Oregon QB Justin Herbert will face another unique test vs. Arizona State D

Three games into his starting career, Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has faced smorgasbord of Pac-12 defenses with a diverse range.

In Herbert's first start, he faced Washington, one of the nation’s toughest defenses and a team that rarely blitzed, but often sacked opposing quarterbacks.

His second start came against Cal, a team that has struggled defensively this year but has managed to come up with big defensive plays when needed -- like against Utah, when the Bears won on a goal-line stand, or against Herbert and Oregon, when the Bears won on an interception in overtime.

And this weekend Herbert faces his third unique challenge of his starting career -- Arizona State's boom-or-bust defense that has frustrated even veteran signal-callers.

“We’ve seen it all,” Herbert said.

Overall, Herbert fared better-than-expected against both Washington and Cal, throwing for a combined 437 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.

But the Sun Devils present a completely different challenge for Herbert. In every season since Todd Graham took the reigns, Arizona State has finished the season as the Pac-12 leader in blitzes. This year, the Sun Devils are back just a bit as Oregon and Arizona have actually sent more blitzes.

Herbert has only faced six total blitzes on his 89 dropbacks (6.7 percent) this season, but if ASU keeps to its 2016 form, Herbert can expect to be blitzed about 22 percent of the time, though in the past four seasons the Sun Devils have blitzed on at least 40 percent of opponent dropbacks.

“They’re going to bring a lot of heat,” Herbert said. “What we’ve gone over is just the protections and how we’re going to handle that.”

Protection is going to be the biggest key for the Ducks on Saturday. For the Sun Devils, heavy blitzing leads to heavy quarterback pressure, and they’ve never finished lower than fourth in the Pac-12 in sacks. But with that heavy fire and hard hitting comes a silver lining for Herbert -- Arizona State’s defensive scheme often leaves opportunity for big pass plays.

The Sun Devils have given up a Pac-12-worst 386 passing yards per game and through seven games this year they’ve allowed a Pac-12-worst 49 pass completions of 20-plus yards.

Last year, Arizona State sent a blitz on 25 of Vernon Adam's 47 dropbacks (53 percent), but Adams still threw for 315 yards and four touchdowns. Nine of Adams’ 23 completions went for 20-plus yards, but he was also sacked five times.

Communication will be key for Herbert and his offensive line, making sure the protections are called and executed correctly.

Even though it’s just his third start, Herbert said he feels confident going into the game because of the Ducks’ practice plan for the week.

“We’ve done a good job of simulating blitzes in practice,” Herbert said. “We’ll have a sense of what they’re going to do, and hopefully we’ll be able to replicate that in practice.”

Replicating a team that might blitz on more than half of a quarterback’s dropbacks is a tough task, but it’s certainly less difficult than the one that Herbert will face on Saturday -- the Sun Devils throwing the kitchen sink at him.