Oregon at ASU: 12:30 Ch.15
Arizona State likes to call Sun Devil Stadium the “House of Heat,” because of the pressure-cooker atmosphere it hopes visiting teams experience. The facility will earn its nickname today, but for a different and much more literal reason.
The temperature at kickoff for the game between ASU and Oregon is expected to be 101 degrees, testing the players’ endurance and potentially altering the coaches’ strategy.
“When we were at Cal last week, the temperature is in the 70s, and it was a gorgeous day, and it almost seemed hot out there,” ASU coach Dirk Koetter said. “And it’s going to be almost 30 degrees warmer than that.”
The expected high is hotter than other day games in Tempe at this point in the season: Oct. 1 of last year against Southern California (99 degrees), Oct. 4, 2003 against USC (94) and Sept. 28, 2002 against Stanford (94).
ASU does not compile a list of its all-time warmest games because it does not want to publicly release information that could be viewed as a liability in recruiting.
“The temperature will be a major issue for us,” Ducks coach Mike Bellotti said. “We are playing in the heat of the day, which will be a challenge to our players. I feel good about the conditioning aspect of our team, but we will be tested in this game.”
For a team like the Ducks, which has practiced in 70-degree weather this week, today’s conditions could be a culture shock. Koetter equates it to the Sun Devils playing at Washington State in the November wind and cold.
But how much will ASU really be at an advantage? Consider that, in those three previous hot-weather games, the Sun Devils routed Stanford and lost twice to USC.
As the saying goes, both teams have to play in it.
“It’s definitely a factor, but since we are in it all the time, it’s something that you can embrace and take it on your side,” senior defensive end Kyle Caldwell said.
“But it will be in the minds of all the players on both teams. It’s a matter of who will be more mentally tough.”
Some ASU fans this week have asked on Internet message boards: Why not wear white jerseys, which absorb less heat?
NCAA rules mandate that home teams wear dark, unless a visiting school agrees to a switch. But that stipulation must be made before the season, and today’s game was not scheduled for 12:30 p.m. until two weeks ago.
Besides, as a school spokesman said, “Maroon is our traditional color for home games. We want to wear our traditional color.”
As for game-planning, Bellotti does not want to change an Oregon offense that is typically high-tempo.
“I do not want to pull back our offense and run the ball more and take more time in between plays,” Bellotti said. “It might be necessary in this game, especially if we get ahead by a good margin.
“But it’s difficult because there is a tempo and rhythm we like to get in offensively that we feel good in, and it’s not a slow tempo.”
When the Ducks’ offense is firing fast, though, the defense — which took big personnel hits after last season and does not have much depth — does not get much rest on the sidelines. That could play right into the hands of the Sun Devils.
“I think we need to substitute more on defense to keep our people fresh,” Bellotti said.
Oregon is soft against the run, giving up 171 yards a game, ninth in the Pac-10 and 97th in the nation. And Bellotti’s team becomes easier to rush against as the game progresses.
According to research by The Oregonian, the Ducks this season allow 3.7 yards per run in the first quarter, 3.2 in the second, 3.8 in the third and 5.6 in the fourth. Oregon’s last two foes, Fresno State and Oklahoma, both surpassed 200 yards on the ground.
Hello, Keegan Herring and Ryan Torain, especially if ASU gains an early lead. As far as Koetter is concerned, that would be the best way to turn up the heat on the Ducks today.
“Fresno and Oklahoma are very good running teams,” Koetter said. “But coach Bellotti has said that the stamina of his defense is an issue, and now they have the heat to contend with. If that creates opportunities for us, we have to exploit them.”