Coming off of a dominating 69-20 win over Nevada, the #12 Oregon Ducks have begun their road back to earning respect in the minds of football fans around the country.
It is not often that a team that has gone 23-5 in the past 2-plus seasons can be considered by so many to be irrelevant, but after back to back losses at the hands of SEC powerhouses Auburn and LSU many consider the Ducks inferior to the elite programs.
This week when Oregon welcomes Missouri State into Autzen Stadium many do not expect the outcome to shift that perception, barring an embarrassing performance by the Ducks.
Even though this game is projected to be over shortly after the national anthem, that does not mean the Ducks don’t have anything to gain or learn during the contest.
The Bears are 0-2 on the season after a blowout loss to Arkansas in week one and a 28-24 loss to Eastern Kentucky last week. Though the Bears fell to the mighty Colonels, their tens of fans are proud of the way their team competed and all managed to bring the same uniform to the game.
Missouri State is picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, a feat relatively difficult to achieve in a collection of teams that no one can locate on a map. I don’t even mean the cities; the states are tricky by themselves.
Since the game will only minimally involve the Bears, Oregon should be the topic of discussion on Saturday in Eugene.
These games are always an opportunity for teams to display how much depth they have, and that is an area of concern for Duck fans on the defensive side of the ball.
Last week Oregon dominated the game for the entire game without losing much when the 3rd string came in halfway through the third quarter. They were not as potent as the starters for obvious reasons, but they did more than held their own when given the chance.
Playing in a conference that is loaded with offensive juggernauts, the Ducks will need all of their defensive players to perform at a high level if they want to compete in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game.
With the style of aggressive defense Oregon plays, backups at every position see the field for critical snaps in each game. If there is any weakness in those first two strings, opposing teams will pick them apart.
Against Missouri State fans should focus on the depth at middle linebacker for the Ducks because they will be without their leader, Michael Clay, due to an ankle injury suffered last week.
Kiko Alonso is back from his suspension and should slide into that starting role, with Josh Kaddu and DeWitt Stuckey playing the other slots. However, behind those starters there is not a lot of depth with experience for Oregon other than Boseko Lokombo.
The Duck offense should be fun to watch on Saturday to say the least.
With the return of running back Kenjon Barner after missing last week with an injury, don’t expect to see too much of running back LaMichael James after halftime.
But Barner and freshman standout De’Anthony Thomas could put up huge numbers on Saturday should head coach Chip Kelly choose to keep the playbook open after the Ducks get ahead. Though he probably could go with the victory formation for the entire fourth quarter just for fun.
However, knowing Kelly and his unconditional love for journalists, fans are more likely to see De’Anthony Thomas line up at quarterback and throw a touchdown to starting quarterback Darron Thomas.
You try being a writer and explain in an article the difference between the Thomas’s on that play. Could be the only way a journalist’s efforts will ever put a smile on Kelly’s face. Heck, he may even let a giggle escape from his typically tightened jaws.
There are not many expectations on Oregon this week and, assuming they do not implode on their home field, they should have a good opportunity to pad their offensive statistics heading into conference play.
Kelly will not allow his team to take any opponent for granted and the players seem to understand that after a loss against LSU they have a long way to go.
This game should be a step in the right direction for the Ducks.
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.