Oregon Ducks vs Colorado Buffaloes Complete Game Preview
After losing two bowl game matchups against Colorado over a four-year span in the mid-to-late 1990's, the Ducks have dominated the series of late. Oregon has won three straight against Colorado in blowout fashion.
In the 2001 season the Ducks took offense to everyone talking up Colorado as the team that should have faced Miami in the Rose Bowl for a shot at the national title. The Ducks pounded the Buffaloes 38-16 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicates.
Colorado joined the Pac-12 before the 2011 season and the Ducks ran the Buffaloes off of Folsom Field. Despite playing without LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, the Ducks didn't miss a beat and won 45-2.
The Ducks hosted Colorado at Autzen Stadium in 2012 and pulled the majority of their starters in the second quarter as they cruised to a 56-0 at the halftime lead. This breathtaking punt return from De'Anthony Thomas was among their nine first-half touchdowns. The final score was 70-14 but Oregon could have easily put triple digits on the board if they felt like it.
With two victories under their belt in their first three games, first-year head coach Mike MacIntyre has Colorado looking like a more competitive squad than they have been in recent years. The Buffaloes already have doubled their win total from last year's disastrous 1-11 campaign.
Oregon Keys to Victory
Hold onto the ball
Let's be honest. It would take somewhat of a miracle for Colorado to even keep it close into the second-half on Saturday. Without the electrifying De'Anthony Thomas on the field, running backs Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner will need to step in and keep the Ducks chugging along.
Both backs surpassed the 100-yard mark last week against Cal but they both put the ball on the ground. Marshall did it three times by himself. Sure it was in monsoon-like conditions and it didn't cost the Ducks against Cal, but Marshall and Tyner need to hold on to the ball or it will come back to bite the Ducks.
Keep their focus
There is no way Oregon should lose this game but they can't look at it like that. Colorado is used to operating in the altitude. The Ducks are not. It didn't have an impact on the Ducks two years ago but the Buffaloes are a better team in 2013.
The Ducks need to stick to their guns, run the ball and try to stay healthy en route to another big road win. With 16 straight wins in enemy territory, the Ducks own the nation's longest winning streak on the road. They should make it 17 with ease this weekend but only if they show up and do their job.
Colorado Keys to Victory
Establish the run
The Buffaloes are much improved on offense with an above average passing attack. In order to keep the Ducks off the field and keep the high-flying Ducks grounded, Colorado must establish some sort of ground game in order to slow the game down. Their best chance in this game is to somehow get out to an early lead and try to milk the clock.
The Ducks have a 12-2 advantage in turnover margin through their first four games of the season. The Buffaloes have not been so fortunate as they have given up the same number of fumbles and interceptions as they taken away.
Colorado will need to win the turnover battle against the Ducks by forcing the Ducks into some mistakes and eliminating them when they have the ball. If they are able to force the Ducks into a couple of turnovers, they will need to capitalize and make the Ducks pay by reaching the end zone. Field goals won't cut it and wasting scoring opportunities will eliminate any hopes of pulling off a shocker in Boulder.
Oregon Players to Watch
After a subpar game statistically in last week's win over Cal, Mariota will need to bounce back against a porous Colorado defense in order to stay near the top of the Heisman Trophy race. There is a good chance Mariota and the rest of the starters won't be in the game for too long, meaning he will need to put up big numbers in a short work day if he hopes to stay in the national consciousness.
The sophomore stepped in for the injured De'Anthony Thomas in last week's blowout win over Cal with 130 yards and two touchdowns on just 19 carries. He has been solid but not spectacular thus far in his Oregon career. A second big game in a row could be a telling sign as to whether or not he is the next in a long line of great Oregon running backs.
Ekpre-Olomu is one of the elite defensive backs in the country and his role this weekend will be to shut down Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson. It will be a big test for the talented cornerback as Richardson is one of the top receiving threats in the country.
