What does the future hold for Oregon?

Followers of this blog know that I’m a graduate of the University of Oregon. And while I typically don’t blog about sports, I’d like to make an exception to predict how I think Oregon is going to do for the rest of the season. The rest of our schedule looks like this:

  • UCLA on the 21st
  • USC on the 30th
  • Washington on the 6th of November
  • California on the 13th
  • Arizona 26th
  • Oregon St. on December 4th

Obviously, I’m going to pick Oregon to take all these teams. All of these teams are beatable, and with Oregon’s explosive offense led by Darren Thomas, LaMichael James and Jeff Mael, it’s not unreasonable to say that they have a clear shot at the title game.

That’s not to say they don’t have some hurdles to overcome. With an Ohio State loss to Wisconsin and an Oregon State loss to the University of Washington, it’s feasible that the Ducks will be number one in both the human polls and the BCS polls. With a #1 ranking, it’s inevitable that the Ducks will have a large target on their backs. On top of that, some of the remaining teams on Oregon’s schedule have gradually improved since the beginning of the season.

So with that, I’d like to look at the remaining teams in Oregon’s schedule and predict the outcomes.

1. UCLA at Oregon

Oregon comes off a much needed bye week after losing both Darren Thomas and Kenjon Barner to injuries at WSU. Thomas was taken out with a shoulder injury, but was seen throwing on the sidelines afterward. He was replaced by Nate Costa, who is a capable quarterback in his own rite.

UCLA enters the game also coming off a bye week with a 3-3 record. They lost to Kansas, Stanford (ranked 25th at the time) and Huston (ranked 23rd at the time), but they went to Texas and upset the Longhorns, who were ranked 7th at the time. (As a side note, Texas just upset #5 Nebraska, which suggests that the win at Texas was legitimate).

Two variables will determine this game: will UCLA’s defense be able to slow down the most explosive offense in the nation, and Kevin Prince’s ability to get UCLA’s passing game going. UCLA is 117th in passing offense, and Oregon’s defense has been particularly effective at containing offenses in the second half of football games.

UCLA’s defense is 69th in the nation in points scored against them. This is particularly troubling considering that Oregon loves to drive up the score on football games, thinking nothing of scoring more than 40 points a game.

I call it Oregon 52-UCLA 14.

2. Oregon at USC

USC gets Oregon after coming off a much needed win against Cal 48-14. I say much needed because USC lost to Washington(33-32) at the Colluseum and a tough loss at Stanford. USC has no significant wins this season, but they have an offense to be reckoned with. Quarterback Matt Barckley has shown he can put up points against WSU and Cal. In addition, USC’s offense and defense clicked at the same time against Cal, so if they can do the same against Oregon, the Ducks will have trouble in Los Angeles.

I think this game will rely on two factors.

1. Can Oregon establish the running game against a traditionally strong defense? USC’s defense has looked good at certain points in the season, so it depends on who shows up against Oregon. In addition, this is going to depend on the health of Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James, both of whom are smaller backs and (god forbid)  susceptible to injury.

2. Can Barkley produce against the Ducks? Virginia held USC to 17 points, Washington held them to 31. Against a team that has put more than 40 points on the board at every team they’ve played, USC will have to play like they did against Cal and not like they did against Virginia.

Bottom line, I think USC loses this one in a shootout 44-38.

3. Washington at Oregon

Washington defeated a reeling USC. Washington was also unable to put up points against Oregon St. when it mattered until the last minute. UW will be visiting Oregon at one of the most hostile environments in the nation, and I think Jake Locker will not be effective against Oregon’s defense and their 12th man.

Oregon will put on a scoring clinic 55-10.

4. Oregon at California

I’ll keep this one brief: USC dominated Cal. Oregon is a better team than USC. QED: Oregon will dominate Cal.

But Oregon and Cal have a history, so Cal will show up to this game. I see it 42-10.

5. Arizona at Oregon

Arizona is the second of the three games Oregon needs to pay attention to (USC being the first). Currently ranked 17th, the Wildcats upset then ranked #9 Iowa. (Iowa, currently ranked 15th, beat #22 Penn state two weeks later.) The Wildcats have a respectable defense (10th in the nation in points against, allowing an average of 14.6 points a game), and a respectable quarterback in Nick Foles. However, Foles was knocked out against WSU with a knee injury, so Arizona’s chances hinge on the health of Foles.

I’m going to throw in a wild card factor to this game: in 2007, the Wildcats defeated then #2 Oregon after star quarterback Dennis Dixon re-injured his knee at Arizona. That and considering #1 ranked teams have had a hard time holding on to their spot in recent weeks, I pick this game to give Oregon the most trouble in their run to the BCS championship game.

But, barring any freak accidents, I predict the Wildcats will have their hands full at Autzen, and that the Ducks will have no problem dismanteling a good-but-not-great Arizona team.

Prediction: Oregon 44-Arizona 21.

6. Oregon at Oregon St.

It doesn’t matter if Oregon St. drops 3 of their last six games, and it doesn’t matter if Oregon is ranked Number 1 going into this game. The Civil War is never predictable, and this year proves to be no different. Oregon State is a difficult team to gauge, considering two of their three losses come against #3 Boise St. and #4 TCU. Their third loss, however, came to unranked Washington, and will probably result in the Beavers losing their #24 ranking.

Based on how OSU played today, their offense is far to sluggish to keep up with Oregon, and if they turn the ball over like they did this Saturday, they have no chance against an offense that will not hesitate to exploit their in-state rivals. For the same reason, OSU’s defense cannot give Oregon the same looks it did during the first half of the UW OSU game.

However, this game will be played at Reser, and OSU’s QB Ryan Katz will have more starts under his belt by that time. Without star receiver, James Rodgers, Katz will have difficulty with the passing game. But OSU has their own undersized running back, Jacquizz Rodgers, who has shown he is a true clutch player.

This will be a good game, with the added factor that it’s the civil war, but I don’t see how OSU can hang with Oregon’s high scoring offense.

Oregon 38- Oregon State 10.

The bottom line

BCS rankings don’t mean anything 7 weeks into the season. But it’s fun to predict how your team is going to do based on rankings alone. One of my favorite things about college football is that on any given day, the #100 team in the nation can topple the #1 team. And in the Pac-10, this holds especially true. Just ask USC, who were ranked #1 at the time, how their last to visits to Corvallis fared.

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