If “Sources” are correct, Oregon’s match up against the Arizona Wildcats may have just gotten a lot more interesting.
All signs, including the Vegas betting line, seem to indicate QB Justin Herbert will return to the Autzen gridiron against Arizona after missing 5 games this season following a collarbone fracture against Cal on September 30th.
Since that time, true freshman QB Braxton Burmeister has done his best to lead the way, but inexperience has won out and the Ducks have lost 4 out of the 5 games Herbert missed.
It may seem like a distant memory, but in the first couple games of the season, Herbert seemed to have the Ducks rolling. Sure, the schedule was a bit lighter then but it seemed Taggart and Co. had indeed brought his “juice” to the program.
Looking back, Herbert was clearly a big part of that.
Prior to his injury, Herbert was one of the leading quarterbacks in the country and Oregon was passing an average of 9.4 yards per attempt. With Herbert sidelined, the Ducks have averaged just 4.3.
Obviously, Herbert may have to shake off a little rust but at this point he is an obvious game changer and Ducks fans should be sleeping a bit more soundly the eve before the match-up. (and Phil Knight) to swallow but considering where things were a year ago, one should feel some optimism about the future. Most consider Oregon’s final game against Oregon State a gimme game but as any good Oregonian knows, all bets are off when it comes to the Civil War. That makes a victory against Arizona all the more important.
What to Expect
Arizona enters the game 7-3 and 5-2 in the Pac-12 with their only conference losses coming against Utah (who the Ducks beat 41-20 with Burmeister starting) and USC. They are led by Sophomore QB, Khalil who has quickly taken the college football scene by storm and landed himself in this year’s Heisman Trophy conversation.
Tate has led the Wildcats to victory in 5 of their last 6 games and has set records and gathered accolades along the way. Tate is a true duel-threat quarterback who is makes Arizona’s current run game very lethal. Make no mistake, Arizona’s offense will do some damage against the Ducks. That doesn’t mean they can’t be stopped.
Watch for Oregon Linebackers, Jalen Jelks and Troy Dye to make a big splash. They (and the rest of Oregon’s defense) will have their hands full but Jelks and Dye are two play-makers who could be up for the challenge. The Ducks will desperately need both of them to play their best if the Ducks are to have a chance.
In contrast to Arizona, Oregon’s record isn’t great entering this game. With Herbert’s return to the field, however, the Wildcats shouldn’t put too much stock into that. For the past several games, Oregon’s offense has been very one-dimensional and predictable, making it difficult for the Ducks to get into an up-tempo rhythm where they normally thrive. With Herbert back in the mix, Oregon’s passing game will get a huge lift which should get the offense rolling again, hopefully giving the defense a bit more time on the sideline.
Speaking of defense, Arizona’s weak link maybe its pass defense. They currently rank dead last in the conference for passing yards allowed, despite logging 16 interceptions this season (4th most in the country).
Watch for Oregon’s receivers, especially one of Herbert’s favorite targets, Charles Nelson, to finally get some air mail after a several-week touchdown dry spell.
Get ready Ducks fans, this game should be a good one! Something tells me someone is going to get a nice welcome.
Ps. Don’t forget the gloves, beanies, flannel underwear, sweatshirts, jackets, blankets and hand-warmers. It’s going to be a cold one!