Dawgman.com Oregon Game Preview

The Washington Huskies benefit from a couple of extra days' rest after a momentous Thursday night win over USC, but the Oregon Ducks loom large this coming weekend. Washington is an early point-and-a-half favorite over the Ducks for the first time in over a decade. Oregon has had their struggles this year, but they certainly have their share of weapons to pay attention to. Let’s take a look.

Players to watch

#3 SR 5’11” 201-pound QB Vernon Adams

2015 stats: 43 of 71 for 581 yards, 60.6% completion, 8.18 YPA, 4 TD, 2 INT, 142.3 RAT, 34 carries for 105 yards, 3.1 YPC, 1 TD, 24 long

Sneak Peak: After spending his first three years of eligibility at Eastern Washington, Vernon Adams earned his degree so that he could avoid transfer restrictions and joined the Oregon Ducks. He came in with a respectable track record, sporting a 110:31 TD:INT ratio during his Eagles career, and quickly showed that he was as good as advertised, earning the starting job prior to week one. Adams is a gunslinger and is surrounded by plenty of athletes to share the ball with. While his strength is his arm, he’s a great athlete that can scramble to extend plays and even pick up some yardage with his legs if necessary. Adams has only played once since Oregon’s loss to Michigan State and his status for Saturday night is uncertain. When healthy he’s as dangerous as they come.

Husky Comparison: It’s hard to compare Vernon Adams to a Washington quarterback. We’ll call him a more experienced Jake Browningwith more mobility.

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#17 JR 6’2” 215-pound QB Jeff Lockie

2015 stats: 54 of 84 for 544 yards, 64.3% completion, 6.46 YPA, 5 TD, 4 INT, 128.8 RAT, 31 carries for 105 yards, 3.5 YPC, 35 long

Sneak Peak: Lockie spent his first three years on campus backing up eventual Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. Following the departure of the only Heisman winner in school history, senior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. transferred to Oregon and won the starting job in fall camp. However, injuries have limited Adams’ availability and presented Lockie with his first opportunity for meaningful playing time. Lockie has completed just over 64 percent of his passes this year, successfully getting the ball to the playmakers that surround him. He also can hurt defenses with his ability to scramble, whether it is to keep a play alive or to pick up a few yards on the ground. If Vernon Adams isn’t ready to go, Lockie will be Oregon’s guy.

Husky Comparison: K.J. Carta-Samuels

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#12 SO 6’0” 185-pound QB Taylor Alie

2015 stats: 6 of 14 for 96 yards, 42.9% completion, 6.86 YPA, 1 TD, 0 INT, 124.0 RAT, 10 carries for 142 yards, 14.2 YPC, 87 long, 3 TD

Sneak Peak: In the absence of Vernon Adams, sophomore QB Taylor Alie has gotten some meaningful playing time, but Jeff Lockie has limited his opportunities. While the sample size is small, Alie has proven to be a threat with his legs. Alie is third in the Oregon quarterback pecking order, but given the Ducks' issues at that position he is certainly worth keeping an eye on. 

Husky Comparison: The Huskies don’t have a quarterback quite like Alie, but because of his ability to run the ball and his use as the team’s primary holder on kicks we’ll call him a much, much smaller Jeff Lindquist

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#2 JR 5’10” 190-pound WR Bralon Addison

2015 stats: 26 receptions for 287 yards, 11.0 YPC, 30 long, 3 TD, 7 carries for 38 yards, 5.4 YPC, 13 long
Sneak Peak: After hauling in 61 passes as a sophomore in 2013, an injury in spring ball sidelined WR Bralon Addison for the entire 2014 campaign. Since returning he has shown no signs of rust. Addison leads the team in receptions as well as receiving yards and touchdowns. He’ll also take the occasional hand-off. Addison is athletic and dangerous in the open field. The Ducks like it when the ball is in his hands, especially in space, and will make a point of getting him his touches.

