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Jason says: Hard to pick against Ducks; Sun Devils need 40-plus to have a shot

So, what do we make of the Oregon Ducks?

They are pretty good, but are they great? Time well tell, as in five of the next six games.

The same can be said about Arizona State, which also faces a gauntlet in the second half of the season, playing three top-10 teams (UO, USC, Oregon State), starting with the Ducks at 6 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) at Tempe, Ariz.

I tend to think the Ducks will handle themselves quite well in Sun Devil Stadium. It's a big game, which even coach Chip Kelly admits, given the expected boisterous ASU crowd — how often can we say that? — and the unique circumstances of the game being Thursday night on ESPN.

Many a contender has collapsed on such a stage. But we're talking about the Oregon Ducks here, winners of 40 of 46 games under Kelly and losers to only powerful teams in the coach's four-year reign.

By late Thursday night, we'll know whether the Ducks have withstood the challenge (plan on it) or Arizona State topples the Pac-12's reigning three-time champ and ends a seven-game losing streak to Oregon (I would be mildly surprised by an upset).

The Ducks, although they have suffered through growing pains and mistakes and injuries, have the goods to pull through. At their best, they are fast, efficient, explosive and physical and fast and smart on defense and, judging by their last performance against Washington, it appears the Ducks are getting their, er, ducks in order.

It'll take 30 or more points to beat the Ducks and probably 40 or more. I don't see ASU generating 40 points. Oregon will gang up to stop ASU's three running backs, which means ASU quarterback Taylor Kelly will have to beat them through the air.

The QB Kelly has been very efficient, but he hasn't seen the pressure and coverage that the Ducks will apply to the Sun Devils.

It'll be interesting to see how UO freshman QB Marcus Mariota plays in a real road environment. ASU coach Todd Graham questions how he'll play. But, as long as the Ducks can run the ball with Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas — you can count on one hand the games under head coach Kelly in which the Ducks haven't run well — they will be set up for victory. Mariota needs to play efficiently and not cough up the ball, and the likes of Colt Lyerla and Josh Huff need to make plays.

More of a complete impression of the Ducks will come out of Thursday's game.

If they struggle and lose, it could be a sign of things to come.

If they win — fashionably or dirty — it keeps them on their quest for the national championship.

It's hard to pick against the Ducks at this point.

THE PICK: Oregon 44, Arizona State 31