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BY KERRY EGGERS/PORTLAND TRIBUNE/O-line could decide winner in matchup with Sun Devils

COURTESY: ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY - Coach Herm Edwards and the Arizona State Sun Devils are next for Oregon State in football.Seems odd to say, but Oregon State's offense, not its defense, is the biggest question mark heading into Saturday's 4:30 p.m. home finale for the Beavers against Arizona State (5-4 overall, 2-4 in Pac-12 play) at Reser Stadium.

In three of the last four OSU games — a 52-7 loss to Utah, a 21-17 win over California and the 19-7 loss to Washington last Friday — the Beavers (4-5, 3-3) have struggled to move the ball and to score.

The beleaguered Beaver defense, meanwhile, continues to make strides and had one of its best performances of the Jonathan Smith era against the Huskies.

The offensive numbers against U-Dub were extraordinary. Six first downs and 119 yards total offense. Zero first downs and eight yards total offense in the second half. A 1-for-13 showing on third down.

"That's shocking," OSU quarterback Jake Luton said after completing 19 of 28 passes but for only 88 yards. "Definitely very frustrating, very disappointing and not anywhere close to our best performance."

The Huskies provided the defensive blueprint for Arizona State, which lost 31-26 to Southern Cal last Saturday after falling behind 28-7 in the first quarter.

Coach Herm Edwards doesn't have a bad defense. The Sun Devils have held five opponents to 21 points or fewer. They rank fourth in the Pac-12 in total defense (378.8 yards per game), behind only Utah, Oregon and Washington, and fifth in scoring defense at 22.2 points per game, behind Utah, Oregon, Washington and California. The Devils are third in run defense, allowing only 109.8 yards per contest. And they have forced more lost fumbles (12) than any Pac-12 team.

They're more challenged at the offensive end. ASU averages 23.7 points, 11th in the Pac-12, and only 363.8 yards total offense (10th). Things got even more dire when quarterback Jayden Daniels went down with a knee injury two weeks against UCLA on Oct. 26.

But in stepped another true freshman, Joey Yellen, who in his first collegiate start completed 28 of 44 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions against the Trojans.

The Devils rushed for only 47 yards against USC, which probably sounds good to the Beavers, who managed a net 20 yards against Washington. The team that rushes more effectively Saturday at Reser is likely to have the upper hand.

If Daniels is able to return, he gives ASU dual-threat capabilities. In his seven-plus games, he has thrown for 1,902 yards and 11 touchdowns with two interceptions while running for 379 yards and three TDs, minus 106 yards in sacks.

Oregon State desperately wants to send its 17 seniors — nine starters, including punter Daniel Rodriguez — out with a victory in their final home appearance.

A win also would even the Beavers' record at 5-5 and keep alive their hopes for a bowl game this season.

Arizona State can clinch bowl eligibility with a triumph.

If the Beavers' offense shows up, they have a great shot at victory.

Off of what we've seen the past month, I'm not sure that will be the case against a more-than-decent Arizona State defense.

The pick: Arizona State 27, Oregon State 21


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