Husky Comparison: Dante Pettis

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#21 SO 5’11” 230-pound RB Royce Freeman

2015 stats: 123 carries for 859 yards, 7.0 YPC, 49 long, 9 TD, 15 receptions for 179 yards, 11.9 YPC, 33 long, 2 TD

Sneak Peak: It didn’t take Royce Freeman long to make a name for himself, becoming the only true freshman in Oregon history to rush for over 1,000 yards. Now through six games he leads the PAC-12 in rushing yards per game and rushing touchdowns. Freeman might be the most dangerous player on Oregon’s potent and athletic offense. At times it seems impossible to bring the 230-pound Duck down. He’s averaging 23 touches per game, and when he gets going those 23 touches can turn into 200 yards quickly.

Husky Comparison: A more polished Dwayne Washington

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#6 SO 5’8” 170-pound WR/DB Charles Nelson

2015 stats: 12 receptions for 197 yards, 16.4 YPC, 44 long, 1 TD, 1 carry for 4 yards, 14 total tackles, 2 PD

Sneak Peak: Out of all the athletes Oregon has on their roster, Charles Nelson might be the most intriguing. As a true freshman Charles Nelson found the end zone seven times; five coming as a receiver and the other two were punt returns. He also made an impact on kickoff and punt coverage amassing 17 special teams tackles in 2014. Through six games, Bralon Addison is the only Duck with more receiving yards. To add to his impressive contributions on offense and special teams, Charles Nelson made his debut at safety against WSU. He was able to tally 12 tackles while breaking up two passes. Whatever Charles Nelson is asked to do, he’ll do it and do it well.

Husky Comparison: A healthy John Ross III

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#44 SR 6’7” 300-pound DL DeForest Buckner

2015 stats: 30 total tackles, 7.0 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 2 PD

Sneak Peak: NFL draft experts have senior defensive lineman DeForest Buckner pegged to be a high-to-mid first round selection in the 2016. He is worth all the hype he has gotten. He uses his size and athleticism to wreck havoc in the opponent’s backfields, whether he’s chasing down the quarterback or dropping running backs for losses. His seven tackles for a loss and three and a half sacks lead the way for the Duck defense that ranks last in the PAC-12 in points allowed per game. Keeping all 6’7” of Buckner out of the backfield will be a tall order for the Husky offensive line.

Husky Comparison: A way bigger Joe Mathis

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#33 SR 6’1” 235-pound LB Tyson Coleman

2015 stats: 25 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2.0 sacks, 2 PD, 1 forced fumble

Sneak Peak: In his second season as a starting outside linebacker, Tyson Coleman is making a huge impact in a variety of ways. He can pressure the quarterback, as suggested by his two sacks and two QB hits, and he’s also batted two passes down. Only DeForest Buckner has more tackles for a loss than Coleman. Whether he’s getting after the quarterback, meeting runners in the backfield, or dropping into coverage, senior linebacker Tyson Coleman makes his presence known.

Husky Comparison: Cory Littleton

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#3 SO 6’4” 205-pound S Tyree Robinson

2015 stats: 22 total tackles, 0.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD, 1 PD

Sneak Peak: Sophomore safety Tyree Robinson was not only a four-star football recruit, but he also was a four-star shooting guard. He has the size, speed, and strength necessary to be a defensive playmaker in the PAC-12. Robinson has a fumble recovery and two interceptions, one of which he took the distance, through six games. He’s been a consistent presence in Oregon’s otherwise tumultuous defensive backfield that has seen three different players start the safety position opposite Robinson, as well as four different starting corners. 

Husky Comparison: It’s tough to compare him to a Husky, but just to keep position consistency we’ll compare him to Brian Clay.

