Oregon 101: Addition via deducktion

KEY INJURIES HAVEN'T derailed the Ducks' season in the least -- the loss of Darron Thomas and LaMichael James only seemed to refocus the high-powered Duck offense against ASU and Colorado. Between the blowout of the Buffaloes and WSU's meltdown against the Beavers, Oregon's confidence couldn't be higher. But…

But the Cougars did give the Ducks a ball game in Pullman last year and there is some hope that Oregon is already looking ahead to its consecutive road trips to Stanford and Washington. Stranger things have happened.
Cougars (3-4) vs Beavers (6-1)
AT A GLANCE
KICKOFF:
12:00 pm Pacific Time

WHERE:
Autzen Stadium (56,000)

TELEVISION:
Root/FSN

RADIO:
The Cougar Sports Radio Network covers much of the West. Click here for listings.

THE LINE:
Oregon by 34.5

LAST MEETING:
UO won 43-23 in 2010 in -Pullman.

THE SERIES:
WSU trails 43-38-7.

CF.C PREDICTION:
See below



THE DUCKS ON OFFENSE

Players to Know
Darron Thomas, QB: Oregon's dual threat quarterback is expected back this week. He has been efficient and more pass-oriented in Chip Kelly's offense this year, throwing 17 touchdowns and only three picks. Freshman backup Bryan Bennett brings surprisingly comparable tools if Thomas' knee injury keeps him out. WSU knocked Thomas out of the game last year.
Kenjon Barner, RB: LaMichael James status is unclear but Barner, the 180 pound junior, has made the most of his absence, averaging 143 yards per game and seven yards per rush the last two games. The Cougars hospitalized him after a kickoff return in their last meeting.

Overview
The Ducks thrive on exploiting gaps and weak points they create in the defense. There is a lot of misdirection and quick movement of the football to all possible targets. They run multiple formations and varying blocking schemes. Once they get you off balance they never let up, maintaining a no-huddle which allows for little rest or substitution.

Strategy
Missed assignments, confusion, and missed tackles plagued the Cougars last week. They have to either stay with their man or attack because floating around uncommitted is a recipe to get dissected. The lack of a consistent pass rush has been the key detriment and there needs to be more creativity and emphasis -- blitzing has been ineffective. Mix up the gap assignments and throw in more disguise and better technique. Bottom line, it's disrupt or be disrupted.

THE DUCKS ON DEFENSE

Players to Know
Cliff Harris, CB: The star corner had another run-in with local constables this week and may be suspended.
John Boyett, FS: Solid open field tackler. The three year starter brings veteran consistency and leadership.

Overview
Nick Alioti's 4-3 has been more efficient and balanced of late but powerful offenses have moved the ball on this group. LSU ran right through them and Arizona's Nick Foles passed for 400 yards getting over the top of them, but the Ducks high scoring offense typically keeps the pressure off. Offenses either find a way to score 40 or get to watch 50 laid on them.

Strategy
The Ducks can be passed upon, but only if you can protect your quarterback. The continued bombardment of WSU's passers has been painful and this stat won't give much comfort -- WSU ranks 108th in sacks allowed and the Ducks rank 16th in sacks generated. Keep the quarterback off the turf or the offense can't stay on the field. WSU simply has to run the ball better to provide a credible running threat and take some heat off the passing game.

THE DUCKS ON SPECIAL TEAMS
The Ducks have been sound in all phases of special teams. The kickers have not converted a field goal beyond 37 yards but basically, they haven't been asked to do so.

FINAL THOUGHTS
-This is another circumstance where the Cougs need to catch a team napping and punch it in the face. Oregon will have to cooperate if WSU is to make a game of it late. That said, the Cougars hung around well into the third quarter against this team last season, in a game the pundits likewise placed them as 36 point underdogs. Oregon is expected to show up and dominate, which can be hazardous, particularly in the absence of their best player. WSU has to play all 60 minutes. When other teams have hung around, Oregon has blown up for quick scores on successive possessions in the second half, turning a close game into a blowout in the third quarter over the space of 6-7 minutes. WSU must make Oregon go three-and-out on a number of occasions or the issue will be settled.

CF.C PREDICTION:
Ducks 48, Cougs 24

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