The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 2010 Pac-10 Conference slate gets underway in earnest on Saturday night, as the fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks fly into Tempe for a showdown with the Arizona State Sun Devils.
Oregon has destroyed its first three opponents, beating New Mexico, Tennessee and Portland State by a combined score of 189-13. Two bouts (UNM and PSU) resulted in shutouts -- the first time that has happened in the same season for the Ducks since 1964.
Arizona State opened the season with a pair of easy wins, both over FCS foes in Portland State and Northern Arizona, but then came last week's road game against a ranked Wisconsin team. The Sun Devils fought tooth and nail, but wound up coming up just short in a 20-19 final.
This game marks the 31st all-time meeting between Oregon and Arizona State, with the latter having won 16 of them. However, the Ducks have won five straight in the series, the most recent of which was last year's 44-21 verdict in Eugene. Oregon has won the last three meetings in Tempe.
Oregon leads the nation in nearly every major statistical category, among them -- scoring offense (63.0 ppg), scoring defense (4.3 ppg), total offense (611.7 ypg) and total defense (193.3 ypg).
Oregon ran roughshod through the Portland State defense last week, setting a new school record with 528 yards on the ground, and its 668 yards of total offense was the third-most in school history. The all-time mark was set in the season opener against New Mexico (720 yards).
Sophomore LaMichael James, who needs just 93 yards to reach 2,000 for his career, ran for a career-high 227 yards, and it all came in the first half. Andres Reed also enjoyed a productive day, rushing for 95 yards on just 12 carries -- Oregon averaging 8.4 ypc and scoring five of its nine TDs on the ground. James has amassed 361 yards and scored three TDs for the season, while Kenjon Barner has four rushing TDs to his credit.
Meanwhile, QB Darron Thomas threw four TD passes, all in the opening half as well, with two going to Jeff Maehl who had just three catches in the game. Through the first three games, Thomas has eight TD passes against only two INTs, and he is averaging 187.3 passing ypg. Maehl has 13 catches for 223 yards, with no other player having more than six grabs thus far.
Portland State was shellshocked from the outset, tallying a mere 140 yards (74 rushing, 66 passing) in the game. The Vikings committed five turnovers, did not convert any of their 18 third-down chances, and punted a whopping 11 times.
The Ducks notched four sacks on the day, two of which were logged by Brandon Blair. Brian Jackson led the UO stand with eight tackles.
Arizona State scored what appeared to be the tying touchdown last week against Wisconsin in Madison, but the extra point was blocked sending the Sun Devils to their first defeat of the season. Freshman Deantre Lewis rushed for a career-high 122 yards to help ASU's cause, and the special teams contributed 288 return yards, but it wasn't enough as the Badgers held on.
Steven Threet, a former Michigan Wolverine who led that team to a comeback win over Wisconsin in 2008, almost did the same for his club this time around. He finished 21-of-33 for 211 yards, hitting Kerry Taylor six times for 71 yards.
Omar Bolden scored on a 97-yard kickoff return near the end of the opening quarter. The Sun Devils finished with 380 yards of total offense compared to 440 for the home team.
Vontaze Burfict led the ASU defense with 10 tackles against the Badgers, seven of which were solo efforts, while Oliver Aaron added nine stops. There were no turnovers in the game, but the visitors were flagged eight times for a loss of 61 yards.
The Sun Devils are giving up 16.3 ppg through three games, and they have yet to allow a point in the fourth quarter. Foes are generating just 311.3 ypg, with only 103.3 ypg coming on the ground. Burfict has been the most active defender for coach Dennis Erickson's club to this point, posting 23 tackles and breaking up three passes. Arizona State has yet to recover a fumble, but has four INTs. Pressure on the quarterback seems to be lacking as well, with only four sacks logged thus far, and only one QB hurry.
Coach Erickson is quick to point out that Oregon is not simply an offensive machine with little else to offer in the other facets of the game.
"They got all the tools. It's amazing to watch them play. The thing that they are underrated in, and that I've gotten in watching them, is that they are extremely athletic on defense. They have a number of starters back along with great speed. Very athletic, they kind of get lost in the offensive success that they've had, but they extremely good on defense."
He knows his team is going to need to be at its very best if an upset is in the offering.
"To me they may be the best football team in the country. When you look at them on both sides of the football and their kicking game. They are so balanced. You can not decide what their strengths are."