It feels like a brighter day for the Oregon Ducks now, doesn’t it? After picking up a much-needed victory over UCLA last week, the Ducks are ranked back inside the top-10 once again, and they are being talked about as one of the teams with a chance to make the College Football Playoff. If they can continue to win, there’s a real shot they will get there.
That starts this weekend with a game against Colorado. The Buffaloes are coming to town as one of the lesser teams in the Pac-12, but that doesn’t mean Oregon will roll them with ease. We’ve seen before that the Ducks often play down to their opponents, and go toe-to-toe with teams like Arizona and Fresno State late into the game.
Will that happen again? For our stress-levels sake, we hope not.
As will happen every week of the season, the managing editor of Ducks Wire, Zachary Neel, will convene with staff writers Don Smalley and Andy Patton to preview the game, set expectations, and ultimately make a final prediction.
Here’s what Ducks Wire thinks about the game against Colorado:
A Convincing Win?
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Question: It feels like we’ve asked this question a number of times this season, but Oregon might have turned a corner offensively and defensively last week vs. UCLA. So it begs to be asked… Do you think the Ducks will deliver an impressive performance and blow out the inferior Colorado Buffs on Saturday? Or rather, do you expect a game that is still in question in the 4th quarter?
Zachary Neel: So, it depends on what you consider a blowout. I think that the Oregon defense will be able to have a career day against one of the worst offenses in the Pac-12, and there’s a good chance they hold them to single digits. However, I’ve learned not to expect fireworks from the Ducks’ offense on a weekly basis. I don’t think the score will ever be in question late, but I could totally see a 20-7 game that gets blown open late with a couple of 4th quarter touchdowns.
Don Smalley: Yes. I’ll be bold and say this is the week they put everything together and get the blowout. Colorado is decent on defense, but awful offensively. If the Buffaloes score more than 17 points, something desperately went wrong. Oregon needs style points to impress the playoff committee. If this game is close in the fourth quarter … a lot of things need to change.
Andy Patton: Yes – I know Brown has been criticized for playing down to their opponents but Colorado’s offense is anemic and as long as the defense holds them under 10 points there is no reason to expect this one to be close in the fourth quarter.
Is the Passing Here to Stay?
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Question: For once, we saw a really impressive passing attack from Anthony Brown and the Ducks vs. UCLA. Do you think that’s repeatable? Or do you feel it was a one-off and expect regression going forward?
Neel: I don’t expect Anthony Brown to get booed again at home for his passing inefficiencies, but I also don’t expect another 300-yard passing day with 11 WRs getting on the stat sheet. That mainly happened because Oregon’s running game was stifled by UCLA, which is not something that I expect to be a problem vs. Colorado. Brown should be solid, and hopefully cut down on mistakes, but I don’t foresee the Ducks having to rely on the pass in the same way they did last week going forward.
Smalley: Colorado is in the middle of the Pac in pass defense. The Buffaloes are sixth, giving up 216 yards per game in the air on average. Oregon needs to use this talented receiving group on a weekly basis. The running game was suspect last week, so the passing game has to be more prominent. I think this is definitely repeatable going forward.
Patton: Colorado has a conference-worst three interceptions and eight sacks on the year. Brown has a very easy path to a productive afternoon on Saturday, and if he plays down once again it will almost certainly lead to coach Cristobal’s wishes being ignored by a fan base who is tired of inconsistency under center. I suspect he’ll do enough to stave off the boos and give Oregon a comfortable win.
The College Football Playoff Ranking
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Question: This is a big-picture question. With the official CFP rankings coming out next week, a hot topic is Ohio State vs. Oregon. Both have the same record, and a path forwards to making it into the top-4, though Oregon has a head-to-head win. Who do you think should be ranked higher at this point in time?
