|Arizona State has faith in the pass, Oregon's strength is the run|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007 11:48|
The two offensive styles will be on stage Saturday when the No. 4 Ducks host the No. 6 Sun Devils at Autzen Stadium, in a game that could have national championship implications.
Oregon (7-1, 4-1 Pacific-10) has the top rushing offense in the conference with an average of more than 280 yards a game on the ground. Using a speedy spread-option, Oregon is also atop the league and ranked fourth in the country in total offense.
Arizona State (8-0, 5-0) has a passing offense that's ranked third in the Pac-10. It is anchored by Carpenter, who has thrown for 2,168 yards this season with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
While Carpenter was nursing a sore thumb during practice this week, Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said he expected the junior to play Saturday.
Carpenter sprained his right thumb handing off to tailback Keegan Herring in a 31-20 victory over California last weekend. If he can't play against the Ducks, the Sun Devils will go with sophomore Danny Sullivan, who has completed 11 of 14 passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in mop-up duty.
In other Top 25 games, No. 11 Virginia Tech was at Georgia Tech on Thursday night. The rest of the Top 25 is scheduled to play Saturday.
In the other game between ranked teams, No. 3 LSU is at No. 17 Alabama.
M; No. 8 Kansas vs. Nebraska; No. 9 Missouri at Colorado; No. 13 Southern Cal vs. Oregon State; No. 14 Texas at Oklahoma State; No. 23 South Carolina at Arkansas; No. 16 Connecticut vs. Rutgers; No. 15 Michigan at Michigan State and No. 21 Wake Forest at Virginia.
Also there is: No. 10 Georgia vs. Troy; No. 18 Florida vs. Vanderbilt; No. 19 Auburn vs. Tennessee Tech; No. 20 South Florida vs. Cincinnati; No. 21 Boise State vs. San Jose State; No. 24 Tennessee vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and No. 25 Clemson at Duke.
Coach Erickson has faith in Carpenter's passing prowess.
Against Cal, the passing game was ineffective in the first half, with Carpenter throwing for only 45 yards. But when the Sun Devils took possession at their own 9-yard line early in the third quarter, Arizona State went to the air.
Throwing from his own end zone, Carpenter completed a 19-yard pass to Chris McGaha and then connected with Rudy Burgess for 20 yards. Two plays later, Carpenter hit Mike Jones for 31 yards, giving ASU the ball at Cal's 17. Four runs later, the Sun Devils scored to take a 21-20 lead.
Carpenter has already been targeted by the Ducks' defense.
``We want to try to trick their quarterback because he's a great quarterback. Contain the quarterback, keep running to the ball, and we will be successful,''' said Ducks safety Matthew Harper, who had two interceptions in Oregon's 24-17 victory over USC on Saturday, including one that stopped the Trojans' final drive.
Dixon's passing numbers are similar to Carpenter's, but Dixon has gained more attention this season for his ability to scramble out of trouble and break for big yards - drawing comparisons to Vince Young.
Dixon has thrown for 1,885 yards and 16 touchdowns with only three interceptions. He's also second on the Ducks, behind tailback Jonathan Stewart, with 494 yards rushing and eight TDs on the ground.
While Dixon directs the offense, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti says the workhorse is Stewart, who is averaging 130.38 yards rushing (seventh nationally) and an average of nearly 29 yards on kickoff returns. He averages 190 all-purpose yards.
Stewart is also mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate - notably by Erickson.
``To me, they probably have two guys on that football team, in him (Dixon) and Jonathan Stewart, that need to be looked at as Heisman hopefuls if they continue to win. That has a lot to do with it,'' Erickson said. ``Those two guys probably have more impact on a game than anybody I've seen in a long time on offense. Then when you put them both together, and they're running that spread-option stuff, you've got to make some decisions defensively.''
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 17 Alabama
All eyes will be on Nick Saban. The former LSU coach, who left the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) after the 2004 season for the NFL's Miami Dolphins before returning to the Southeastern Conference, will host the Tigers in Tuscaloosa.
``Look, I had a lot of great relationships with a lot of people at LSU,'' Saban said, offering up his version of a truce. ``I'm sure some of those people are anxious for this game. Anytime you know somebody and have relationships with people, it creates a tremendous opportunity when you compete against them. You don't really have to hate somebody to compete against them.''
Saban's successor, Les Miles, chose his words carefully when asked if there was a different feeling about this game.
``I probably got more ticket requests from boosters than I normally do,'' he said. ``Knowing the opponent's coach as well as they do around here has certainly made it a little bit more interesting.''
No. 15 Michigan at Michigan State
With more than a century's worth of statistics to dissect, there's no shortage of trends in this rivalry.
One of the most pronounced in recent years is the running game. Whichever team rushes the ball best has won 35 of the past 37 games.
And both the No. 15 Wolverines (7-2, 5-0 Big Ten) and Spartans (5-4, 1-4) have productive ground games this season as they prepare for their 100th meeting Saturday in East Lansing.
Michigan senior Mike Hart leads the Big Ten in rushing at 154 yards per game. The Spartans expect him to be back in the lineup for the Wolverines on Saturday after missing two games because of an apparent ankle injury.
Michigan State junior Javon Ringer is third in the Big Ten at 120 yards per game. His teammate, senior Jehuu Caulcrick, ranks 10th at 61 yards per game.
Caulcrick and Hart are both from New York state, played against each other in high school and stay in touch regularly. Hart is a workhorse who averages nearly 29 carries a game this season, by far the most in the conference.
``He's the heart and soul of their team,'' Caulcrick said of Hart. ``They put the workload on him and he accepts it. He thrives off that.''