“Fill it up, black it out, and give them something to cheer about,” is the message that Arizona State Sun Devils Head Coach Todd Graham is preaching to his fans, coaches, and players prior to the Thursday night matchup against the Oregon Ducks.
A statement that sounds more like the main line of a college pump-up rap song, Graham's assertion is exactly what Arizona State may need to do to stop the high flying Oregon Ducks.
Oregon, recently ranked third in the first edition of the BCS Polls, will be coming into this game as favorites, something that Graham says the Sun Devils must not take into account heading into their second nationally televised Thursday night game in just as many weeks.
“No matter what they said in the preseason, you gotta play the game,” said Graham about college football rankings and where Oregon is positioned heading into this contest. “I'm going into this game to win it.”
With no mention or concern of Oregon's rankings atop the Pac-12 and college football, Graham has spent most of the past week trying to devise a game plan that will be stout enough to put Arizona State in position to walk away from this game with a victory.
“This is one of those games, just as a coach, you're exhilarated (to play),” explained Graham. “No one has even come close this year (to stopping Oregon). No one's even come close to slowing them down, so that's a great challenge. I'm looking forward to that challenge, it's not going to be easy, but I'm looking forward to it.”
So, how will the Sun Devils try to pull off the big upset of the Ducks and make the rest of the nation respect them?
Coach Graham believes that if Arizona State can limit the amount of plays they play on defense and create turnovers, they will be in prime position to win the game.
“Our goal in this thing is not to be playing 80-plus snaps on defense,” said Graham about the Sun Devil outlook on Thursday's contest against the Ducks. “When they're rolling...you're going to play a lot of snaps. There are ways of managing that when we have the ball. There are ways you can manipulate that and still be a no huddle.”
One of the ways the Sun Devils will try to sustain their drives and keep the ball away from the Ducks will be by way of executing their rushing attack efficiently and successfully.
“The key is running the football,” stated Graham. “We can't sit there and try to slow down our pace. We want to be in a situation where we are able to run the football.”
Graham also made note of how to take away snaps from the Ducks without just sustaining longer drives.
“Every turnover we get, in my years of coaching, you play five less snaps,” explained Graham. “Get four turnovers, you play 20 less snaps...that's the formula to win.”
With math skills and coaching experience on his side, Graham is confident that the Sun Devils can use their home crowd to their advantage and put Arizona State in good position to come away with one of the biggest wins in program history.
Two close friends of Graham have also been in contact with the coach in order to try and help him figure out how to stop the powerful Ducks. Gus Malzahn (Arkansas State) and Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State), both of who have faced the 2012 version of the Ducks, made sure to emphasize that this Oregon team was surely a special one.
“Everybody says the same thing,” said Graham of his talks with Malzahn and DeRuyter. “(That) this is as good of an Oregon football team as they've had.”
Heading into Thursday's contest, Arizona State boasts a 5-1 record that many thought would be more than enough to see them into the first BCS Rankings. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, an early loss to a struggling Missouri team seems to be keeping them out of most polls. A victory over the Oregon Ducks on Thursday night would provide Todd Graham with a monumental win for his program in just his first year as coach of Arizona State.
Acknowledging the importance of this matchup for their football program, Arizona State has called for a blackout to be implemented when the Ducks travel to Tempe, something Graham hopes to rattle Oregon's first-year quarterback while also providing an outstanding atmosphere for a nationally televised game.
“This is his first year, this is his first game, to play on the road,” said Graham of Oregon's quarterback Marcus Mariota. “When they're on offense, this is the first time they've been on the road in this type of atmosphere, that's a factor.”
Graham continued to talk about the importance of the crowd on Thursday night.
“I think the thing about the blackout and the sellout that plays a part in it (the game) is the atmosphere.”
As for how to get the crowd going, Graham also had an answer.
“That crowd is a major factor,” explained Graham. “And we got to do our part, we gotta give the crowd an opportunity to get excited. Our guys have played really well at home, we just can't let it get too emotional. We've got to execute our plan, execute our system. None of the games on the road (this season) have come close to how we've played at home.”
Make sure to catch the Oregon Ducks square off against the Arizona State Sun Devils when they face-off in front of an anticipated sold out and blacked out crowd on Thursday night in Sun Devil Stadium.