Friday, 4 October 2013

The Pac-12 Journey 2013 Game 44: David faces Goliath and David does not have a slingshot

Steve Dykes/Getty Images (left), Jack Dempsey/Associated Press (right)

Who is playing?

The number two ranked Oregon Ducks and the Colorado Buffaloes

Where is this game being played?

Folsom Field in Boulder, Colorado

What time does the game start and where can I find it on my television?

3:00 PM (PT) on Pac-12 Network

What is the point spread?

Oregon is favored by 39 points (-39)

What should I watch for when Oregon has the ball?

If you are a struggling alcoholic I have a great suggestion that will allow for you to enjoy clean living. Just play a little game and take a drink every time you see Oregon's first team offense punt. This is a great way to encourage sobriety because Colorado simply stands no chance to stop the Ducks. Colorado was a great story through two weeks as its defense led the way to a pair of wins they probably would have lost last year under Jon Embree. But the Buffs came crashing back down to earth last week against Oregon State. 

There is no doubt that Colorado's players are now more competent under Mike MacIntyre but they still don't have the talent or athleticism to get stops against a premier offense. The Beavers have a great offensive unit but it pales in comparison to what Colorado will see from Oregon on Saturday. The Beavers' Sean Mannion only completed 52% of his passes and OSU was totally incapable of running the ball as they have been all season. Oregon will come at Colorado with the Heisman Trophy front runner at QB and one of the nation's best ground attacks. That ground attack should suffer a little bit this week as superstar running back De'Anthony Thomas is unlikely to play after hurting his right ankle last week against California. It's worth noting that Thomas traveled with the team this week but he will probably be asked to wear street clothes and help coach young running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner as they get the biggest workloads of their infantile college careers.

The fact that Thomas is well enough to travel indicates to me that he is probably well enough to play. He did lightly participate in practice this week but it makes no sense for him to play in a probable blowout this week and risk further damaging that ankle. Whether or not Oregon scores is not in doubt but it will be interesting to watch Marcus Mariota throw the ball particularly early in the game. Mariota has been a bit of a mixed bag so far this season. He has thrown nine touchdowns and no interceptions and his deep ball has improved evidenced by his yards per attempt jumping from eight to 9.4 despite a slipping completion percentage. His efficiency is the real concern as his completion percentage has dipped more than 12 points. Most of his trouble has come early in games when he has overshot open receivers. If Mariota can can be accurate and efficient from the start then he will be resting comfortably at by halftime. If he needs a quarter to get going like he has in Oregon's previous four games then he might need to take a couple snaps late into the third quarter.

What should I watch for when Colorado has the ball?

Colorado will not be able to score points and hang with the Ducks. The key for the Buffs will be whether they can be effective on third down and hold onto the ball, shortenign the game and giving their defense a chance to rest. Such a game plan would actually be breaking character for the Buffs as they have tried using a no huddle offense this year to run more plays. Colorado is running an average of 73 plays per game this year up from 69 last year and 65 the year before. But Oregon is the type of team that makes you change your tendencies and if Colorado tries to speed the game up and go snap for snap with the Ducks like Cal did, they will continuously put a tired defense on the field against an overwhelming offense and find themselves down 28-0 by the end of the 1st.

Colorado's early success came from QB Connor Wood making quick passes and good decisions trying to find his possession receivers Nelson Spruce and D.D. Goodson and using them to set up shots down field to Paul Richardson. The rain and wind in Corvallis last Saturday made it difficult to throw the ball but one positive that came out of it was a reinvigorated ground attack. True Freshman Michael Adkins made his college debut last week and ran for 98 yards while averaging seven yards per carry. MacIntyre felt the need to keep veteran back Christian Powell involved in the offense and Colorado's big halftime deficit forced him to mostly abandon the run in the second half. After Adkins played very well last week he has earned a chance to be Colorado's focal point going forward and he will be the key to keeping the score respectable in this game.

Oregon will use the same defensive game plan that they have deployed all year. the Ducks will use small numbers in the box on early downs and ask their big, long athletes up front to play two gap responsibilities and shut down the run with little help from the back end. This allows Oregon to keep their safeties deep and shut down deep passes (so don't expect much from Richardson) and jam and play physically against receivers on the outside. It also allows Oregon to spread out its defense and cover the whole field without worrying about getting gashed up the middle by opposing running backs. Colorado absolutely needs Adkins to get yards on first and second down or else this will one will turn into Oregon's game against Tennessee. In that game, Oregon was able to suffocate the Vols run game and force long third downs. At that point Oregon was able to use its sheer dominance in terms of skill and athleticism in the secondary to shut down Tennessee's passing attack without any semblance of a pass rush. If Colorado can't free up Richardson deep down field then they will need Wood to be effective throwing 10-20 yard passes. This really goes against Wood's abilties as he thrives on making easy throws short of the sticks and throwing long passes for Richardson to run under them. Wood's weakest area by far is his ability to hit those openings between the linebackers and defensive backs and if Adkins can't get yards then Wood will have to throw those passes all day which spells doom for Colorado.

Who should I bet on and who will win?

If you gamble on Pac-12 football then you have surely learned one thing this season: Always take Oregon and always lay the points. The Ducks are 4-0 against the spread this year and their point spreads keep climbing but their margin of victory still reaches expectations. This line should be a lot higher but is probably being brought down a little due to Thomas' tender ankle. In spite of losing their best play maker for this game, the one spot on the team that Oregon never has to worry about is having enough explosive play makers. Colorado's starters don't have the talent to keep up with the Ducks and Oregon's tempo will force Colorado to substitute to its backups who are simply unfit for Pac-12 play. No team has been able to run the ball against the Ducks and Colorado won't be the first. Oregon demolishes Colorado, 56-7.

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