7 major questions for the Ducks to answer in Week 3 vs. Hawaii

We entered the 2023 college football season with a lot of questions for the Oregon Ducks. With so many new faces on the roster under year two of Dan Lanning, there were a million different things that we couldn’t wait to see play out in Week 1 against the Portland State Vikings.

Unfortunately, because of the level of competition, we didn’t get a ton of answers. A week later, with a thriller down in Lubbock that the Ducks were able to squeak out against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, we were actually left with more questions than we were answers once again. So now, going into Week 3 against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, there are a lot of things that we still have yet to learn about the Ducks.

With all of that being said, let’s look at what some of those big questions are going into Saturday:

Can the Secondary Hold Up?

Hawaii may not have an offense that is going to strike fear in Oregon fans, but they certainly are going to put the Ducks’ secondary to the test on Saturday, throwing the ball early and often. So far this season, Hawaii QB Brayden Schager is averaging 42 passing attempts per game, with 324 yards per game through the air. Redshirt freshman WR Pofele Ashlock is a star in the making, hauling in 19 catches for 315 yards and 3 TD so far this season as well.

One of the main questions about the Oregon defense this year was about how the secondary was going to fare. So far, things have been a bit better, despite the handful of penalties last week, but they will be put to a good test on Saturday.

Does the Rushing Attack Return?

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Oregon’s offense has been among the best in the nation over the past couple of years, and a big part of that is because of the rushing attack, spearheaded by Bucky Irving and Noah Whittington. A week ago, we saw that rushing attack struggle against Texas Tech, though, which was relatively surprising. Of course, Will Stein obviously saw something in the game plan that caused him to draw up more RB swings out to the sides, which counted on the stat sheet as passes, but were virtual runs, but even then, it was a relatively down game for the RB group.

I’m curious to see how that changes this weekend against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors have the No. 55 rushing defense in the nation, so the Ducks and their No. 23 rushing offense should be able to have their way.

Where is Jordan Burch?

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So far this season, Oregon’s pass rush has looked pretty good. They had 4 total sacks against Texas Tech last week with 20 QB hurries. However, marquee transfer Jordan Burch was not a major part of that production. He recorded just 29 snaps (out of 79) and recorded zero stats. While the end result has still been productive for the Ducks, you have to wonder what it would look like if Burch — a former 5-star recruit and the No. 1 player in the transfer portal this offseason — could get going. Hopefully, we see him find some more production this weekend.

Can Ty Thompson Impress Again?

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After a really solid performance in Week 1, we didn’t get to see QB Ty Thompson in Week 2 against Texas Tech. I would be pretty surprised if we didn’t see Thompson this Saturday in the second half against Hawaii.

Against Portland State, Thompson impressed, going 7-for-8 with a TD while showing a great understanding of the offense while staying poised in the pocket. Of course, the level of competition wasn’t great, which is why I want to see him this weekend against an FBS school instead of an FCS school. While it may not matter for this season, there is a good chance that Thompson will be the starting QB for Oregon a year from now, so we need to see all that we can from now until then.

Can Penalties Be Negated?

The Ducks had 14 penalties for 124 yards on Saturday against Texas Tech. That is inexcusable. While the ceiling is high for this Oregon team in 2023, they are never going to come close to sniffing that ceiling if they keep getting in their own way and beating themselves. While it’s tough to play a perfectly clean game operationally in a hostile Lubbock environment, there were a lot of things that the Ducks did vs. Texas Tech that are easy to clean up. I want to see that particularly in the secondary, where pass interference was an issue.

How Many Young Guys Get Reps?

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The Ducks had the pleasure of a big-time blowout in Week 1, allowing them to get a ton of young guys and true freshmen into the game to get some real experience. We expect that to happen again on Saturday, though probably not to the same extent it happened in Week 1. I want to see the benches get emptied midway through the third quarter, ideally, but more importantly, I want to see the level of success remain even when the young guys get on the field.

How Dominant Can the Defense Be?

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If the Ducks are going to be as good as we think they can in 2023, then a lot of it is going to have to do with the defense and their ability to be great in a really strong Pac-12. Should that be the case, then this needs to be a game that Oregon’s defense dominates. I don’t think that it’s reasonable to ask the Ducks to pitch a shutout, especially with the strength of Hawaii’s passing game, but I do think that Oregon should aim to keep the Rainbow Warriors under 14 points, if possible. Should they do that, I think Duck fans can feel pretty good about this team going into conference play.

Story originally appeared on Ducks Wire