Indiana vs. Oregon Game Preview

The Hoosiers travel to the west coast this weekend to take on the Oregon Ducks for the first time since the 60's. The Ducks are ranked 24/25 in the major polls, and return 13 starters from their 8-5 season in 2003 that resulted in a narrow loss to Minnesota in the Sun Bowl.

The Ducks are led by 10th year coach Mike Bellotti, who has compiled a 75-34 record as the head of the program in Eugene. The Hoosiers enter the game 1-0 after blowing out Central Michigan in their season opener, while Oregon had an early bye and will start their season with Indiana.

Offense: The Ducks strength and success in 2004 will depend on their offense that returns 8 starters from 2003. Most of the offensive line is still intact to block for junior quarterback Kellen Clemens, and junior running back Terrence Whitehead. Clemens lost his favorite target, but returns with wideout Demetrius Williams and big junior tight end Tim Day. Clemens should be the key to Oregon's success this year, and if he does well and finds his receivers, the Ducks will succeed. Clemens' only problem is that much of his receiving core has been out during fall practices and there have been as many as 6 receivers playing with the first team in practice. The lack of reps could lead to some confusion and first game mistakes that Indiana should have out of their system. Whitehead has the potential to be a great runner, but was too inconsistent in 2003 to be a star. If he runs north and south more often, he could pick up a ton of yards behind a veteran line.

Defense: The Ducks defense took a big hit after the 2003 season, when all but 5 of their starters graduated. The worst part for Oregon is that they weren't a great defensive team last year when they had experience. They are looking to dramatically improve a pass defense that ranked 105th in the nation last year. The run defense was solid, but partly because teams knew they could pass against the weak secondary. At linebacker, the Ducks return only one man, and the rest have seen very little action in college, making the defense very vulnerable in the middle of the field. There will also be a pair of returning starters from last years secondary that will compliment a pair of fresh faces. Oregon will run a 4-3 base defense, and is putting in a lot of zone coverage to try and make up for their poor pass defense. This will be the breaking point for the Ducks, because if they can't stop an opponent from scoring, they just can't win.

Special Teams: The Ducks are good from a return man standpoint, having strong punt and kick returners, but when they have to put their foot on the ball, things get iffy. Kicker Jared Sigel only made 10 of 16 kicks last year, despite hitting all of his PAT's. Inconsistency was the problem. Punter Paul Martinez averaged less than 40 yards per kick last year, and will have to improve to help a weak defense.

Prediction for Oregon: Oregon should shoot for winning at least eight games this year. The Pac Ten only really has a few good teams, and the rest should be easy to handle. They have only one tough non-conference game against Oklahoma, and then they should be ready for their conference season. Anything under 3rd in the conference would be a disappointment. Intangibles: The best thing that they Ducks have going for them year in and year out is their hometown fans. Students and fans alike fill Autzen Stadium which holds nearly 55,000 people, but the sound the stadium can make lets one believe you are in Ann Arbor. Autzen is constantly ranked as one of the hardest places to play in, so the Hoosiers are doing extra work with the speakers in Memorial Stadium to prepare for the noise. Bold Prediction: Indiana comes into the game as a 20 point underdog, quite a tough feat. After a good win against Central Michigan, the Hoosiers have plenty of momentum and confidence, but it probably won't be enough to hold off the Ducks. The Hoosiers could consider the game a victory if they are competitive throughout and keep the game close. However, with a big play receiver in Courtney Roby, the Hoosiers could exploit a weak secondary and cause some havoc in Eugene. Game time is set for 5:30 Central Time, and no television has been announced. You can listen to the game on the Indiana Radio network with the voice of Don Fischer broadcasting. Top Stories