Oregon is right where most fans had likely hoped they would be at this point in the season. At 7-0 without really having been challenged the Ducks are in line for a Pac-12 Title and possible title game berth. Is there any disappointment at all with how the season has gone so far for Ducks fans? Is there a fear starting to creep in with Florida and Kansas State currently sitting above Oregon in the BCS Standings?
Oh, there is absolutely a fair bit of panic. You guys remember 2001 as much as we do. Although many pundits insist Oregon would be fine if they win out and remain at #2 in the human polls, many Oregon fans do not trust the process given that they've been burned before. The irony of the whole situation is that Kansas State backed out of a home and home with Oregon that was supposed to take place this season, leaving the Ducks in scramble mode and forced to schedule Arkansas State. So the Wildcats are benefiting from chickening out.
Mariota has been very good. He has more physical tools than Darron--a better arm, more fluid throwing motion, and far better wheels. But Darron is so underappreciated by the Oregon fanbase. He didn't have the physical tools that Mariota does, but he pretty much never made a bad decision. Mariota is a really good quarterback. Someday, he could be the best quarterback we've ever had. But he also makes freshman mistakes and bad decisions at time. At this stage in his career, he's no Darron Thomas, though it may not be long until reaches and surpasses that point.
That was always the plan. Kenjon Barner is the every down back. De'Anthony Thomas is explosive, if he were an every down back, poor kid would get broken in half. He's not a guy you ask to run between the tackles. But get him in space and he's electric. And lets not pretend that Barner is some bum. Guy's going to finish as the second leading rusher in Oregon history despite spending three years as a backup. And he's pretty electric himself.
Who are the stand-outs on this increasingly fantastic defensive unit? What will the return of Issac Remington mean for this defense?
I could go on and on about the defense. The problem is that everybody is so good that there really aren't any standouts. The Ducks rank 3rd in the nation in S&P+ (http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/ncaadef2012), which measures a defense throwing out garbage time and adjusting for opponent. Oregon has two lockdown corners in Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Avery Patterson stepped in at safety when John Boyett, an All-American candidate, got injured and has been better. Wade Keliikipi is one of the best defensive tackles in the conference and must be blocked by two guys. Dion Jordan will be a first round draft pick. And MLB Michael Clay is the glue that ties it all together. A plus for Colorado is that Rose Bowl MVP Kiko Alonso will miss the game with a wrist injury.
As for Remington, he is a good player who brings depth to the defensive line. But Oregon goes nine deep at that position, and it wasn't exactly a problem that he wasn't playing against Arizona State. He's really good, but Oregon doesn't often see big drops offs when going to backups.
If you were Buffaloes head coach Jon Embree how would you try and attack the Oregon defense?
Its hard to say because nobody has been successful attacking the defense this season. This defense is so fast that you cannot get to the edges. You have to try to win the line of scrimmage and force Oregon to commit to the box, then start throwing over the top. This was how USC beat Oregon at Autzen last season. The problem is that Colorado has an awful offensive line and won't be able to do it.
We certainly have no illusions of the Buffs pulling off the road upset in this game, but do you think Colorado will cover that 46-point spread?
Probably, mainly because Oregon takes the foot off the gas and puts the backups in really quickly. Oregon had 43 points with ten minutes to go in the second quarter against Arizona State, and didn't score again. I'd imagine this one will be similar. Get a big early lead, then put in the backups, run clock, and get ready for SC. Oregon doesn't cover many spreads because other teams score garbage time touchdowns against Oregon's third string.