Chances are, Oregon Football and its fans won’t know how good the team is until Stanford comes to town on September 22nd.
With the Bowling Green, Portland State and San Jose State line up, Oregon’s non-conference schedule this season may be one of the least challenging in recent history. To be fair, Oregon was initially slated to play Texas A& M this week until Texas A& M backed out of the deal in 2014, leaving Oregon scrambling to find a replacement.
So here we are. The bad news is Oregon’s non-conference game schedule is less-than-exciting . The good news is, it wasn’t entirely their fault. And, at the very least, fans can expect a whole lot of players to get reps, while the team works out its early season kinks.
Despite the obvious mismatch of a game last weekend against Bowling Green, there were plenty of takeaways for the team to address. Although there were several positives (ie: a major improvement in the number of penalties), there were also plenty of things to clean up moving forward. Game number two should give Mario and Co. a leisurely opportunity to do so.
Here are 5 “kinks” the Ducks will look to work out against Portland State:
In all fairness, it’s probably hard to get “juiced” when facing such a mismatched opponent. That said, every game matters and nothing can be taken for granted in college football- something the Ducks learned early last Saturday against Bowling Green. Despite coming wining by a landslide in the end, the Ducks did end up having to play from behind (10-0) in the first quarter.
And, although it was encouraging to see the Ducks fight back and win, this kind of scenario won’t fly (no pun intended) in Pac-12 play.
The coaching staff focused on addressing the team’s energy this week. If all went well, look for signs of improvement and look for the Ducks to come out swinging immediately. The “Juice” may have 50% less sugar but at this point, even that would be ok.
2. Interception Opportunities
Not necessarily a “kink” to work out, but worth mentioning. . .
To say Portland State’s offense is young would be understatement. The Viking’s depth chart headed into this game includes six freshman and seven sophomores.
Look for Oregon’s talented secondary, especially CB Ugochukwu Amadi, to exploit PSU in the trenches with some interceptions. LB Troy Dye may even get in the mix again. Apparently he’s been asking Coach Cristobal to let him play tight end once in a while. Could be a joke; who knows? Either way, we think you are just fine where you are, Troy.
3. Back-Up Quarterback
By far, one of the biggest questions left to be answered heading into Pac-12 play is who will back up QB Justin Herbert? Will Cristobal, go with experience (Braxton Burmeister) or give the freshman, Tyler Shough the nod?
Last week, Burmeister was put in the game twice, just briefly. Things didn’t go well the first go ‘round (though he wasn’t given much of a chance), and Herbert was brought back in.
It will be interesting to see how Cristobal and Offensive Coordinator, Marcus Arroyo, handle the quarterback rotation against Portland State.
Personally, I’m hoping to see Shough get in there for a while.
4. Receiver/TE Chemistry
Justin Herbert is one of the best (if not the best) college football quarterbacks in the country but he needs some solid receivers and tight ends to throw to. The Oregon offense has plenty of talented players but chemistry is still be worked on, so it seems. Time can only help but hopefully at least a couple consistent, go-to-guys will emerge over the next couple of weeks.
Look for WR Dillon Mitchell, WR Jalon Redd to lead the competition. Also look for TE Jacob Breeland, who will be starting in place of an injured Cam McCormick, to make a solid impact in the coming weeks.
5. Tony Brooks-James & The Backfield
Heading into the season, many expected (and continue to expect) Tony Brooks-James to carry most of the load in the backfield. Against Bowling Green, however, TBJ was fairly quiet.
Brooks-James did have a career-long 53 yard reception, but just 5 carries for 27 yards on the ground.
Looks for TBJ to do bigger this against Portland State. Although he speaks highly of his fellow backs, he is also a competitor and will surely be looking to solidify himself as a front runner of the multi-headed beast in Oregon backfield.
All in all, the game will likely be a major blowout. After all, Portland State did lose to Nevada in its season opener (72-19). Regardless, Oregon football is back and that’s really all that matters right?