Beavers at Sun Devils: 5 things to know
Here's five things to look for as the Beavers try to get back on track and the Sun Devils try to close in on the Pac-12 South title:
GET COOKIN: Graham called Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks the best overall player he's seen this season, but the Beavers have had trouble getting him the ball the past two games. Cooks still leads the nation in receptions, yards and yards per game, and his 14 touchdowns are second. But over the past two games, he had 168 yards combined, which is 18 yards above his single-game average. Riley has taken the blame for the drop in production and spent the bye week devising more ways to get him the ball.
RUNNIN' WITH THE DEVILS: Coach Todd Graham's up-tempo offense has produced some good passing numbers quarterback Taylor Kelly throws for nearly 300 yards per game but the run game has been what's boosted the Sun Devils during their winning streak. Arizona State has averaged 256 yards during the four-game winning streak and has 1,671, which is already its fourth-highest total in the past 25 years.
SPUTTERING OFFENSE: Oregon State has had one of the nation's most prolific offenses most of the season and quarterback Sean Mannion has been superb, leading the nation in passing yards. But over the past two games, the Beavers sputtered against the physical defenses of Stanford and USC, managing 288 yards against the Cardinal and 369 vs. the Trojans. Mannion also threw three interceptions against USC. The Beavers face another good defensive team in Arizona State, but at least had an extra week to prepare.
FINDING STRONG: Receiver Jaelen Strong had been one of the best surprises for Arizona State early in the season, having an immediate impact despite arriving on campus just before the start of fall practice. The junior college transfer used his size 6-foot-4, 205 pounds and athletic ability to give the Sun Devils a huge boost, stringing together five straight 100-yard games while producing numerous big plays. A series of injuries, notably a sprained ankle against Washington on Oct. 19, has slowed Strong down, limiting him to 50 combined yards the past three games. He said this week that he's healthy and the Sun Devils are hoping to get more production from him.
DESERT TROUBLES: Oregon State has dominated the series with Arizona State, winning four of the past five games, including 36-26 in Corvallis last season. But when it comes to playing at Sun Devil Stadium, the Beavers haven't had much luck. Arizona State is 19-4 against Oregon State at home in the series that dates to 1961 and has won 18 of the past 19 meetings. The Beavers' lone win in that string was at least recent; they beat Arizona State 28-17 in 2009 to end a 16-game losing streak in the desert.
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