5 questions for Oregon Ducks to answer during road game vs. Colorado Buffs

The Oregon Ducks left Berkely with a big win over the California Golden Bears last Saturday, but they and the fan base were a little bit underwhelmed with the performance.

Despite putting up 42 points with 586 yards of total offense, Dan Lanning and his team gave off an air of frustration following the final whistle, noting that they made a lot of mistakes, both in the red zone and late in the game, leaving points on the board.

While the team will have another get-right opportunity this week against the Colorado Buffaloes — a game where Oregon is favored by over 31 points — there are many questions that we have for the Ducks that we hope to find answers to. Are we looking at an Oregon team that should be considered among the elites in the nation, or are they simply a pretty good team out west who may be in line for a Pac-12 title?

The answers to these questions on Saturday may help us answer that question.

Can the slow starts on the road stop?

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In two of Oregon’s three road games against Pac-12 teams this season, getting off to a slow start has been a major problem. Last week against Cal, the Ducks were down 3-0 after the first quarter, punting twice and turning the ball over on downs before they finally got the scoring started. Earlier in the year against Washington State, the Ducks got just three field goals in the first half against the Cougars. struggling mightily in the red zone out of the gates.

Not getting off to a hot start has become a theme on the road for Oregon, but it’s something that can be turned around in an instant, and I want to see if the Ducks will stop that trend down in Boulder. You can get away with a slow start on the road in Berkeley, and Oregon found a way to make it work against Washington State, but if you try and do that on the road in Corvallis, or in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 Championship game, it surely will not yield the same results.

Who steps up in Chase Cota's place?

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It’s not official that Oregon wide receiver Chase Cota won’t play this weekend, but I can confidently predict that we won’t see him based on practice reports this week after the veteran went down with an injury in the first half vs. California. That means that there will be an opportunity in the starting lineup for someone to fill the void. Will it be Dont’e Thornton? Josh Delgado? Or simply a game where Troy Franklin and Kris Hutson shoulder more of the load?

Whether or not the depth players on the roster take it, there’s an opportunity for some non-starters to step into the spotlight and carve out a roll for themselves. I’m curious to see if anyone will take advantage of that.

Can the defense close out a game?

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The Oregon defense is far better than the stats show. They give up on average close to 30 points per game, but if you were to break it down and take out the points and yardage given up in garbage time every week, then it’s a different story.

One of the biggest plagues for the Ducks is taking their foot off of the gas late in the game and allowing opposing offenses to make the game look closer than it was. Oftentimes, the second unit is on the field when this takes place. I’m curious if this can be the week where Oregon’s defense can put a complete game together and hold Colorado off of the scoreboard late.

How much do style points matter?

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This goes hand-in-hand with the defense being able to close out the game, but the fact of the matter is that Oregon is in a beauty pageant at this point of the season. With the Ducks in contention for the College Football Playoff, they need to be winning games in as dominant of a fashion as possible to help remove all doubt from the committee after that Week 1 loss to Georgia.

This isn’t a game that Oregon can afford to win 35-17. Even a 42-13 win feels insufficient against one of the worst teams in all of college football. I want to see if Dan Lanning comes out on Saturday and makes a point to blow out the Buffs, walking away with a statement that the Ducks are one of the most explosive teams in the nation.

What will we see from Ty Thompson?

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I said earlier that the answers to these questions would largely help us figure out if Oregon is a good or great team. To be fair, the answer to this question shouldn’t be included in that subsect. I still want to see what Ty Thompson can do with some extended run, though, and there’s a good chance that we see that on Saturday in the second half.

Thompson hasn’t been all that impressive when on the field so far this year, but he feels like he’s sorely in need of some confidence that could help turn that around. The future of the Oregon QB spot is somewhat in question, and Thompson could absolutely fit in there going forward. We need to see more from him before that can happen, though.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire