As we speak, the Oregon Ducks have landed in Pullman, Washington where they will face the #25 Washington State Cougars (and a very rowdy crowd) this Saturday.
Martin Stadium, which sits directly in the middle of campus, is always a tough place to play, but making things even rowdier Saturday will be the fact that ESPN’s College GameDay will be making its first appearance in the Palouse.
Transportation and Beer Emergency?
The small town of Pullman is expecting so many visitors that it has literally declared a public transportation emergency and local radio hosts have suggested residents purchase beer in nearby towns to avoid being left empty-handed after the game.
After a bye week and all the hype surrounding this game, it’s safe to say the Cougs and their fans may be the most fired up as they have been in decades.
Meanwhile, Cristobal and Company are heading into the match up after a huge signature win against the Washington Huskies last Saturday in Eugene, propelling them to #12 in the AP poll. Despite losing a tough game against Stanford (then ranked #7) at home late in September, the Ducks ( 5-1) seem to be on an upswing under new Head Coach, Mario Cristobal’s leadership.
Upswing aside, the team knows they will have their hands full on Saturday.
Here’s the thing though, if any Oregon team from the post-Mariota era is ready for a rowdy road game, this one could be it. I’ve covered the team for a number of years now and have never seen a more focused and disciplined team.
And the proof is in the pudding.
In 2017, Oregon committed the most penalties in the Pac-12. So far this season, they have committed the fewest. More importantly, have committed very few personal foul penalties.
In addition to cleaning up the penalties, the team has become more physical and improved game by game in terms of playing all four quarters and finishing strong. In short, Cristobal and the team are walking the walk and will definitely be prepared.
“Our guys have seen a lot of football,” Cristobal said this week.
“They’ve played against a lot of stuff and we play against them in practice so overall I think they’re going to be prepared for the challenge.”
Preparedness aside, this will be the Ducks toughest road game of the season and they will need to be dialed in on both sides of the ball to take home the win.
Coming into the game, Oregon and Washington State lead the Pac-12 in scoring offense.
Even in a tough environment, the Oregon offense, with some of the top players in the country, is sure to grab it’s points (The Oregon State Beavers, who have yet to win a conference game this season, were able to put up 37 points against them).
After just 6 games, quarterback Justin Herbert is widely expected to be the first quarterback drafted into the NFL should he decide to declare after this season. Meanwhile, freshman running back, CJ Verdell has rushed for at least 100 yards in 4 out of Oregon’s first 6 games and scored And then there’s Herbert’s go-to receiver, Dillon Mitchell, who happens to currently lead the nation in passing yards per game (in conference play).
The bigger question for the Ducks may be whether or not its defense is ready.
As critical as many, myself included, have been of the Oregon defense, it absolutely deserve a ton of credit. Under Defensive Coordinator, Jim Leavitt, the young group continues to get better and better. Not only has the defensive line been more physical than ever, the rush defense has handled some of the toughest running backs in the Pac-12, including Stanford’s Bryce Love and Washington’s Myles Gaskin.
And then there’s the secondary, who will face a very tough passing game in Pullman with Head Coach Mike Leach’s well-known “air raid” offense.
So far this season, the Oregon secondary leads the Pac-12 with 9 interceptions. And although they’ve certainly given up some big yardage, they’ve also improved tremendously. Case in point? Last week, they managed to hold Washington’s top two receivers to just 4 total catches.
Look for the Cougars to exploit Oregon’s young secondary and grabbing some big chunks of yardage. That said, all those passes could mean more opportunities for the Ducks to flip the scrip and grab some momentum-changing turnovers.
Get ready for a fun night, Oregon fans. This one’s going to get loud and could again come down to the wire.
If it does, Cristobal and this flock of Ducks have proven they can definitely handle it.
What do you think? Are the Ducks ready for this one? Tweet me with your thoughts at @UOgridirongirl .