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Can ASU finally clinch a bowl or will the skid continue at Oregon State?

Arizona State running back Eno Benjamin (3) carries as Oregon State linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray (49) pursues during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Arizona State quickly fell from Pac-12 title contender to a team fighting to clinch a bowl game.

The Sun Devils have dropped three straight games to fall to 5-4 with three weeks left. They will attempt to break the streak in Corvallis on Saturday against Oregon State, a team the Devils manhandled two years in a row.

But, OSU has improved this season with an offense that scores 30.7 points per game.

This will be a challenge for the Sun Devils.

OSU has not lost a game in which it held the lead after the first quarter in conference play. ASU has yet to lead a game after the first 12 minutes since Week 1.

“In the four games we have lost, the score in the first quarter has been 56-14,” head coach Herm Edwards said.

If the Devils win then they clinch a bowl game for the third straight year. If not, with No. 6 Oregon up next, ASU could be looking at a win-or-go-home scenario against Arizona in its final game.

Essential Info

What: Arizona State (5-4, 2-4) @ Oregon State (4-5, 3-3)

When: Saturday, at 5:30 p.m.

TV: Fox Sports 1

Radio: 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station

About Oregon State

Quarterback Jake Luton is a different player when he has protection.

Last week, Washington raided the backfield for four sacks a couple more hurries. In turn, OSU could not move the ball and Luton had 88 yards passing.

At Arizona the week before, there was a lot more room to manuver. Luton put up 328 yards and three touchdowns in a 56-38 win.

If he gets time, then receiver Isaiah Hodgins could be a problem down the field for ASU.

The 6-foot-4 wideout is ninth in the FBS in receiving yards and third in touchdown catches.

“They get him the ball a lot,” Edwards said. “He’s a big receiver and runs well with good hands. They’re going to throw him some jump balls, we’ll have our hands full.”

The Beavers’ running game has been vital to their success. Their top three halfbacks average over five yards per carry with Artevis Pierce leading the way with 7.1.

In their past two losses, however, they could not break free and ran for 79 yards combined.

On defense, OSU is flawed but improving.

It played a strong game against UW allowing 19 points, intercepting two passes and deflecting five more.

The week before, Arizona moved the ball through the air at will, as inconsistency still plagues this team.

How ASU matches up

The simple task to stun the OSU offense is to reach the quarterback. The problem for ASU is that it struggles to do so.

USC quarterback Kedon Slovis had a ton of time to sit in the pocket in Tempe last week, as this has been a major issue for ASU all season.

Luton has a good arm and dangerous targets, so the Devils need to find a way to chase him around.

A major strategy could be to key in on the run game.

ASU has stellar run stopping as opponents average 3.2 yards per rush against it.

This is where the Devils can make OSU one-dimensional, so perhaps blitzing consistently could solve multiple issues.

Quarterback Jayden Daniels is expected to play after missing last week.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

He has not played in a game since UCLA three weeks before this Saturday (bye week in between), and if he struggles out the gate it could be problematic.

The Devils have already had rough starts to every game and OSU is not an easy team to trail due to how efficiently it can move the ball.

Halfback Eno Benjamin could have his best game of the season.

He ran for 312 yards and three scores in 2018 against the Beavers, and OSU has the second-worst rush defense in the Pac-12 this year.

That’s a great combination for ASU.

What the Sun Devils cannot do is self destruct again. The penalties have been out of control over their past three games. If ASU continues to get flagged so constantly, then the Beavers will run away with this one.

Final thought

This game will be cold. Not rainy like ASU’s game at Utah, but below 50 degrees at kick-off with dropping temperatures.

Arizona State’s defense worked really well in the cold against the Utes, especially up front.

The offense went, well, cold against a really good Utah defense. Perhaps the story will flip with Benjamin taking on a poor rush defense.

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