Points of debate
Ben Schorzman: The Ducks are coming off a statement win against the Purdue Boilermakers. After the opening loss to No. 14 Boise State, critics were all over first-year coach Chip Kelly and the team and many said the season was over. But the 38-36 win was exactly what the team needed. It’s 1-1 and has its next three games at home, and although Oregon faces two ranked teams in the next two weeks, the mood is 180 degrees different than it was a week ago.
I think it’s going to be a knock-out game with turnovers deciding the final score. Utah and Oregon feature similar spread offenses that put up yards, and Utah’s running back Matt Asiata has shown that he is a tough back that can eat up yards. However, I think Oregon’s defense will hold the Utes just enough to win. The Ducks have forced six turnovers this season and are holding opponents to fewer than 175 rushing yards a game. Granted, Oregon’s offense still hasn’t been nearly as effective as it was in 2008, but the 356 yards the team put up against Purdue shows they are finally hitting their stride.
Bryan Chouinard: After blowing out the Utah State Aggies in the season opener, the Utes pulled out a close one against San Jose State in week two to extend the nation’s longest win streak to 16. Though the Utes won, they dropped in the rankings to 18th after their first away game of the season. Junior quarterback Terrance Cain now has two starts under his belt and is beginning to look more and more comfortable running the Utah offense.
Looking forward to the game this Saturday, Utah will look to spread the ball around early and take the air out of Autzen Stadium. Cain showed his ability to be a dual-threat quarterback last week, adding 76 rushing yards to his 248 passing yards in the win. With 640 yards of total offense in two games, as Cain goes, the Utah offense goes. The dynamic and balanced attack of the Utes will be too much for an Oregon defense that gave up 36 points to a mediocre Purdue team, while the Utah defense who is allowing only 121 rushing yards a game will lock down the Oregon offense who has only found the end zone on the ground this season.
BS: I would disagree with you that Purdue was a mediocre football team. It put up 52 points up on a Toledo team that then turned around and put up 54 points up on Colorado. Purdue’s offense was anything but average. However, the dynamic of Utah’s offense is a bit concerning for Oregon’s defense as the top three players on the offense have all started off hot this fall.
It is critical that the Ducks put pressure on Cain early if they want to have any success. Once he gets into a rhythm he’s been unstoppable. With two defensive ends in Will Tukuafu and Kenny Rowe (who is leading the Pac-10 in sacks with 2.5) Oregon has the ability to get to him.
BC: Other then Utah’s linebackers, the Ute offensive line is Utah’s most experienced unit, led by all-American candidate Zane Beadles at left tackle. Cain has only been sacked twice this season, which is attributed not only to his offensive line, but his speed as well. Another advantage the Ute offense has is that with each passing week, head coach Kyle Whittingham is opening the playbook more and more to his young QB, which means there will be aspects of Utah’s offensive scheme that the Ducks have not seen before.
Another position to keep your eye on is the Utes secondary. While safeties Robert Johnson and Joe Dale are veteran starters from the Sugar Bowl team from a year ago, corners R.J. Stanford and Brandon Burton are first-time starters this year, replacing NFL draftees Brice McCain and Sean Smith. The young duo struggled last week against SJSU so it will be interesting to see how they bounce back on their second road start.
BS: For Oregon, there are two players to watch. The first is Jeremiah Masoli. He’s coming off a game where he finally got some success running the ball and although he has yet to throw a touchdown, he made a few more accurate passes against Purdue. Look for him to finally settle down in the pocket and make a few throws.
The second guy to watch is tight end Ed Dickson. He only has three catches so far this season, but Chip Kelly says he wants him to get involved more in the offense. He’s flown under the radar in Oregon’s first two games and I see Dickson finally getting a few more catches for decent yardage and perhaps a touchdown.
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