Oregon Football: Who Will Ducks Rely on Most for Each Rivalry Game?
Football is a team sport—there is no denying that.
Each and every player must rely on the men next to him to make the team perform at an efficient and competitive pace. Without cohesiveness, a football team cannot succeed on the football field, no matter how good their statistics look on paper.
While team cohesion is a necessity, there is no doubting that there may be a few players on every football team who perform at a higher level game-in and game-out. These players elevate their own play and help their teams immensely in vanquishing their opponents.
The Oregon Ducks are heading into the 2012 season ranked No. 5 in the first USA Today Coaches Poll. They will be seeking to win their fourth straight Pac-10/12 Championship and have their eyes set on yet another BCS National Championship Game.
In order to accomplish this tall order, the Ducks will need to navigate a gauntlet of opponents that will be gunning for them in the Pac-12.
Though every team should be taken in the same light as all the others, there is no doubting the fact that there are always a few teams on the schedule that make fans and players "amped up" for what is to come.
The rivals that the Ducks will face this year are the Washington Huskies, the USC Trojans, the California Golden Bears, the Stanford Cardinal and the Oregon State Beavers.
Here is the key player for every rivalry game the Ducks will play in.
Washington Huskies: Dion Jordan
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The Huskies and Ducks may have one of the best rivalries in college football. There is no love between the two schools, and many here in the Northwest will say that it has become more bitter than the Civil War.
That being said, the Oregon Ducks have dominated the rivalry as of late. They have won eight consecutive contests, but will have to defeat a much improved Husky team in 2012 if they want to win another Pac-12 title.
Key to this game will be Dion Jordan.
Jordan is an intimidating presence on the defensive line and will need to play his best if the Ducks wish to contain the Washington offense.
The Huskies will be led by Keith Price, a Heisman candidate, and Jordan will need to play to the best of his abilities to contain Price's runs and rush him when he drops back to pass.
If Jordan is able to keep after Keith Price the entire game, Washington will have a hard time finding a win over the Ducks.
USC Trojans: Kenjon Barner
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LaMichael James has gone to the NFL and it is now Kenjon Barner's time to rise at the University of Oregon.
Barner will be more than important when the Ducks travel to Los Angeles to play USC for what is to be the Pac-12 Game of the Century and Game of the Century, part two, in all of college football.
Don't think that the Coliseum won't be at its loudest when the Ducks take on the Trojans on November 3rd. Fans will be screaming at the tops of their lungs, and the abilities of Barner will be heavily relied upon during the entire game.
While both Ducks quarterbacks present viable options at the position, they will need some time to adapt to the raucous atmosphere of the LA Coliseum. In order to ease the crowd, Barner will receive a heavy load of carries early on.
He will be crucial in pushing the Oregon attack down the field and taking the burden off of his young offensive teammates.
California Golden Bears: Michael Clay
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California will be one of the bigger surprises in college football this year, mainly because of Isi Sofele.
Sofele is a star of a running back and is ready to prove to the nation that he is one of the best.
When the Ducks travel to California for this game, they will need to find a way to stop Sofele if they wish to bring home a win to Eugene.
Critical in stopping this talented back will be Michael Clay. Clay is the definition of a ball hawk and should be used to key in on Sofele, using his brute force and speed to stop the Bears' rushing attack where it starts.
Clay must force the Bears to throw the ball and get away from using Sofele. If Sofele is able to run all over the Oregon defense, the Ducks may have yet another scare in Berkeley.
Stanford Cardinal: Michael Clay
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Another great rusher, Stepfan Taylor of Stanford, needs to be stopped when the Ducks take on the Cardinal.
The fact that Andrew Luck is gone does not mean the Cardinal are not as potent as before. Taylor is a critical piece of Stanford's offense and has helped to make it so dominant over the past few years. He will be looking to make an impact statement in 2012.
Taylor uses his force to push the Cardinal up the field and open up the precision passing game.
Michael Clay will once again be the key to stopping the Cardinal attack. By keying in on Taylor, Clay will force Stanford to use their young quarterbacks to try and get past the Ducks.
If Clay can stop the attack of Taylor, the Cardinal will have a hard time getting past the Ducks in rowdy Autzen Stadium.
Oregon State Beavers: Kenjon Barner
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Oregon State will be a much improved team this year, especially on defense.
They return a bevy of starters on the defensive side of the ball and have a few big recruits who should make immediate impacts for the team.
Kenjon Barner will once again be the most important piece for the Ducks when they clash with the Beavers in yet another Civil War.
Barner will use his running prowess to open up the field for the rest of his offense, something that will be crucial due to the young ages of the playmakers around him.
If Barner performs at the level he is capable of against the Beavers, the Ducks should have no problem winning another Civil War.