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What the Ducks offense looks like

Although Oregon is just 3-3, their offense is still one of the most potent in the conference. Their 528.7 yards and 41.5 points per game are both good for second in the PAC-12. Their rushing attack led by Royce Freeman garners more than 300 yards per game. While the Oregon run game has been as effective as ever, their pass offense has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency; Byron Marshall, who gained over 1,000 yards through the air in 2014, could miss the remainder of the season with a leg injury. Vernon Adams, Jr. has only played in three games since arriving to Oregon and Jeff Lockie has struggled to move the ball efficiently, averaging less than 6.5 yards per pass attempt. Taylor Alie has taken a few snaps at quarterback as well, but has completed less than 50 percent of his throws. If Adams is healthy and ready to go this weekend, he could be the solution this struggling passing game has been seeking. A fixed aerial attack would make this already potent offense lethal.

What the Ducks defense looks like

The Ducks are last in the PAC-12 in total defense as well as scoring defense. Teams are burning Oregon for 474.7 yards and 38.7 points per game. Although they’ve struggled to keep teams off the board, their defense should not be taken lightly. Playmakers like Tyree Robinson, Tyson Coleman, and DeForest Buckner demand the respect of the offenses they face. The bright spot of Oregon’s defense is their ability to get in the backfield. Oregon has 45 tackles for a loss this season, and their 17 sacks ranks third in the PAC-12. Their shortcoming comes against the pass. The Ducks allow nearly 325 passing yards per game. To put that in perspective, the second worst team against the pass in the conference, Utah, allows only 258 passing yards per game. The Ducks have struggled to find an answer to their pass defense woes and have started eight different players in their secondary to try to figure it out. Oregon’s defense has been the main culprit in their disappointing start.

Keys to the game

Oregon

  • Hit Jake Browning – While the pass defense is the biggest weakness of Oregon's defense, their 17 sacks are good for third in the PAC-12. If they can get to Jake Browning consistently, it would take a lot of the burden off a secondary that has yet to find a solution to its struggles.
  • Roll with Royce – The Huskies will be without sophomore standout Azeem Victor for the first half of Saturday because of a targeting call he picked up against USC. That’s a big blow for the Husky defense. Oregon should use this to their advantage and feed the Pac-12 leader in rushing yards, Royce Freeman, especially in the first half.
  • Win the turnover battle – UCLA and Cal are the only teams in the PAC-12 that have thrown more interceptions than Oregon. In total the Ducks have turned the ball over 10 times.  The Husky defense has also forced 10 turnovers. That being said, the Huskies have also turned the ball over 11 times. As good as the Washington defense is at forcing turnovers, their offense is equally prone to giving it right back. The turnover battle will be big for both teams.

Washington

  • Stop the run – The Ducks are the best in the Pac-12 at running the ball. The Huskies have the best run defense in the PAC-12. Missing Azeem Victor for the first half will certainly hurt, but stepping up to the challenge will be essential for players like Scott Lawyer, Sean Constantine, and maybe even freshman linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven. While it’s unknown who Oregon’s quarterback will be this weekend, we do know for sure that Royce Freeman and the Oregon rushing attack will be at full force. Trying to limit their performance will be priority number one for the Huskies defense.
  • Run the ball – The Huskies look like they found some rhythm running the ball against a tough USC defense, as Myles Gaskin cut loose for 134 yards and a touchdown. Whether it’s Gaskin or Dwayne Washington, the Huskies need to establish a similar dedication to the run game this weekend. That should take some pressure off Jake Browning and give him some confidence while working against statistically the worst defense in the conference.
  • Stay levelheaded – Vegas has the Huskies favored by a point-and-a-half right now. The buzz for this game around campus is huge. This rivalry means a lot to people who follow and support both programs. With all this in mind, the Huskies need to ignore the hype. Chris Petersen, his staff, and his players did an excellent job not buying into all the drama surrounding Washington’s first matchup against (now former) USC Head Coach Steve Sarkisian last week. They’ll have to do the same in keeping the players focused this week against the Huskies' biggest nemesis.

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