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SCOUTING THE OPPOSITION – Oregon

Note … Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir ForceArizona StateArizona

2019 Game Six – Colorado at Oregon, Friday, October 11th, 8:00 p.m., MT, FS1

Related … “Oregon aiming for return to elite status” … from the Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera … For a lot of programs, three bowls in four years and a nine-win season a year ago would constitute a pretty good run of success.

For Oregon, pretty good just isn’t good enough.

From 2008-14, the Ducks won 10-plus games every year and twice played for a national title. In the four years since, they are 29-22, with no 10-win seasons and three head coaches.

This month, BuffZone.com is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on Oregon, which will host the Buffaloes on Oct. 11 in Eugene, Ore.

The last time the Buffs saw Oregon, the Ducks were closing in on their low point. In fact, CU’s stunning 41-38 victory in Eugene on Sept. 24, 2016 – a victory that catapulted CU to a resurgent season – may have been the first signal around the country that Oregon was no longer the powerhouse it once was. Oregon finished 4-8 that season.

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Last game between Colorado and Oregon – September 24, 2016

… Colorado 41, Oregon 38 … 

Game Story … Red-shirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut, leading Colorado to a 41-38 victory over Oregon. Montez also ran for 135 yards and a score as the Buffs raced out to leads of 23-7 and 33-17 before needing an Ahkello Witherspoon interception in the end zone with 48 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.

Devin Ross had 153 yards and a touchdown receiving, with the Buffs rolling to 593 total yards of total offense overall. The victory was the first for the Buffs over the Ducks since joining the Pac-12, and the first overall since defeating Oregon in the 1998 Aloha Bowl.

“I would say this is a signature win,” said MacIntyre, whose team had been 0-5 against the Ducks since joining the league. “These kids believe they can beat anybody.”

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… Essay for the game … “Halfway There” … can be found here

2018 Oregon results – 9-4 (5-4 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 Oregon National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 25th (2nd in the Pac-12) … 34.8 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 54th … 179.4 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 50th … 247.8 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 41st … 427.2 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 Oregon National Rankings (Defense) … under former CU defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt

— Scoring – 48th … 25.4 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 43rd … 144.3 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 82nd … 241.6 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 55th … 385.9 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

Oregon storylines … 

– Christmas came a day late for Oregon, but Duck fans didn’t mind … 

On December 26th, the day after Christmas (or Boxing Day for some of you), Oregon got the best present of any Pac-12 team. It was on that day that quarterback Justin Herbert announced that he was foregoing the 2019 NFL Draft and the millions of dollars which would have come with a likely top ten selection.

“The University of Oregon has been a special place for me as long as I can remember,” Herbert said in the statement. “Words will never be able to express my feelings of gratitude toward the people that have built and maintain our program. What I have come to realize, though, is nothing could pull me away from the opportunities we have in front of us.”

Good news for Oregon fans; bad news for the rest of the conference.

At the end of the day, as an anonymous opposing coach put it: “They’re going to go as far as Justin Herbert will take them. Getting him back, obviously it’s huge, but it helps in a lot of different ways. They’re going to be really strong throwing the football, but they’ve brought in a lot of young talent on office that they can build around an experienced quarterback.”

On December 26th, Oregon went from a Pac-12 title contender to a College Football Playoff contender.

Players make plays

The last time Oregon took the field, it was against Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl. Despite having Justin Herbert at quarterback and school-record setting Dillon Mitchell at wide receiver (1,184 yards in 2018), the Ducks scored only seven points.

The next time Oregon takes the field, against Auburn on August 31st, Dillon Mitchell will be working towards his debut as a Minnesota Viking. But, since Justin Herbert decided to come back for his senior season, the Ducks are still being nationally ranked in all of the preseason magazines.

While Justin Herbert is the key to Oregon’s chances of success this fall, the fact is that if the Ducks are to make it to the College Football Playoff, it will be due to a secret weapon … the offensive line. The line returns four senior starters, with over 150 career starts (CU, unless you count senior transfer Arlington Hambright’s starts at Oklahoma State, won’t reach a third of that total). The fifth starter? Not exactly a slouch. Sophomore Penel Sewell, is already considered by Athlon to be first-team All-Pac-12 quality. Taking advantage of that line (and keeping the pressure of Herbert) will be running backs CJ Verdell (1,018 rushing yards in 2018) and Travis Dye (739).

