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Game Scout: Oregon at Colorado

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 6 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 10/5/13

SITE: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.

TV: Pac-12 Network

SERIES: Oregon is 9-8 against Colorado and has won both meetings since the Buffs joined the Pac-12 by a combined score of 115-16.

AP RANKINGS: Oregon No. 2; Colorado unranked

KEYS TO THE GAME

Mark Helfrich makes his first trip back to Colorado as a head coach on Saturday.

Helfrich will be an overwhelming favorite as he leads No. 2 Oregon into Boulder to face the Buffaloes (2-1).

Helfrich was the offensive coordinator for three seasons at Colorado before being hired to that position at Oregon in 2009. Helfrich coached at Colorado under Dan Hawkins, but Hawkins was fired and so was his replacement, Jon Embree, before Mike MacIntyre was hired this season.

"Obviously I wish we could have won more, and a great deal of that is my fault, but yeah, you learn a thousand things," Helfrich said.

Helfrich said his best memory of Colorado was the birth of his son, Max, and added that he didn't expect to get too emotional upon his return. He was the offensive coordinator when the Ducks won at Colorado in 2011.

"The administration is different and the coaching staff is different, so there is so much turnover from a time when it might be more emotional that doesn't come into play," Helfrich said. "Certainly, at a place you used to work, it is always a little different. A little awkward to come out of the visiting locker room at a place you worked, but more or less, I approach it like any other team."

Colorado started the season with back-to-back wins to exceed last year's one-win season, but then lost 44-17 at Oregon State on Saturday.

"They're definitely a lot better and the first couple games were a lot different," Helfrich said. "They played really, really well defensively and are doing some things very sound, creating pressure."

The Ducks are 4-0 and have outscored their opponents by an average of 49 points per game. The Ducks have scored more than 50 points in four straight games for the first time in school history and rank second in the country with 59.8 points per game and third in total offense at 599.3 yards while leading the country with 332.5 rushing yards per game.

"Obviously, from a record standpoint, we wouldn't want it any other way," Helfrich said. "That's part of the bottom line, but we can play a lot better and that's encouraging in a lot of ways. In every phase. As good as our defense has been, we can be better. As good as our special teams have been, we can shore up some things there, and offensively we can get a ton better. We have players that want to do that and be part of that. That's fun to be around, and hopefully we think our best days are ahead."

Oregon could be without junior running back De'Anthony Thomas against Colorado. Thomas averaged more than 112 rushing yards in Oregon's first three games, but he suffered an ankle injury on the opening kickoff against California and did not return.

Thomas said he would have to wait and see how he felt later in the week to determine his playing status, but Oregon could choose to rest him against Colorado so he is healthy the following week at Washington.

Coming off a one-win season, Colorado improved on that with a 2-0 start under new coach Mike MacIntyre, but then the Buffaloes went on the road for the first time and lost 44-17 at Oregon State last week.

"You can't put your finger on one thing that went wrong," Colorado quarterback Connor Wood said. "I think all facets of the game had some: special teams made mistakes, defense made mistakes, and our offense had their fair share as well, so there are a lot of things we can improve on this week."

It would take a massive improvement for the Buffs to be able to hang at home Saturday with second-ranked Oregon, which is averaging 59.8 points per game and has beaten Colorado by a combined score of 115-16 in the past two seasons.

"We have the best team in the country coming, so we have to regroup as a team and get ready," cornerback Kenneth Crawley said.

Colorado is a 38-point underdog, but MacIntyre knows from personal experience that beating Oregon is not an impossible task. In 1998, he was an assistant at Temple when the Owls -- 35-point underdogs against undefeated Virginia Tech -- won 28-24.

"I have been a part of it before as a coach, so I know it can happen," MacIntyre said.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ducks

--RB Byron Marshall is coming off a career-high 130 yards in the win over California and could be in line for another heavy workload if De'Anthony Thomas is not able to play against Colorado. Marshall has 326 rushing yards on 48 carries for an average of 6.8 yards per rush. He has four touchdowns.

--RB Thomas Tyner could also get a boost in carries if Thomas is not able to play. The freshman has scored a touchdown in all three games he has played and had 94 yards on 13 carries against Cal. The third-string running back has 25 carries for 174 yards and four touchdowns.

--WR Bralon Addison is Oregon's second-leading receiver but was even more valuable against California on special teams. Addison had touchdowns on punt returns of 75 and 67 yards to become the second player in school history to return two punts for touchdowns in one game. He was named Pac-12 special teams player of the week. He also led the Ducks with three catches for 13 yards to give him 14 catches for 187 yards and two touchdowns on the year.

--LB Joe Walker led Oregon with nine tackles against Cal in just his fourth game with the team. He had six solo tackles, including one for loss. The sophomore is a junior-college transfer who ranks fifth on the team with 18 tackles.

Buffaloes

--RB Michael Adkins II made his collegiate debut and ran for 98 yards on 14 carries against Oregon State, the second-most yards by a true freshman in his first game for Colorado. After not playing in Colorado's first two games, he got extensive practice time while the Buffs went two weeks without a game and is now the starter at running back. "He's good and fast," coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He can run the ball. He's a good running back and he'll play a lot for us."

--WR Paul Richardson had his worst game of the season against Oregon State, with five catches for 70 yards, but still leads the nation with 162.3 receiving yards per game. His five touchdown catches are tied for fifth in the nation. He has 26 catches, the third-most over a three-game span in Colorado history.

--QB Connor Wood had his worst game of the season with 146 passing yards and two touchdowns to go with two interceptions. Still, he has 887 passing yards this season, the fifth-most in any three-game span for a Colorado quarterback.

--DB Greg Henderson had his second interception of the season against Oregon State and has 76 yards on two interception returns this season. He has scored on an interception return and a fumble return.
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