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Opponent preview: yeah, Oregon is pretty good

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OBNUG’s game previews are written by reader-turned-contributor Stephen Grettenberg. Because not every article should contain pinings for Marty Tadman.

Boise State vs. Oregon


Have you noticed all the love the Mountain West Conference is getting? If Boise state hopes to get in a good bowl and move up in the polls, this game is massive. Oregon is more than the flashy trashy Nike uniforms, and Autzen stadium is one of the toughest home fields in college football. This should easily be the best team Boise state will face in the regular season.

Oregon’s QB Situation:


The number of QBs Oregon has lost over the last year or so is becoming a running joke or curse. Had Dennis Dixon not gone down last year, Oregon probably would have been in the national championship game.

This year Nate Costa went down just before the season, and starter Justin Roper followed. It would be easy to assume that means the Oregon QBs are sitting ducks, or that they might be running out. Neither is true.

I checked out Oregon’s football site, www.goducks.com. They interviewed coach Mike Bellotti and commented on the QB situation as follows:

Both sophomore transfer Jeremiah Masoli and true freshman Chris Harper played in Oregon’s first two games while Harper has played in all three contests this season. Harper ranks as the Ducks’ third-leading rusher and was at the helm for the winning touchdown drive in overtime in last week’s win in West Lafayette, Ind. He has run for 102 yards and two touchdowns in three appearances while completing four of six passes for 40 yards and one score.

Masoli has completed 16 of 28 passes for 193 yards and two TDs while running for 8 yards on seven attempts. He quarterback City College of San Francisco to the state junior college championship last fall in his first season there.
However Bellotti stated that probably the most improved among the quarterback newcomers since the start of fall practice was true freshman Darron Thomas, whom Oregon had set its eyes on redshirting this season but would begin taking more snaps with the offense along with Masoli and Harper. Bellotti said that the Houston, Texas-standout’s "maturity and development were pleasing to see and that he was getting better and better."

While refusing to hint on which of the two remaining quarterbacks who have already played this year may have the edge in earning their first major college start, Bellotti said that both would play against Boise State."

I expect Oregon to play Masoli the most this week. I gained considerable respect for his skills when I watched him play live in San Francisco. He is a strong armed passer with good running skills, a nose for the goal line, and a knack for scrambling. Harper is almost a running back as much as a quarterback and may remind Boise State of Anthony Turner or Freddie Barnes from Bowling Green.

Whoever lines up at QB, we could see at least two quarterbacks. They have the potential to be dangerous as passers, and it would be a mistake to overly favor the run defense, especially with Masoli behind center. Not the best news, given that Oregon has the #4 rated run offense in the country right now.

I do wonder if all the injuries might just have the remaining quarterbacks a bit gun shy. I’d like to see the Boise State defensive ends see if they can rattle them and get a few sacks. I’d look for Mike T. Williams to have a big game if Boise State is to win. A lot has been made of the other end getting the starting nod this week, Jarrel Root – it is time for him to shine, and there is no bigger game for Boise State in the regular season.

This might be the best time of the year to catch Oregon, before their new quarterbacks get up to speed. If USC goes to the championship game, I expect Oregon to play in the Rose Bowl, even if they are upset by Boise State.

Oregon on Offense:


Oregon has great running backs and a punishing line to open up holes for them. LeGarrette Blount and Jeremiah Johnson traded runs last week, and they were key in a come-from-behind win for Oregon at Purdue. Before the Purdue game, Oregon had the nation’s top offense.

Run defense has not been Boise State’s strong point for a while. The linebackers need to step up for this game, especially Dallas Dobbs who is starting this week in the middle. Hopefully Jeron Johnson’s passion at safety can fire the "D" up at Oregon like he has all season with some big hits.

In his interview this week, Chris Peterson emphasized the speed of Oregon – and they are fast. But they are also very physical, and the battle for the trenches will be tough. The WAC competition simply does not have the kind of athletes Oregon will bring to the war zone, and they will start the game trying to see if they can simply shove the defensive front off the ball. If they can, expect to see them pound it up the middle all game. This is one of the scariest offenses in the country.

Oregon on Defense:


In his first major test last week, Kellen Moore came out strong in the first half. To stand a chance against this fast solid defense, that kind of rhythm and fast start is critical. Boise State can’t afford to fall behind, or the Oregon defense will make a beeline for the quarterback on every play. Patrick Chung, the second team All-American safety, will be looking for both picks and sacks against Kellen Moore. The corners are fast, rugged bump and run corners, and the Ducks are deep enough at the position to sub them out often. Sometimes the Oregon defense is fast enough and plays aggressively enough that it can over-pursue or be out of position from a disciplined, fast-reacting ball control game. This is the game that will truly test Moore’s mettle under fire. Oregon is third in the nation in sacks, and Nick Reed and Will Tukuafu both got key sacks that helped turn around the Purdue game last week.

Purdue’s second play from scrimmage last week was an 80 yard touchdown. Later in the game Oregon’s run defense looked a lot more solid. A solid game from Ian Johnson and the other Boise State running backs is needed to have much of a chance in this game. Oregon’s best defensive players are in the secondary, but they pack a lot of bulk and muscle along the line, backed with speedy linebackers. I would not count on a lot of freebies. Still, this defense can be beaten – and it has to be, because Oregon will score.

Oregon and Special Teams:


Ian Johnson can’t hit the kicker! Boise State is used to having an advantage here with Kyle Brotzman, but Oregon pulled off 4/4 on field goals last week, and ran a punt back for an 87-yard touchdown. On both coverage and returns, Boise State will be challenged to step it up against the Ducks.

The Game:


Oregon is tough to beat at home, and is looking to get in the mix for a BCS bowl. Their offense may be at its weakest right now, while the new quarterbacks are getting their feet wet, but this is still one of the scariest offenses in football. For a young Boise State team, this is a really tough test. Next season Oregon comes to Boise, and that game could set a tone for a BCS run. Should Boise State pull off this upset, they have a chance to go undefeated this year.

Chris Petersen and Justin Wilcox both have ties to Oregon, and the coaches know each other's styles well. I expect a well-coached and interesting game. I believe Mike Bellotti and Chris Peterson are two of the best and most underrated coaches in the country.

Oregon ranks 4th in the country for both running and overall offense, and 9th in scoring offense, so it will be interesting to see them take on BSU’s 7th-ranked scoring defense. It is fair to say Boise State has not yet seen an offense like this one. Can Kellen Moore keep Boise state in the mix?

The pick:


I expect a high scoring and interesting game. If Boise state brings their best game in every facet they have a chance, but Oregon rarely loses at home. You pick ‘em.