Arizona St.-Oregon Preview

LaMichael James is confident about Oregon’s chances this weekend

– even if he can’t be on the field.

The Heisman Trophy candidate is hopeful a nasty elbow injury

won’t sideline him Saturday night when the ninth-ranked Ducks look

to defeat No. 18 Arizona State for the seventh straight time.

James injured his right elbow early in the fourth quarter of

Oregon’s 43-15 victory over California last Thursday. X-rays showed

no fracture, and the Ducks (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) are being coy about

his status.

The nation’s leading rusher at 170.4 yards per game, however,

feels Oregon will be fine without him.

“Even if I don’t play, we have tremendous backs,” James said. “I

don’t think we’ll miss a beat.”

James was limited to 94 yards rushing and one score in last

year’s 42-31 win at Arizona State (5-1, 3-0). He gained 150 yards

on the ground with three first-half touchdowns two years ago in a

44-21 home win.

“He’s a great player,” Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said.

“He might be one of the best players in the country. There is no

question about that.”

James ran for 239 yards and a touchdown against California,

becoming the first Duck to run for at least 200 yards in three

straight games. Running backs coach Gary Campbell said Monday that

James is in “good spirits.”

If James can’t start, Kenjon Barner or De’Anthony Thomas could

get the nod. Barner carried 10 times for 88 yards and a score

against Cal, while Thomas, a freshman, is averaging 7.6 yards per

carry.

Darron Thomas is also a running threat with 18 carries for 100

yards this season. The quarterback has 15 touchdown passes to just

two interceptions.

Oregon is averaging 42.3 points during its six-game win streak

in this series. The Ducks are fifth in the country with the

Pac-12’s most prolific offense, gaining 539.6 yards per game.

“We have to learn how to go at warp speed,” Erickson said. “They

are what they are. They do it week-in and week-out, year-in and

year-out since Chip (coach Chip Kelly) has been there. I don’t know

if I’ve ever seen a team as fast offensively.”

Oregon enters with a four-game win streak since its 40-27 loss

to then-No. 4 LSU in the Sept. 3 opener. The Ducks have won 19

straight at home.

The Sun Devils are the only Pac-12 South team with an unbeaten

conference mark. Brock Osweiler completed 25 of 41 passes for 325

yards and three touchdowns in last Saturday’s 35-14 win at

Utah.

“Brock Osweiler is a big, tall rangy target and he can throw

it,” Kelly said. “He’s got a real, real strong arm, really

athletic.”

Osweiler is facing Oregon for the first time since the Sun

Devils’ last trip to Autzen Stadium two years ago, when he went 5

for 10 for 14 yards before he was knocked out with an injury. He

became the first true freshman QB to start for Arizona State since

Jake Plummer in 1993.

“My first trip up to Autzen didn’t go how anybody would hope for

it to but, like I said, we’re a different football team now; I’m a

different football player and I’m really looking forward to the

opportunity,” Osweiler said.

It could be different since Jamal Miles is more of a factor now

for Arizona State. Miles is tied for the team lead with four TD

receptions, and he’s returned a punt and a kickoff for a score

while also throwing for another.

The Ducks, meanwhile, have created only four turnovers – none in

the last three games. Through five contests last season, they’d

forced 21.

“I just hope we can start to create some turnovers,” Kelly said.

“We had our hands on a lot of balls on Thursday night and for some

reason, it just didn’t bounce our way. So hopefully we’re going to

make some turnovers because we’re going to need it for this

game.”

This contest could be a preview of the inaugural Pac-12

championship game, set for Dec. 2. The Ducks are one of three

unbeaten teams in conference play from the North, along with No. 7

Stanford and Washington.

“It’s exciting for all of us,” Erickson said. “It’s a big game

against a big program and a great football team.”