Oregon wins big. Colorado isn’t good. It is utterly ludricrous to break this game down in detail and retweet an essay on it four times during the day. Here’s the simple truth:
Oregon is going to win this game by forty, and they could win it by 50. It only depends on when Chip takes his foot off the gas.
The Ducks have a few key injuries, notably LaMichael James and Darron Thomas. Both might even play, although the Ducks could easily win without them. The Buffs are down their leading tackler, leading receiver and leading rusher, and have key injuries all over the roster. As many as nine defensive starters could miss the game. Colt Lyerla appears completely out for the second week in a row, leaving the Ducks painfully thin at tight end.
In Jon Embree Colorado has hired the right coach, a Colorado man with a good football background who’s instilling a new toughness and competitiveness in the program. But he is in the first painful few months of a four-year rebuilding job. Dan Hawkins unfortunate fall from hot young coach to embattled incompetent shredded the one-proud program. There are depth issues, injury woes, and the inevitable adjustments of a new system and not enough talent on the campus. Colorado hasn’t won many recruiting battles in the last couple of years. They’re adjusting to a new league and the adjustment has been incredible painful; their only win of the season has been to in-state rival Colorado State, making them 1-6 overall, 0-3 in the conference.
The dropoff for Colorado, having to go to their bench to replace star players, is dramatically greater than what Oregon loses turning the offense over to Bryan Bennett, Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas if necessary. The Buffaloes are in a position like the Ducks in the bad old days: they can be competitive until the starters go out, but when that inevitably happens they are hopelessly outgunned, bringing a squirt gun to a fist fight. The best they can do is hope to annoy their guests for a while.
The Ducks have overwhelming advantages in speed, depth, talent and scheme. The Ducks need to take care of business and get home healthy. No amount of detail can make a game like this more interesting. The best to hope for is sharp execution and continued player development for the crucial games in November that will determine the PAC-12 North title and the representative in the conference championship game.
The final score is academic, although the Ducks won’t approach it that way. This game is the ultimate test of Chip Kelly’s “faceless opponent” approach to preparation. And still, there are some very interesting questions for Oregon fans as they tune in on Fox Sports this week:
Will Duck fans witness the continuing emergence of Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas as big threats in the Oregon offense? How much, if any, will injured stars Darron Thomas and LaMichael James play?
Can the Oregon downfield passing game continue its improved execution?.
Is Bryan Bennett the real deal and ready as a number two quarterback. He came in against ASU and led four scoring drives and sparked the offense with the team down 24-21, taking command of a game with his team a little shellshocked after a potentially devastating injury to one of its stars. But this time he’s had a week to think about it. Will he show the same poise and command? Another question is, does the coaching staff have him running so freely, knowing a true freshman awaits on the bench?
Will Oregon’s defense assert itself in this game and dominate? Does the unit continue to jell and develop the depth it’ll need to prevail for the conference title? Is Dion Jordan okay, and will he and DeWitt Stuckey continue to spearhead the pass rush? Last week the secondary did a fabulous job of rallying to the ball and contesting every pass, with some fierce hitting. With great passing attacks ahead in the coming weeks, how does the defense respond to the challenge of shutting down an inferior opponent, with an eye to preparing for far more difficult opponents over the next five weeks?