The Achilles heel of the offense, as hard as it may be to believe, is the receiving corps. Graduate transfer (Penn State) Juwan Johnson and true freshmen Mycah Pittman enrolled for spring practices, and are expected to bolster production, which was – even with Dillon Mitchell – no better than 50th in the nation last season.

Under Jim Leavitt, the Oregon defense improved in 2018 … but not as much as perhaps was expected. Inside linebacker Troy Dye had an impressive 115 tackles last season … but that was 50 more than any other player on the team. Andy Avalos is the new defensive coordinator, and will have six returning starters with which to work. Three junior stars are being counted on to shore up the defense – nose tackle Jordan Scott, and two third-year starters at cornerback in Thomas Graham, Jr. and Deommodore Lenior.

How the Buffs fit into the Ducks’ 2019 schedule

The (skeptical) eyes of the college football world will be on Arlington, Texas, on August 31st, when Oregon takes on Auburn. If the Ducks lose to the Tigers, Oregon, and along with it the Pac-12, will fade from the national consciousness.

If the Ducks defeat the Tigers, however, Oregon will be looking at not only competing for the Pac-12 title, but for the College Football Playoff.

At least that’s the way it looks this summer.

Whether or not Oregon defeats Auburn, the Ducks will look to easily win their remaining two non-conference games, with Nevada and Montana coming to Autzen Stadium for paychecks.

Before facing Colorado, the Ducks will take on the Bay area schools, with games against Stanford (on the road) and Cal (at home). Oregon will be favored in both games, but neither will be easy.

While CU represents Game Six on Oregon’s schedule, it is Game Seven that Duck fans are pointing towards. Eight days after taking on CU on a Friday night at home, Oregon will travel to Seattle to take on rival Washington.

Oregon could be 5-0 and ranked in the top ten when CU heads off to Eugene, or 3-2 and looking to jump start an already disappointing start to the 2019 campaign.

Either way, Oregon – or at least its fans – will be looking at the CU game as a Friday night appetizer, anticipating the main course the following weekend against hated Washington.

Either way, Colorado – and its fans – will be hoping the Duck players are looking past the Buffs … and CU will repeat its 2016 upset of Oregon.

Bottom Line

This just in … There aren’t any national prognosticators who are picking Colorado to defeat Oregon.

Lindy’s has Oregon as the No. 10 team in the nation; Colorado is in at No. 73.

Athlon has the Ducks as the No. 15 team in the country; Colorado checks in at No. 69.

There are other examples – many other examples – but you get the idea.

So, what chance do the Buffs have against the Ducks on October 11th?

Well …

  • It doesn’t hurt that the game is on a Friday night, which will reduce the crowd coming down from Portland for the game, and help to amp up the visiting Buffs, who don’t get as many chances to impress a national television audience as do the Ducks;
  • It doesn’t hurt that Oregon’s Game-of-the-Year will be played the following week, when the Ducks travel to Seattle to take on Washington, in a game which will likely decide the Pac-12 North’s representative in the conference title game; and
  • It doesn’t hurt that the last time Colorado played Oregon, the Buffs won, in Eugene, in the starting debut for Steven Montez, who was subbing for an injured Sefo Liufau. Most of the current team wasn’t on the roster the last time the two teams played, but the seniors (and, hopefully, the senior leadership) will remember that game.

Does that add up to a Colorado victory in October?

The preseason overhead drone view of the two programs would say no.

But we don’t know what the shape of the Oregon program will be by Game Six. A loss to Auburn in the opener may take the Ducks out of College Football Playoff discussions, and a loss to Stanford or Cal before the CU game could put the Ducks behind the eight ball in even trying to win their own division.

Plus, the nation (or even the Buff Nation, for that matter) hasn’t seen what #RELENTLESS will translate into on the field of play.

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