Boulder, CO – The ninth-ranked Oregon Ducks will attempt to 12 Conference affair in Boulder.
Since losing to now top-ranked LSU to open the season, Oregon has cruised to five consecutive wins, all by double figures. Last time out, the Ducks defeated a talented Arizona State squad by a 41-27 final to move to 3-0 against league competition.
Jon Embree's first season as head coach at Colorado has been rocky to say the least, as the team is off to a dreadful 1-6 start. The last four outings have resulted in defeat for the Buffaloes, who are in their first season as Pac-12 members since jumping ship from the Big 12. Last weekend, the defense let Embree and company down in a 52-24 loss to Washington.
"They (the defense) have to go out and compete and have some pride. There's nothing magical you can tell them," said Embree. "We have what we have, so we have to understand that when we're out there it's better knowing what you can't do as a player."
Colorado holds an 8-7 edge in the all-time series with Oregon, but the Ducks won the most recent matchup by a 38-16 final back in 2002.
The two best players on the offensive side of the ball for Oregon are RB LaMichael James and QB Darron Thomas. James is listed as questionable for this weekend's affair because of an elbow injury, and while Thomas is also banged up (knee), he is expected to play.
Thanks to those two players, Oregon is one of the nation's most explosive offensive teams. The Ducks are generating 48.7 ppg and 539.0 total ypg, including 315.0 rushing ypg. James has rushed for 852 yards and eight TDs already while gaining 9.0 ypc. As for Thomas, who is a threat as a runner as well, he has completed 61.3 percent of his passes for 1,227 yards and 17 touchdowns against only three interceptions.
While Oregon isn't a dominant defensive team, the club is certainly far better now than it was in the opener against LSU. Overall, the Ducks are yielding 23.3 ppg and 413.8 total ypg, and they have given up 16 touchdowns split evenly between the run and the pass. While Oregon can take pride in its healthy total of 15 sacks, there is room for improvement in the takeaway department, as the club has notched just one fumble recovery and five interceptions to this point.
Against Arizona State last week, Thomas threw for 187 yards and two touchdowns before exiting with an injury. James missed that game, but Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas were tremendous running the football in his absence. Barner tallied 171 yards and a score, proof of his big-time ability. Meanwhile, the Ducks allowed only 13 points over the final three quarters after surrendering two touchdowns in the opening frame.
"Our defense has done a nice job of understanding what the concept is, what our coaches want to do and make people drive the distance, go the distance, and force them into mistakes as they continue to go," said Kelly.
Just as Oregon's top tailback is injured, the same is true for Colorado's lead runner Rodney Stewart. Because of a knee injury, Stewart is expected to miss this affair. Considering the fact that WR Paul Richardson also has a bad knee that has him listed as questionable, the Buffaloes enter at far less than 100 percent.
Overall this season, Stewart has run for 473 yards, although his average of 4.2 yards per carry won't scare many opponents, and he certainly is not in the same league as James. Richardson has caught 29 passes for 474 yards and five touchdowns, and he is every bit as good as any receiver on the Ducks' roster.
Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen has completed just 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,682 yards and 13 touchdowns against only three interceptions. His team is generating 21.9 ppg and 337.9 total ypg, while yielding 36.0 ppg and 408.9 ypg.
Against Washington last week, the Buffs finished with only 269 total yards, a far cry from the 562 yards that they surrendered to the Huskies. Colorado allowed 295 rushing yards on 40 attempts and permitted the Huskies to complete 23-of-30 passes without an interception. A mere one sack was registered by the CU defense in that tilt.
"We got minimal pressure; we had plenty of assignment issues," said Embree. "In man coverage our guys didn't cover their men."