Scouting the Ducks

It's obvious the Colorado football team won't be anywhere near full strength on Saturday when Oregon comes to town, but who might be missing from the Ducks' lineup?

INSIDE SLANT

Oregon does not give out information on injuries, so the status of running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darron Thomas will not be known until just before Saturday's game at Colorado, but does it matter?

The ninth-ranked Ducks proved they could win without both of their top two offensive stars when they improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Pac-12 Conference with a 41-27 win over Arizona State, which was ranked 18th at the time, on Saturday. Now they face Colorado, which is 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the conference.

Oregon's backups in the backfield were able to beat the Sun Devils, so they will be heavily-favored against the Buffs with or without James and Thomas.

James suffered a dislocated elbow against California and missed the ASU game, although he said he could have played at "80 percent" if necessary. Kenjon Barner ran for 171 yards and a touchdown, while De'Anthony Thomas added 73 yards and two scores against the Sun Devils.

Thomas suffered a knee injury on the second play of the third quarter against ASU and did not return, although he asked coach Chip Kelly to put him back in the game and said he was held out for "precautionary reasons." Redshirt freshman Bryan Bennett replaced him and ran for 65 yards while throwing for 22.

"Kenjon (Barner) and Bryan (Bennett) are really good players," Oregon offensive lineman Carson York said. "We are lucky to have such depth on the team. A lot of things didn't go right or well, but we still continued to play our game."

James said he was impressed with the reserves as he watched from the sideline.

"Bryan did a really good job tonight," James said. "He came in at a difficult time and showed what he could do, I was really proud of him. (Barner) had a phenomenal game tonight, he ran really hard."

Kelly's policy is to not discuss injuries, and he has given no significant update on either James or Thomas. However, if either has to miss some time, Oregon's schedule has hit a soft spot with games at Colorado and home against Washington State, who are a combined 1-5 in conference play.

NOTES, QUOTES

--All five of Oregon's touchdown drives against Arizona State lasted less than two minutes, including two under 54 seconds.

--Oregon has scored 40 or more points in 22 of its last 32 games.

--Oregon scored in the final minute of the first half to take a 21-17 halftime lead against ASU. Oregon is 20-0 when leading at halftime in Chip Kelly's three seasons as coach.

--Oregon has run for 300 yards or more yards in four straight games.

SERIES HISTORY: Colorado leads series 8-7 (last meeting, 2002, Oregon, 38-16).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Oregon could be without its star quarterback and running back if Darron Thomas and LaMichael James, respectively, are not able to play, but this looks like a blowout with or without those two. Oregon ranks third in the nation with 48.7 points per game, while Colorado is 113th on defense by giving up 36 points per game. Oregon is fifth nationally with 315 rushing yards per game, and Colorado's rush defense is 65th, giving up 156.1 yards per game. In total offense, Oregon ranks fifth at 539 yards per game, while the Buffaloes are 85th in defense by giving up 408.9 yards per game.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Oregon is giving up 23.3 points per game, and all five of its wins have come by at least two touchdowns. No reason to expect anything less against Colorado, which is averaging 21.9 points and 337.9 yards per game. Oregon's defense finally started forcing turnovers with two interceptions against ASU after getting only four turnovers in the first five games.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our defense has done a nice job of understanding what the concept is, what our coaches want to do and make people drive the distance, go the distance, and force them into mistakes as they continue to go. If we don't give up big plays, we will be good on defense." -- Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Oregon at Colorado, Oct. 22 -- These two teams were once regular non-conference opponents as they met six times between 1978-87. The last three meetings have come in bowl games with Colorado winning the 1996 Cotton Bowl and 1998 Aloha Bowl before Oregon won the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Oregon just needs to avoid a letdown or a disaster. The Ducks have won 15 straight conference games and have only lost games against the Southeastern Conference since the start of the 2010 season. Oregon has not lost to an unranked team in nearly two years, and even if LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are not able to play, their backups looked good enough against Arizona State to make Oregon a big favorite against Colorado.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

RB Kenjon Barner -- The junior had career highs of 31 carries and 171 rushing yards against Arizona State when he started in place of LaMichael James, who missed the game with an elbow injury. Barner had the third 100-yard rushing game of his career against ASU, and he has exceeded 100 yards in both games in which he replaced James in the starting lineup during the last two years. He could get another start with James uncertain to play against Colorado.

WR Justin Hoffman -- The junior equaled his career high with three catches and had a new career-high with 33 yards receiving against Arizona State. He caught the only two passes completed by backup QB Bryan Bennett in the second half. It's no surprise that those two were familiar with each other after both played on the scout team last year, and Bennett could look for Hoffman again if he gets the start in place of the injured Darron Thomas.

QB Marcus Mariota -- The true freshman has been in uniform for all six games, but he has not been used in hopes that he can redshirt the season. However, if Darron Thomas is injured and unable to play, then Bryan Bennett will get the start and Mariota would be the backup. Coach Chip Kelly praised Mariota's athleticism this week and said he would be confident if he had to put him in a game.

ROSTER REPORT

--True freshman Colt Lyerla missed the ASU game with an apparent arm injury, so starting David Paulson was the only tight end to play against ASU.

--DE Tony Washington, a reserve who has 11 tackles this season, missed the ASU game due to an undisclosed injury.

--K Rob Beard missed his fifth straight game against ASU due to an undisclosed injury. Alejandro Maldonado once again replaced him and made kicks of 37 and 24 yards in the fourth quarter after missing his only previous attempt this season. He was also 5-for-5 on extra points.

--OL Ramsen Golpashin missed the game and is expected to be out for the season with a knee injury.


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