Eugene, OR- Coach Helfrich and Company have arrived on the East Coast and should be snuggled in between the crisp, white hotel sheets by now. Let’s hope they’re comfy. The Ducks have traveled nearly 3,000 miles across the country to face the Virgina Cavaliers in Charlottesville, VA on a national stage. ABC will air the game at 12:30pm PT and for those who believe in the “East Coast” bias, this game is highly anticipated. Many on the West Coast are chomping at the bit to watch Mariota and DAT (both early Heisman contenders) display their talent in front of a Coast who doesn’t always get, or chose to, watch them closely. It will also give the entire team a chance to show Poll Voters why they should vote for Oregon. The opponent may not be too intimidating, but the stage is. Time to get to work.
Tomorrow’s game should teach Duck fans quite a bit about this year’s team. Unlike last week, there will be several things to keep pay attention to and keep you awake. By the way, real fans don’t take naps on Saturdays between September and January. Ever.
In case you were wondering, here are the top 5 things I’ll be paying attention to tomorrow:
1. How Will The Ducks Handle The Road Test?
Oregon will almost certainly face a tougher opponent this season but no other opponent will live 3,000 miles away in a 3 hour-ahead time zone. This will mark the furthest East the Ducks have played since 1970! Have you ever flown the East Coast? It has a tendency to throw people off a little. That factor alone will likely be a hurdle for our flock of Ducks. Last week, despite playing at home, the team admitted to being a little “sluggish” in the 2nd and 3rd Quarter before finishing strong. Again, let’s hope the hotel beds in VIRGINIA are comfy.
2. Has Marcus Mariota Worked out His Jitter’s?
Last week, Mariota attributed a few bad passes thrown early to being a little “juiced”. He told us he was able to settle down, but there were some jitters to work out. Obviously, some of that is to be expected, but if if too many jitters show up and Virginia takes advantage and scores early, it could spell a little trouble for Oregon. Mariota recently told me his pre-game prep includes listening to Hawaiian music. I trust he brought that along. Since I’m the self-declared Mariota For Heisman President, I’m going to go ahead and predict he’ll be just fine.
3. What will DAT do?
This will be the ongoing “thing to watch” each game this season. De’Anthony Thomas is one of the most versatile players in College football and watching what he can do is captivating. DAT is listed as running back, but often plays at Slot Receiver. If that weren’t enough, he also starts as a Kick Off Returner on Special Teams. It’s clear the coaching staff just wants the ball in his hands. Hmmm…I wonder why? If I may, I’d like to predict that DAT will play quite a bit at slot tomorrow, making room for Byron Marshall to carry much of the RB load. I also predict he’ll run back at least one Kick Off for a touchdown- just to pad his Heisman resume.
4. Is Thomas Tyner Ready?
This Spring Oregon landed one of the top recruits in the country- home-grown Running Back, Thomas Tyner. Since his commitment to Oregon, it’s been widely anticipated he would start playing immediately. Unfortunately, Tyner was slightly injured during fall camp and did not play in the season opener. It’s also likely the coaching staff wanted more time to acclimate Tyner to the Oregon system. Nonetheless, Tyner will likely make his debut tomorrow, revealing just how ready he is to be a play-maker. No pressure Tyner, no pressure.
5. Can Oregon’s Offensive Line protect Mariota?
By far, the most intense match up will be the highly touted Virginia Defensive Line (front 4) against Oregon’s Offensive Line. As is usually the case, it will be Oregon’s speed vs. Power and Size. For example, Virginia’s Defensive Tackle, Brent Urban stands 6’7″ and weighs in at almost 300 lbs. Compare this to his Oregon counterpart, weighing in at about 240 and standing just 5’9″. This is where I get a little nervous. Think Auburn, LSU and Stanford. Here’s one little tidbit though- Oregon’s Mana Greig, Mariota’s high school teammate and buddy, will be part of that crew trying to protect him. I don’t know about you, but I’d do almost anything to protect one of my friends.
1. Oregon has won it’s last 15 road games, the longest streak in the country.
2. Virginia is predicted to finish next to last in it’s conference and returns just 8 seniors.