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Arizona St.-Oregon

Eugene, OR – In position to win its first conference title since 2001, Oregon is doing its best to avoid any outside distractions.

That became a bit more difficult this week with the reinstatement of running back LeGarrette Blount from a suspension.

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With Blount eligible to play for the first time since the season opener, the 14th-ranked Ducks will try to focus on the task at hand Saturday night and beat a struggling Arizona State team at home so they can maintain their slim lead atop the Pac-10.

Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL have made Oregon -17 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 77% of bets for this game have been placed on Oregon -17 (View College Football bet percentages).

After rushing for 1,002 yards and 17 touchdowns last season, Blount was expected to be one of the top playmakers for Oregon (7-2, 5-1) before being suspended for the season for punching Boise State defensive end Byron Hout following a season-opening loss.

Although suspended, Blount remained on scholarship and was allowed to practice with the team. On Sunday, coach Chip Kelly recommended that Blount be allowed to rejoin the team and the Pac-10 approved his reinstatement the following day.

"It's still a work in progress,'' Kelly said. "He just has the opportunity to play again for us on Saturday, but that doesn't change and that doesn't mean that everything we have in place falls by the wayside. He has to continue to work and move in a positive direction.''

With Blount sidelined, redshirt freshman LeMichael James has flourished as the Ducks' top running back. He will remain the starter against Arizona State (4-5, 2-4). James has run for 1,043 yards and eight touchdowns, becoming the first Oregon freshman to surpass 1,000 yards rushing.

Blount is practicing this week as the fifth-string running back and whether he plays Saturday - and how much - is still to be determined.

"I think he's a little bit out of shape because he hasn't had the constant running that he would've gotten had he been with the offense all the time. And he's definitely not in game shape,'' running backs coach Gary Campbell said.

One week after making a statement with a 47-20 victory over then-No. 4 USC, Oregon suffered a stunning 51-42 loss at Stanford last Saturday that reduced its conference lead to one-half game over Arizona. The defeat also cost the Ducks any shot at a berth in the Bowl Championship Series title game, but wins in their final three contests against Arizona State, Arizona and Oregon State will send them to the Rose Bowl.

Oregon scored two late touchdowns to cut a 20-point deficit to six, but Stanford held on to end the Ducks' seven-game win streak.

"We got beat by a better team,'' Kelly said. "If you say we got caught looking behind or looking ahead, it takes away from Stanford. Stanford is a heck of a football team.''

Jeremiah Masoli threw for a career-high 334 yards and three touchdowns while James added 125 yards rushing - his fourth straight game with at least 100.

James could have a difficult time extending that streak against the Sun Devils, who lead the Pac-10 and rank sixth nationally in rushing defense (87.4).

Another area of concern for the Ducks is their own run defense, which allowed Stanford's Toby Gerhart to pile up 223 yards on 38 carries last week. He became the first Pac-10 runner to gain more than 200 yards against Oregon since Washington's Corey Dillon on Oct. 26, 1996.

Arizona State has plenty of issues of its own, having lost three straight and ranking near the bottom of the conference in scoring (24.1) and total yards per game (353.8).

In the third quarter of last Saturday's 14-9 loss to USC, coach Dennis Erickson replaced struggling quarterback Danny Sullivan with 6-foot-8 freshman Brock Osweiler, who finished 11 of 27 for 153 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

Erickson hasn't yet named a starting quarterback for Saturday.

"I'm waiting to see what transpires in practice and so forth," Erickson told the school's official Web site. "I've got to do what gives us the best chance to win. Maybe it's not the most popular decision, but it's a decision that I've got to make to give our team the best chance to win."

Last week's defeat dropped the Sun Devils to 3-28 against ranked teams since 2000 - and 1-7 under Erickson.

Oregon has dominated Arizona State lately, winning the past four meetings by a combined 168-73 score. The Sun Devils haven't won at Oregon since Oct. 2, 2004.

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Posted: 11/10/09 10:33PM ET

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