Their offense may have variations but it is becoming clear that as the Arizona State Sun Devils continue to improve, the comparisons to the vaunted and prolific offense of the #2 Oregon Ducks will become a regular occurrence. Essentially Arizona State is becoming the Ducks of the Desert.
Last night in a Pac-12 Conference contest, the Sun Devils dispatched the Washington State Cougars, whose head coach Mike Leach is trying to recreate his Air Raid offense that worked so well while he was at Texas Tech. However, the Cougs were no match for the explosive Arizona State offense, which is backed by a Top 25 team defense. The final score was 55-21 but the game was over late in the first half when the Sun Devils rocketed to a 42-7 lead. And that’s the explosive nature that is reminiscent of the Ducks ability to score at an alarming rate.
Speed has a lot to do with Oregon’s offense – with both the speed of individual players as well as how quickly they move from play to play as a team. Arizona State doesn’t quite have the overall speed, talent-wise, but they move the ball down the field with a startling tempo.
A month ago, when the USC Trojans came to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils, they had the speed to keep up with Arizona State, but the pace was far too quick for the shorthanded Trojans. The Sun Devils pasted them with 62 points and though the USC offense was able to put 41 points on the board, it was obvious they couldn’t keep up with Arizona State’s velocity of plays. In that game, the Sun Devils amassed 612 total yards while at the same time demolishing head coach Lane Kiffin’s career.
Versus Washington State, Arizona State was able to earn an incredible 33 first downs. They weren’t perfect, turning the ball over twice but it hardly mattered. And just as Oregon’s offense is balanced, so too is the Sun Devils’. In fact, against the Cougars, Arizona State had 275 yards passing and 282 yards rushing the ball – about as balanced as it gets.
As you watch the Arizona State Sun Devils come to life under second-year head coach Todd Graham, it is apparent this is a program on the rise with a solid defense and a spectacular offense led right now by dual-threat quarterback Taylor Kelly who is ripping it up. In Thursday night’s game, the junior had five passing touchdowns and two more rushing, accumulating 341 total yards, which included two sacks.
What's to come
The 6-2 (4-1 in conference) team is gaining more and more confidence under Graham and they have a legitimate shot at a 10 win season this year. Their schedule gets tougher with another road game coming up in Salt Lake City a week from Saturday. That’s followed up with a home game against the pass-happy Oregon State Beavers, then on to Pasadena where they play the #19 UCLA Bruins. They finish off the season hosting their rivals the Arizona Wildcats for the Territorial Cup – otherwise known as the Dual in the Desert. Note: a recent book on one of the oldest rivalries in college football chronicles the famous rivalry.
In any case, the Sun Devils are a program that appears to be a budding national power. Contests such as the UCLA game may be a harbinger of the future in Tempe, possibly heralding in a new era in the Sonoran Desert. Whether or not they can duplicate the success the Oregon Ducks have had in the past decade remains to be seen.
Still, Arizona State is emerging as a powerhouse and likely will compete with the Oregons, Stanfords and Southern California schools for Pac-12 championships. Rather than the Ducks of the Desert, they may become the Sun Devils of the Desert. It might be happening faster than an Arizona State touchdown. And that’s fast. Just ask the Trojans or Cougs or …
Source: Pac-12 Conference