, and redshirt senior Kani Benoit. Benoit is a Phoenix native, having dominated at Thunderbird High School before taking his talents to Eugene.

On the defensive side of the ball, Oregon was abysmal last season. Taggart knew this was something he would have to address when he took the job. He hired away Colorado’s defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt for the same position to try and re-shape the once strong unit.

The changes have brought noticeable improvement through the first three games as Oregon is ranked 31st in the country in rush defense after finishing 90th in 2016.

Most impressively Oregon is ninth in the nation on stopping third down conversions only allowing their opponent to move the chains 21 percent of the time.

Leading the defense has been sophomore linebacker Troy Dye and redshirt junior linebacker Justin Hollins. Under Leavitt’s new 3-4 defensive scheme the two linebackers are thriving at both rushing the passer and tackling ball carriers behind the line of scrimmage. Look for these two to make an impact against ASU’s struggling offensive line.

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The Ducks enter Tempe with a lot of momentum, and this is a game they will need to win in order to have a shot to take the Pac-12 North title. For the Sun Devils, the season hasn’t gone the way they anticipated. But a win against a quality conference opponent can go a long way to righting the ship.