The Colorado Buffaloes will come sputtering into Eugene this weekend with a 2-5 record in tow.
Oregon and Colorado did not meet last year. The scheduled matchup was canceled when the Ducks replaced the Washington Huskies in the Pac-12 championship game, defeating USC.
The Ducks (6-1) will look to win their third in a row Saturday and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
When Oregon has the ball
The Ducks are coming off of a week in which they produced 419 yards of offense, going 7 of 9 on third down. In the absence of tailback CJ Verdell, Travis Dye shouldered the running load for the Ducks. Last week he set an NCAA record with four touchdowns on four consecutive touches.
Polarizing quarterback Anthony Brown has seen an increase in production, throwing the ball a season-high 39 times last week. Brown lacks the downfield throwing arm head coach Mario Cristobal once had in Justin Herbert, but he’s shown the ability to drive the field, making sound decisions in offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s run pass option offense.
The defensive side of the ball is not the reason Colorado is second to last in the Pac-12. All-American senior linebacker Nate Landman anchors the Colorado defense. Two years ago he had 14 tackles against the Ducks. This year he leads the third best scoring defense in the Pac-12, giving up 20.7 points per game.
“He’s a special player,” Cristobal said. “It's hard to find guys who diagnose plays that quickly… when he gets there you feel it too.”
When Colorado has the ball
Colorado has the second-lowest scoring offense in the Pac-12. Averaging 15.1 points per game and 13.7 first downs per game, the Buffaloes have struggled to move the field and put points on the board.
Freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis leads the only Pac-12 offense yet to amass 1,000 yards through the air this season. In lieu of a passing offense, the Buffaloes rely heavily on their backfield to run the ball.
Oregon’s defense in coordinator Tim DeRuyter’s unit has been beat up all year, but has been constantly improving. Last week, after giving up 14 first-quarter points to UCLA, DeRuyter’s “bend don’t break” defense held the Bruins to 3 points in the second and third quarters before costly turnovers gave the Bruins field position to add 14 points in the fourth.
Each week, the Ducks slowly turn up pressure throughout the game. This week, given Colorado’s offensive pitfalls in the passing game, Oregon’s defense, led by hard hitters Kayvon Thibodeaux and Noah Sewell, can afford to be more aggressive as they hope to shut down Colorado’s running attack.
The Ducks have much to clean up after an erroneous performance on special teams last week.
Oregon suffered two unforced errors: junior kicker Camden Lewis missed a PAT, his first unsuccessful attempt of the season.
Oregon special teams also suffered its first turnover of the season, as Tom Snee’s punt was blocked.
In an ongoing controversy, many Oregon fans have called for the starting of freshman phenom quarterback Ty Thompson over the sometimes sporadic Brown. Two weeks ago at Autzen Stadium, cheers of “We want Ty” echoed after multiple unsuccessful Oregon drives. This week, pay attention to the demeanor of the home crowd in reaction to their quarterback against a seemingly inferior opponent.