Commentary

All eyes on Carpenter's thumb as Oregon looms for ASU

Updated: October 31, 2007, 5:04 PM ET
By Ted Miller | Special to ESPN.com
The entire Sun Devil nation is obsessing about quarterback Rudy Carpenter's thumb. The junior, who sprained the thumb on his throwing hand in the third quarter of the 31-20 victory over California, didn't throw during Tuesday's practice and is listed as day-to-day heading into a visit to Oregon's fearsome Autzen Stadium on Saturday for what figures to be the Pac-10 game of the year (ESPN, 6:40 ET). Coach Dennis Erickson continued to express confidence that Carpenter would be ready to play. If not, however, his backup is talented but untested sophomore Danny Sullivan.

• Even if Carpenter plays, it's likely his passing will, at least to some extent, be affected. Already saddled with the loss of tailback Ryan Torain, the offense might need to play it close to the vest. So the Sun Devils will need an inspired effort from their no-name but opportunistic defense against the high-powered Ducks. The Sun Devils are first in the Pac-10 and seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 15.6 points per game. While they bend some -- they yield 311 yards per game -- they also force mistakes. They lead the conference in turnover margin (plus-8) and turnover gained (21). Their 16 interceptions are four more than any other conference team and they've picked off at least one pass in 10 consecutive games. Safety Troy Nolan and linebacker Robert James are tied for the conference lead with five interceptions apiece, while cornerback Justin Tryon is tied for third with four.

• If the game is close in the fourth quarter, take ASU. The Sun Devils have outscored their opponents 54-12 in the final frame, and freshman kicker Thomas Weber is 15 for 15 in field goals, the longest active streak in the nation. Of course, neither team has played too many close games. The average margin of victory for both is more than 21 points -- Oregon at plus-22, while ASU is plus-21.3.

Ted Miller | email

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