Ducks tight end Jacob Breeland (27) sprints past a defender for the first down. Oregon Ducks football takes on the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. on Sept. 21, 2019. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

Oregon Secondary vs. Colorado Receivers

The Ducks’ deep squad of defensive backs — perhaps the strongest position group on the defense — can expect a worthy opponent for the Buffs’ receivers on Friday. Colorado quarterback Steven Montez has been able to stretch the field through the air with the help of a strong group of receivers. Led by wideouts Tony Brown, K.D. Nixon, Laviska Shenault Jr. and Dimitri Stanley, the Buffs’ air raid will undoubtedly be the strongest group the Ducks have faced in the early season.

“You’re looking at a quarterback that’s got a ton of experience, who’s had success here before as well,” Head Coach Mario Cristobal said. “He’s complemented by some really, really good players and a really good scheme, so we know that we have to be at our best to play the type of game we want to play on Friday night.”

Tony Brown leads the team in receiving yards with 442 this season. Brown has stood out as a top target in the Colorado offense, tallying 29 total receptions for an average of 15.2 yards per catch and four touchdowns. 

Although Brown is the leader in receiving yards, Colorado receivers Nixon, Shenault and Stanley have all made a huge impact. The three have gained 302, 226 and 185 yards in the air, respectively. It is through the consistency among the receiving group that Montez has been ranked 18th nationally in passing yards. 

Shenault, who has dealt with injuries throughout the course of the 2019 season — and is listed as day-to-day in regards to Friday’s game — is known to be one of the best receivers in the country. Last year, he caught for a total of 1,011 yards, six touchdowns and an 11.8 yard-per-catch average. Shenault led the conference in receptions in 2018. 

With Colorado’s passing game firing on all cylinders despite Shenault’s injuries, the Oregon secondary will have to rise to the occasion.

Advantage: Oregon

Jacob Breeland vs. Mikial Onu

With the Oregon receiving corps left short-handed for the first four weeks of the 2019 season, Marcus Arroyo’s offense was forced to adjust. It was in this adjustment period that a new go-to target emerged: Jacob Breeland. 

Breeland, currently in his senior season, is peaking and playing like one of the nation’s best tight ends. With 352 total yards and five touchdowns in the first five weeks, he’s already within 25 yards of surpassing last year’s total, when he finished the season with 377 yards. 

The Colorado defense, with the help of senior safety Mikial Onu, hopes to shut down the Herbert-Breeland connection. Onu, an anchor in the Colorado secondary, could certainly stymie Breeland’s explosive plays. 

Onu, like Breeland, is having a breakout year. The senior has tallied four interceptions and two forced fumbles on the season so far, quadrupling his interception total from last year in the first five games. His season high came in the Buffs’ home opener against Colorado State, when Onu snagged two picks; his other interceptions came against Air Force and Arizona. Additionally, he forced fumbles against Nebraska and Air Force.

Although it’s hard to tell if Onu will be the one given the task of covering Breeland, it’s clear that he could very well carry out the objective, given his versatility.

Advantage: Oregon