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September 3, 2011 Darron Thomas is harassed into two fumbles and an interception in Arlington, TX
#3 Oregon 27 vs. #4 LSU 40 in Arlington, TX
Credit Oregon for scheduling a top 10 matchup for their opener. Credit LSU for capitalizing mistakes and coming away with a big win.
LSU proved in its opener that what Auburn did was no fluke—the way to stop the Speedy Oregon Offense is to:
1) Have the Defense Line win the battle in the trenches and shut down the inside running game.
2) Pressure Darron Thomas with a superior rush, like Nick Fairley provided in the National Championship game.
LSU added its own wrinkle:
3) Strip the ball—LSU got three fumble recoveries.
On paper at least Oregon should still be the favorite to win the PAC-12.
But there are some concerns about Oregon.
A. Can Oregon remain focused, and keep its speed on the field? This has to do with maturity, and perhaps leadership. Is a great coach just one that plans well for game day? Or is it also a coach that plays within the rules, and motivates their staff and players to do the same? Oregon has derailed itself with the likes of star performers like former QB Jeremiah Masoli. For the LSU game, CB Cliff Harris, on many pre-season all America lists, was suspended for being a driving idiot. His freshman replacement fumbled away the ball, and allowed a touchdown reception. It remains to be seen how much effect recruitment questions and violations will hurt the team going forward as well.
B. Oregon had some trouble containing LSU's running game. Expect a lot of opponents to be reviewing the game and seeing if they can exploit that matchup, and rest their defense. Nevada, Stanford, and Washington come to mind as teams that could take advantage of any run defense weakness.
#13 Oregon vs Nevada, Saturday, September 10, 2011
This is a serious trap game. Nevada was a one loss team last year that knocked of Boise State. But they did not get a single AP vote in this week's poll. This is Nevada's first game, and they have been preparing for this game, while Oregon was preparing for LSU. Nevada does need to replace their QB Colin Kaepernick, but 5th year QB Tyler Lantrip looks to be an able replacement with a strong arm. Co-Team Captain WR Rishard Matthews might help by providing Lantrip a talented target. RB Vai Taua is gone, but Nevada retains a stable of excellent backs and may again be among the elite of running teams in the nation, with an experienced offensive line returning. Nevada made huge strides on defense last year, and most of it is returning. Oregon needs to bring its 'A' game, for even at home in Autzen stadium, I expect Nevada to be ready to play. Nevada is a good team that is fighting for the respect it deserves.