This week as the #10 Oregon Ducks (5-1, 3-0) travel to Boulder to take on the Colorado Buffalos (1-6, 0-4), there will be a few new faces for both teams that will play key roles.
Colorado will be without running back Rodney Stewart and linebacker Douglas Rippy, their best offensive and defensive players for the Buffs respectively.
The Buffalos have yet to win a conference game this season in their first year as a member of the Pac-12.
To be fair, they are likely still confused as to why they are even in the PACIFIC Athletic Conference when their student body is closer to finding James Earl Jones in the corn fields of Iowa than enjoying a day at the beach.
With Colorado having been at the bottom of the Pac-12 before the key losses of Stewart and Rippy, it could extend what figured to already be a long afternoon for the Buffalos.
However, the Ducks will come limping into Boulder as well.
All-American running back LaMichael James is still recovering from a dislocated elbow suffered against California on October 6th.
James, who led the nation in rushing prior to the injury, remains in high spirits and expects to be back in the lineup soon.
Do not be surprised if James not only travels with the team, but is in uniform as well. However, the Ducks do not want to rush their star back too soon. He will likely only be available if there are injuries to his replacements Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas.
You’re more likely to see James wearing a visor and impersonating head coach Chip Kelly on the sideline than to see him on the field.
Oregon is also going to have to make a change at quarterback due to a knee injury suffered by Darron Thomas last week against Arizona State.
Thomas has been seen exiting Duck practices in pads without a knee brace and has even been spotted running to the locker room in front of the media, leaving some to be optimistic that he can play this week.
Nice try Mr. Thomas, but you can’t fool everyone.
Thomas, though in pads, has not been practicing with the first unit and did not participate in team drills as of early in the week. It is also widely assumed that Thomas has been removing his knee brace before leaving practice.
Thomas will be replaced at quarterback by redshirt freshman Brian Bennett. Bennett, who led the Ducks to a dominating second half against the Sun Devils after Thomas’ injury, is inexperienced but talented.
Bennett is considered to be much faster than Thomas and his capabilities to take off and run will help him if he cannot find an open receiver quickly. Typically young quarterbacks with running ability will take off too soon and do not allow plays to develop downfield; Michael Vick during his Atlanta days comes to mind as this type of player.
However, with the Buffalos expected to load the line of scrimmage to protect against the explosive Oregon run game, Bennett may need to be patient and throw the ball.
What Colorado may not be ready for is the fact that Bennett has something similar to a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder. Bennett is known to complete 60+ yard passes with ease in practice and always seems to throw a tight spiral. The issues that may surface will be accuracy and decision making.
Thomas and James have contributed to an offense that ranks fifth in the nation in both rushing (315.0 yards/game) and total offense (539.0 yards/game). They are special players that Oregon will need healthy for their difficult stretch run to finish the season.
Regardless, the Ducks should not take too large of a step back without their stars this week.
Oregon is fortunate to have these injuries at this point in the season. Not only are they more than capable of filling in for James and Thomas on the field in their absences, but the Ducks are also in the midst of the weakest part of their conference schedule with games against Colorado and Washington State.
As for Colorado, losing their top 2 players won’t exactly accelerate their attempt to halt a 4 game losing streak.
On the bright side, the willingness of the Buffalos to laugh in the face of every person that has ever believed in a map could be an inspiration to many other schools. Boise State might as well join the Southeastern Conference and the University of Montreal can finally become a member of the Big-12.
Hats off to Colorado, trail blazers of the 21st century!
Now if only they had a map to navigate their way to a victory.
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.