Colorado Players to Watch
The big play wide receiver attended the same high school as current Buffalo Bills' WR Robert Woods and current USC wide receivers Marqise Lee and George Farmer. Woods is in the NFL, Lee is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner and Farmer was the top-rated wide receiver recruit in the country coming out of high school.
Despite all the talent surrounding him on the field, Richardson made a name for himself and has continued to do so at Colorado. In just three games this season, the 6'1" Richardson has compiled 487 yards and five touchdowns on just 26 receptions.
He leads the Buffaloes passing attack as the go-to receiver and possesses the ability to make big plays against Oregon's talented secondary.
Wood has enjoyed a strong start with 887 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 60.3 percent of his passes through three games. He has thrown four interceptions and will need to avoid more against an aggressive Oregon defense.
The 6'4" junior was off his game last week in the Buffaloes 44-17 loss to Oregon State. Against an average Oregon State defense, Wood threw for just 134 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions on 14-of-34 passing.
He is facing a much tougher defense this week so he will need to be much improved if he hopes to come out of this weekend with any confidence to hold him over as the season rolls on.
What They Are Saying
This is the third game on the Oregon schedule that will feature two first-year head coaches. Mark Helfrich knows Boulder well after spending 2006-2008 as the offensive coordinator. Colorado's new head coach has the Buffaloes playing better football but he realizes what his team will be faced with on Saturday when they meet the second-ranked Ducks at Folsom Field.
In this article from Andrew Greif of Oregonlive.com, Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich spoke about whether or not the altitude has an impact on the game.
“No, not in the sport of football,” he said. “Now if we were in a bike race or running a marathon we might have a different issue. … It’s completely mental. We’re going to have our guys do something physical right off the bat but it’ll punch you in the chest if you walk up the stairs, because your body’s natural reaction is that there’s a little less oxygen in the air," Helfrich said. “But physiologically, there’s zero impact on how you play.”
Ryan Thorburn of the Registerguard.com writes that the time he spent in Boulder had a big impact on Helfrich.
“A thousand things,” Helfrich said when asked if there were any lessons he learned roaming with the Buffaloes that are helping him at Oregon. “The people of Colorado and living there was a great experience. I wish we would have won more, and a great deal of it is my fault.”
The Buffaloes first-year head coach suffered the first loss of his Colorado career last week in Corvallis and knows that his team must react in a positive manner in order to avoid his second. John Henderson of the Denver post writes about MacIntyre's many thoughts on the Ducks.
"We need to keep them at bay and not let them suffocate us too early and all of a sudden we'll have more options on offense," MacIntyre said at Tuesday's weekly media luncheon. "We'll move the ball better than people have moved on them if we can not let them get up 28 points, bang, bang, bang."
"That's a big 'if.' Nobody's done it. That's our goal, to be able to do that. And win the game," MacIntyre concluded.
Ryan Thorburn of the Registerguard.com also writes that despite the loss to Oregon State, it appears the Buffaloes have taken away some positive things and they know they have to recover quickly.
“This is a learning experience. We just have to forget about this game and move on,” CU cornerback Kenneth Crawley said after Beavers quarterback Sean Mannion threw for 414 yards and a school-record six touchdown passes against the Buffs at Reser Stadium. “We have the best team in the country coming next weekend, so we have to forget about this game and regroup as a team to get ready for next Saturday.”
After suffering an ankle injury on the opening kickoff in last week's game, the Ducks will have to do without one of the most exciting players in the country against Colorado. Oregon running backs' coach Gary Campbell discusses Thomas in this interview, as reported by Molly Blue at Oregonlive.com.
The Buffaloes are a much better team in 2013 than they have been over the past few seasons. MacIntyre has them headed in the right direction but they are coming from the very bottom. Facing off against one of the best teams in the country is not the time that they will make the big jump back to prominence.
The Buffaloes might keep it closer than it has been the past two years but it will still end poorly as the Ducks will roll on before hitting the meat of their schedule.
Marcus Mariota will have a big day and Byron Marshall will have a second big game in a row to announce himself as the next star in the backfield for the high-powered Oregon attack.
Oregon 62, Colorado 20