TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Oregon took care of one goal, clinching the Pac-12 North with a blowout win against Arizona last week.
Facing another team from the desert in Arizona State, the sixth-ranked Ducks can ill-afford a slipup.
At No. 6 in the latest standings, Oregon is still in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot. The Ducks obviously will need to pass two teams to get one of the semifinal spots, but a loss to the Sun Devils on Saturday night will all but knock them out of the playoff picture.
Arizona State may have lost four straight, but Oregon will not take the Sun Devils lightly after watching them open the season 5-1.
“I see a very experienced, well-coached and very talented football team that plays really good football,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.
Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) locked up the Pac-12 North title by rolling over Arizona 34-6 last week.
The Ducks held steady at No. 6 in the CFP standings and are playing well on both sides of the ball.
The defense has held six opponents to less than 10 points, a program first since 1960, and is 10th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 14.8 points per game.
Led by prolific quarterback Justin Herbert, Oregon is 14th nationally with 37.9 points and 22nd with 460.4 yards per game.
Herbert has been superb after returning for his senior season, throwing for 2,662 yards and 28 touchdowns with three interceptions while completing 70% of his passes.
“It’s really simple, you are playing one of the better teams in the country,” Arizona State coach Herm Edwards said. “They are in here trying to present themselves as one of those teams in the playoff situation and we know that. Our guys are well aware who we are playing and what they bring on both sides of the football.”
Arizona State looked to be a lock for a second straight bowl appearance under Edwards after opening the season 5-1. Consecutive losses to No. 8 Utah, UCLA, Southern California and Oregon State have put the Sun Devils in a tough spot. At 5-5, Arizona State needs to beat Oregon or win the Territorial Cup game against Arizona next week to become postseason eligible.
“We have talked about it,” Edwards said. “You have an opportunity to get into a bowl that is critical for your program and I think it will be really big for us because we have an opportunity to get into a bowl with all these young guys. It’s huge for our program to get that done and we have two games to try and get that solved.”
Herbert will have one less target to throw to after freshman receiver Mycah Pittman broke his arm last week against Arizona. Pittman is expected to miss six weeks and the Ducks already lost starting tight ends Cam McCormick and Jacob Breeland to season-ending injuries. Senior receiver Brenden Schooler also missed time with a foot injury and transferred midseason.
The injuries have caused the Ducks to do some shuffling, including moving Daewood Davis back to offense.
Arizona State freshman QB Jayden Daniels had another solid game last week against Oregon State, throwing for 334 yards and three TDs for his fourth 300-yard passing game of the season. Daniels has thrown for 2,236 yards and 14 TDs with two interceptions while completing 61% of his passes. He is the first freshman in program history to start a season at quarterback.
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