I took a shake of the Arizona State Sun Devils Magic 8 Ball this morning.
I asked it, "How will the Sun Devils perform tomorrow against Oregon?"
Answer: Outlook not so good.
OK, so maybe there's no Magic 8 Ball. But there's my wealth of knowledge about both of these teams, and my optimism about Arizona State getting off this slide and back in the win column is pretty low this week.
I keep going back and forth across both depth charts, thinking about each team's performance in big games and the direction each team has been going over the past few weeks, and I keep coming back to my opinion that the Ducks are going to come out of Sun Devil Stadium with a win tomorrow night.
I hope Rudy Carpenter has become fast friends with Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu (pictured above just before eating Jake Locker) because they'll be in the backfield a lot this week. The Sun Devils offensive line, as I've said previously, has regressed this season due to injury and general ineffectiveness. They couldn't do anything to stop the mammoth USC pass rush and they'll do none the better against what I think is an even better defensive line than the Trojans unit.
It will certainly be nice to have Keegan Herring back in the starting lineup. Keegs will make his first start and only fourth appearance of the season, but it's yet to be seen how he'll perform at full speed against easily the best defense he'll have faced this season. Sure, he looked terrific in spot action against the inconsistent Stanford front seven, but now he and the rest of the ASU backs will have to face down a tremendous defensive unit.
Then there's the problem of stopping the Oregon spread option. It's proved to be a futile effort over the past three match-ups; games in which the Ducks have picked apart the Sun Devil defense; especially that 2006 embarrassment which led to this equally embarrassing scene at SDS.
Arizona State's front seven needs to step up big time for the Devils to have any chance at staying in this game. They've done a tremendous job over the past few weeks getting pressure and, especially against USC, forcing turnovers, and they'll need to do the same against Oregon. It's going to be a lot different than what they saw at the Coliseum, though, as LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson are a two-headed running beast that every defense they've faced so far have been hard press to contain, hip flexor problems or not.
Bottom line - it's going to take a herculean effort for the Devils to not drop to 2-5.