The Oregon Ducks are fresh off of their biggest win of the season by far after defeating the then 9th ranked Stanford Cardinal 52-31 at Autzen Stadium this past Saturday and rising to 3rd in the national polls. So they will be able to carry all of that momentum into this week’s game and really put all their effort in due to a bye the following week. The big disappointment? The game is against Washington State. That’s right the team that has been a nothing short of an embarrassment the past few years will welcome the Ducks and hope to ruffle a few feathers in Pullman. The problem for Washington State is that Oregon has the top rated offense in the nation and the Cougar defense is ranked 118th. Most people didn’t even know there are 118 teams in Division I football. Washington States lone victory this season came against Montana State 23-22 in a game that the Cougars were losing the entire time until about 2 minutes left. Montana State is arguably the worst team in Montana, and that’s difficult to do! But the fact of the matter is whether the conference wants to admit it or not, Washington State is still a member of the Pac-10 so the show must go on. What a show it plans to be. What the Ducks need to remember is that if they do not thoroughly dominate Washington State then it is a very real possibility that Boise State will jump back ahead of the Ducks and stay there for a while, so they need to impress. While Oregon could probably just leave offensive standouts LaMichael James and Darron Thomas at home to play the game out on their Xbox (to improve strategy and dexterity skills of course), they will make the trip and look to play well. Going into a week that is sandwiched between a big win and an off week it would be simple for the Ducks to let their guard down. If they do that they still win by 30! But in order to maintain momentum through the rest of the year the Ducks need to impress and get the 2nd and 3rd strings good work because every player on this roster will be needed if the Ducks are to reach their goal of repeat Pac-10 Champions.
On the offensive side it should be a fun game for the Oregon Ducks. The “LaMichael for LaHeisman” campaign should hit no roadblock when it comes to the Cougar defense, and look for Kenjon Barner to get increased carries if the game gets out of hand before halftime when he can take off his pads with the rest of the starters. Darron Thomas made his presence felt last week against Stanford and for the first time people were able to see flashes of the big time college quarterback Head Coach Chip Kelly is molding him into. Through the air and in the running game Thomas impressed and all while remaining calm in a high pressure situation with the watchful gaze of a national television audience. Receivers Jeff Maehl, DJ Davis and newcomer Josh Huff all had good games last week, and we are beginning to see Huff in particular gain an increasingly strong foothold on the field. Huff has been able to make splashes thus far, but look for him to have a huge game this week as I expect him to get the majority of the time at receiver. The only thing that may slow him down is the fact that Oregon will be running the ball most of the second half so they can catch the early flight back to Eugene. Washington State’s best defensive player is safety Chima Nwachukwu, and yes I spelled that right. The young man is a 3-year starter for the Cougars and is a semi-finalist for the Campbell Trophy, which honors athletes for their performance on the field as well as in the classroom and in the community. Nwachukwu carries a 4.0 GPA, although by the looks of his name his spelling must be atrocious. In any respect the Ducks just need to run their offense business as usual and they should not see their statistics drop too dramatically.
The Oregon defense has a bit tougher of a test than their offensive teammates. Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel has put up decent numbers as of late when he threw for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns last week against UCLA. His main target that the Ducks will have to protect against is freshman wide receiver Marquees Wilson. Wilson has already posted 3 games of more than 100 yards receiving in his young career and demands attention this week from an Oregon secondary that shows room for improvement. The most impressive aspect of the Duck defense this season have been their mid-game adjustment. They have shown a few weaknesses in the opening drives when opposing offenses has strategies against the Ducks. But after halftime when Oregon has time to regroup and reload, Nick Aliotti’s group has been lights out. Through 5 games the Ducks have allowed only 7 points in the second half and 0 in the fourth quarter. So look for the defense to continue to stay aggressive and look for turnovers, one of their strengths led by cornerback Cliff Harris who leads the team with 3 interceptions. Also look for defensive linemen Kenny Rowe and Brandon Bair to have joyful returns to the opponent’s backfield with a few sacks of Tuel. Last week the Ducks were held to just one sack of Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who was well protected by a massive offensive line. The player to watch from the second unit for the defense is defensive end Dion Jordan. Jordan, a converted tight end, has impressive athletic ability and has shown flashes of a great pass-rusher in practice. Look for Jordan to get a lot of time this week and to make some plays before the day is done. The thing the Oregon defense needs to show is some attitude and physicality that commands fear to all opponents, and there is no better team to practice against than the Cougars.
If Ricky Bobby was able to tame a cougar, there is no reason the Duck’s can’t do the same. As we all know, when it comes to the Pac-10 “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” In a match-up of the teams expected to finish first and last in the conference respectively, look for Oregon to roll 59-17. I give the Cougars a few big plays in the second half, tainting the Duck dominance in the 4th quarter and finding the endzone twice after halftime. James and Barner both gain 150+ yards and Josh Huff rushes for a touchdown and receives another.
Yes Regis, that is my final answer.
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.