Most of the pundits see Oregon rolling against the Cardinal, while I do not. I believe it will be a close, hard-fought game that the Ducks can prevail in, but it will not come easy at all. Part of my reasoning comes from the match-ups, but I also take into account which strategy will be used by the Mario Cristobal staff. Are they going to make this about “Trench Warfare” — a statement about Oregon’s toughness versus an opponent who has prided itself in controlling both lines of scrimmage over the years? Let’s discuss before, during and after the game, as we do every week …
The Key Question of the Day
Stanford’s fierce ground-and-pound offense has made it legendary over the years, and its battles with the Ducks have been epic at times. Yet this year, the Cardinal is starting two freshmen offensive tackles as replacements to veteran starters who are injured. Stanford had blocking issues last year on the Farm for the first time in the David Shaw era, and those injuries could be quite a handicap in trying to handle the experience and talent of Oregon’s defensive line.
Yet this will also be the first major test of the new Andy Avalos 3-3-5 defense, of which is certainly lighter up front than a traditional 3-4 or 4-3 defense. Can the STUD position hold up against Stanford’s massive linemen? Will Avalos platoon in more big bodies on key third-down-and-short scenarios? Remember how Nick Aliotti and other prior defensive coordinators at Oregon had to learn the importance of that the hard way when playing in Palo Alto? Will Coach Avalos have his Jumbo Packages ready? Will they work?
The Problem with Oregon’s Running Game …
A pattern is beginning emerge with Oregon’s running game concerning the predictability out of formations. If the Ducks are in a Shotgun, then it is most likely a Sweep or Outside Zone, as you rarely see an Inside Zone from the Ducks out of that common formation. Conversely, if Oregon is in the Pistol –– it will most likely be an A-Gap dive or a Stretch play. Both are easy to recognize in the early milliseconds of these plays, hence you see linebackers and safeties often blitzing or crashing the gaps at the first sign of these basic plays.
More disguise, misdirection or constraint plays need to run off of these base plays, as FishDuck.com analyst Mike West has been clamoring for. Please note the problem is not with the players, but with how they are being utilized. I fully expect Coach Shaw to have his defense primed to sniff out the favorite Oregon running plays to stuff and stuff them at the line of scrimmage. Winning the trenches in this game may not be about toughness, but in how smart Oregon game plans and manages the game with adjustments. That chess game is one I’m looking forward to watching closely …
Not the Advantage We Think …
Most Oregon fans are drooling at the prospect of passing on the Cardinal secondary after they got toasted at Central Florida last weekend. It makes sense; UCF moved with ease through the air, while Oregon’s Justin Herbert is on fire throwing the ball. Not so fast my friend!
My observation from the UCF game is how incredibly fast, athletic and savvy the Black Knight receivers were. The Cardinal defenders were right there contesting the passes, but these exceptional wide outs went up and often just took the ball away from the defense. It was smart, and it was not occasional; it happened often, and especially in the first half.
I do not see Oregon making many of those plays — if at all. The growth and progression of the Duck receiver core is just not there yet, hence I do not believe we can exploit the Cardinal secondary as UCF did. Will we move the ball and score through the air? Absolutely. But the predicted scores indicating a “romp,” from this factor, I believe are overblown, as the match-ups with the Ducks are different than what Stanford experienced in Florida.
What to Watch For: From FishDuck.com Analyst Mike West
This game is a tough one for the Oregon offense because Stanford is a mental challenge for the Ducks. In terms of the matchup, Oregon is by far superior on both sides of the ball.
However, the Ducks don’t really have a substantial running game to speak of, which Stanford will work to exploit. I’m looking for Herbert to run the ball more this game. It worked last year in Oregon’s RPO packages, and teams just don’t expect Herbert to run the ball.
I would also pay close attention to whom Arroyo chooses to target, and the area of the defense he’ll look to attack, when Oregon passes the ball this week. I suspect Jaylon Redd is going to be targeted frequently this game, as Arroyo will likely attack the inside linebackers and the safeties. Johnny Johnson III should also have a good game, as he is the fastest WR, and he should get open often.
I don’t understand the two-score point spread in this game, given the history of this match-up this decade. Stanford isn’t close to what it has been, but Shaw is a much better coach than Cristobal at the moment. I’d be very impressed if the Ducks spank the Cardinal, even though they are good enough to embarrass their arch rival this year.
(Charles again) I sense a close, hard-fought game where Oregon comes through, but does not massively outscore the Cardinal as many believe. Right or wrong — it is fun to discuss it all with you in comments!
“Oh how we love to watch our Beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
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