Neel: I don’t have a big problem with Ohio State being ranked ahead of Oregon at this point in time, simply because they look like the far superior team when it comes to the eye test. However, I am curious to see how the committee views the Ducks’ loss to Stanford. Close game, poor officiating, and doing it all without OC Joe Moorhead? Nine times out of 10, Oregon is undefeated at this point in time, and we aren’t having this conversation. I wonder if the committee agrees. If Oregon can continue to win, I think they have to surpass tOSU at the end of the year due to the head-to-head win. If they don’t, we have some real problems in the selection process to talk about…
Smalley: Since the Oregon game, the Buckeyes have blown out four of their next five opponents with only Tulsa coming relatively close before losing 41-20. Those other opponents are Akron, Rutgers, Maryland, and Indiana … not exactly the powers of the Big Ten. But they did blow those teams out. Meanwhile, the Ducks have had close games against bad teams and lost to Stanford. For now, Ohio State will be and should be ranked higher. For now. Ohio State’s schedule gets a lot tougher, beginning this Saturday against Penn State. By the time the season ends, Oregon will most likely pass the Buckeyes in the rankings as long as the Ducks win out.
Patton: Oregon hasn’t done anything since that win to really earn a spot among the country’s top-10 teams, with last week’s win against UCLA their only other quality victory. Ohio State hasn’t done a ton either, by virtue of playing some bad Big Ten opponents, but for now, they should be on top. That could change easily though, especially if Oregon takes care of business for the rest of the year.
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Question: We unveiled our over/under picks exercise last week and it was highly successful. So let’s run it back. Here are some over/unders for this game against Colorado. What are your picks?
Anthony Brown Completion Percentage: Over/Under 67%
Neel: I don’t think AB passes much with the lead vs. Colorado, but he will have success when he does. Give me the over.
Anthony Brown Total yards (Passing + Rushing): Over/Under 315
Neel: The Ducks should be playing with a lead here, giving the ball to RBs much of the second half. I’ll go under.
Smalley: Over. Brown will hurt Colorado with his legs as well as his arm.
Patton: Under, think we will see a lot of Travis Dye and maybe even some Ty Thompson.
Travis Dye Total Touchdowns: Over/Under 2.5
Neel: 2.5 is a high number, and though we’ve seen him go over several times now, I think Dye sits at 2 and calls it good. Under.
Smalley: I say he scores twice, so under.
Patton: Under, I also think he scores twice.
Number of Players With a Catch: Over/Under 7.5
Neel: There’s an expectation that we see Ty Thompson in the second half, which could bring a new crop of QB-WR chemistry into the mix as backups get time on the field. Give me the over.
Smalley: Over. The game should be out of hand in the second half, allowing some freshmen to get in the game and catch a pass or two.
Patton: Over, I think it’ll be 10 or more once again.
Total Points for Colorado: Over/Under 10.5
Neel: Never count out garbage time. Had this number been higher, like 14.5, I would have said under, but I could see Colorado getting a late score to get up to 13 points or so. Over.
Smalley: It’s difficult to predict a team will score in single digits in today’s football. So I’ll say just over. They could get a late, meaningless score against the backups.
Patton: Under. This team is really, really bad at scoring.
Total Points for Oregon: Over/Under 35.5
Neel: After last week, I could definitely see this going over, but I don’t want to be too reactionary and expect all of Oregon’s offensive problems to be solved. I’ll take the under to be safe.
Smalley: Over. The Ducks break out.
Kayvon Thibodeaux Sacks: Over/Under 1.5
Neel: Give me the over. Assuming that Oregon doesn’t keep dropping him into pass coverage, Thibodeaux will be able to pin his ears back and try to get home.
Smalley: OVER. KT is on a mission.
Patton: Over. He’s going to have a big game.
Oregon Team Interceptions: Over/Under 1.5
Neel: I gotta go over here, as well. Colorado should be trailing most of the game, leading to a lot of passes. Oregon’s secondary is too good to not grab a couple of picks against a bad offense.
Smalley: Colorado has thrown just three interceptions all year, so I’ll say under.
Patton: Don’t think Colorado will throw enough for Oregon to pick them off twice.
Final Score Predictions
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Question: We’ve danced around it to this point, but let’s get down to brass tax. Who wins, and what is the final score?
Neel: I think the Ducks lead by 2-3 scores most of the game and put it away late. Give me Oregon 34-13.
Smalley: Oregon wins 48-13.
Patton: Oregon wins, 37-7.