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5 Questions: Nebraska vs Oregon

Big Red Report reached out to publisher Steve Summers to get his thoughts on five questions when it comes to Nebraska and Oregon.

Quarterback Dakota Prukop played in some big contests at Montana State, but how do you think he will handle an atmosphere like Nebraska? 

Summers: Prukop is a very poised young man and has the advantage over many players of being a bit older. He already has earned a degree in economics and is in a graduate program studying non-profit management.

He demonstrates lots of leadership characteristics that made it clear why he was selected to be the starting quarterback. The biggest crowds he’s played before are the friendly ones at Autzen Stadium; he does have the support of the rest of the team, particularly among the starters who have been in hostile environments at Sun Devil Stadium, the Rose Bowl and a National Championship game 

He’ll probably be fine at Husker Stadium, but what about all those true freshman and redshirt freshman that are Oregon starters? That is probably a bigger question and one that we’ll have to see. The Ducks are practicing with artificial noise and say they have a silent signal system, so communications is going to be tested at Nebraska.

Nebraska has struggled with penalties over the first two weeks, but so has Oregon. How much has that been a storyline in Eugene this week? 

Summers: There really hasn’t been much said about Nebraska, but there’s been a lot written and discussed on message boards about Oregon’s struggle with penalties. The Ducks have been flagged 20 times in the first two games compared to the total of 17 for the two opponents.  On Wednesday, offensive coordinator Matt Lubick talked about how the coaching staff is working on cutting down on penalties and dealing with “things we have control over” such as false starts and illegal formations on offense and late hits and pass interference on defense.

For the Ducks, particularly when they want to uptempo the execution (one of Chip Kelly’s legacies), execution is paramount and some observers note that the Ducks are a big slower than Kelly’s regime or certainly when the offense had Marcus Mariota to run things.

Last week against Virginia, while still plagued by flags, the offense showed more signs that it was becoming more cohesive and the tempo at times was much faster.

Oregon switched to a 4-3 defense in the offseason under Brady Hoke. How has that transition gone?

Summers: There has been improvement on the defensive front. Gone is first round pick DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci, both now with the San Francisco 49ers, and in place is a group without any big names. Hoke’s system is a transition, but probably the bigger effect Hoke has on the defenders is his demands for accountability, aggressive play and a tough, hardnosed approach to football.

One interesting statistic is that the Ducks are ahead of schedule in tackles for loss compared to last season having notched a total of 15 TFLs including eight sacks in the first two game this season..

Comparatively speaking, this defense is better than last season, but keep in mind that Oregon’s defense in 2015 was horrible ranked at the bottom of the conference in points allowed per game and total offense give up per game.

Nebraska isn’t ranked, but the favorite in Vegas. How big is this game from a Pac-12 standpoint, with only three teams ranked?

Summers: I think the Pac-12 is more balanced this season with teams at the bottom being better than last season. Colorado for example has been a basement dweller since coming into the conference but this year the Buffs are 2-0 with some pretty amazing statistics. However, I am not convinced that there is a national championship caliber team this season and so how big of a game this is, it probably depends on if 1) Oregon wins big; if the Ducks win big then all the East Coast writers who can watch the game will say the Ducks are back in the national championship hunt. 2) If Oregon wins but by a close margin, then the feeling will be that the Ducks still haven’t been tested because obviously Nebraska wasn’t up to its game or some other such reasoning. 3) If Oregon loses big then it will just demonstrate Mark Helfrich should be fired because he isn’t up to the task after having been left all that talent from Kelly (even though that was four years ago) and finally 4) if Nebraska beats Oregon in a very close game then the message is the Pac-12 isn’t very good on defense and Oregon may still be a factor in the Pac-12 race.

Your biggest key to the game and prediction?

Summers: Oregon doesn’t allow beat writers into practice, so everyone who covers the Ducks really doesn’t have a good idea of how good (or bad) it is. All we see are games. The Oregon Athletic Department puts out a blog and everyday has “practice reports.”  One should be cautious as many readers on eDuck refer to the blog and blogger by the name given to the infamous Bagdad Bob of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

My suspicion is that this will be a close game and whoever wins the turnover-takeaway ratio wins the game.


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