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Oregon Strategy Session: September To Remember?

Fletcher JohnsonCorrespondent IMay 19, 2009

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Walter Thurmond III #6 of the Oregon Ducks attempts to intercept the ball over Verran Tucker #6 of the California Golden Bears during an NCAA football game on November 1, 2008 at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

It is well known that the Oregon Ducks season could well be decided in the first few weeks of the season. Here are the keys to the first four games and why I think the Ducks could be putting themselves in a position to make a run at the Pacific-10 Championship.

Sept. 3 At Boise State 

2009 begins with one of the most sour tastes that lasts from a ten win 2008 season. The Ducks had already lost two quarterbacks at the beginning of last season, so when Boise State defensive back Ellis Powers made a cheap helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, Duck fans knew their team was in trouble. 

The Ducks struggled throughout the course of the game and eventually lost after a furious comeback under redshirt freshman Darron Thomas. This game is on the smurf turf in Boise in front of what is sure to be a raucous crowd. The Ducks want revenge along with giving Chip Kelly his first victory in a place where few victories for visitors come.

Boise State has most of its offense back including quarterback Kellen Moore.  Their defensive front seven is a huge question mark and that’s what has Oregon and running back LaGarrette Blount licking their chops. The Duck defense will be hungry to prove last year was a fluke and will come out and play tough. 

We have seen that if the Ducks can run the ball early, it will generally be a good day. I expect Oregon to run all over the Broncos in a very high scoring affair making this Thursday night one of the best of the season. Oregon wins 45-34.

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Sept. 12 vs. Purdue 

One of the most thrilling games last year was the double overtime victory against the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana. With Head Coach Joe Tiller retired and quarterback Curtis Painter graduated, this looks to be a rebuilding year for the Boilermakers. 

Purdue’s spread offense is still a cause for concern though. If they can get in rhythm, they will be able to score points. Danny Hope takes over the reins at head coach and Justin Siller at quarterback. This is easily the Ducks easiest game in September. Even if the Ducks aren’t clicking on all cylinders, expect them to win this one relatively easy. Oregon wins 49-23.

Sept. 19 vs. Utah

This is the most puzzling game of the season in my mind. The Utes come into Eugene fresh off of a Sugar Bowl victory against Alabama. The Utes return only 12 starters from that team and lose virtually every offensive skill position player including quarterback Brian Johnson and All-American kicker Louis Sakoda. 

This Utes team will look drastically different from last years, but something tells me they will be a handful for the Ducks and the Mountain West this year. 

Quarterback Corbin Louks is very fast and could give the Duck defense some trouble. Expect to see the Ducks struggle on offense, but score enough to get the job done. Oregon wins 38-31.

Sept. 26 vs. California

This first big Pac-10 test finishes up the toughest month of games for the Ducks. Jeff Tedford has not lost to Oregon since 2005 and he looks to keep that streak alive on the legs of Jahvid Best. 

The Bears are expected to challenge USC for the conference crown along with the Ducks, so this matchup has a lot riding on it heading forward. Cal’s defense lost their three starting linebackers which wreaked havoc in the Bears 2008 win. 

This game could be the second biggest in the Pac-10 this year with the winner’s game against USC being for the conference crown. The Bears kept Oregon’s offense under wraps last year with help from a monsoon in Berkeley, but the Ducks hung in and almost pulled it out anyway. I expect another close game in Eugene with the Ducks pulling out a close game beating the team that has given them the most trouble over the last half decade. Oregon wins 31-28.

I see the Ducks going 4-0 in September, but 2-2 is not without the realm of possibility. If the new offensive and defensive lines struggle, Oregon will struggle to win. The sky is the limit but the bottom could fall out. Oregon will know what type of team they have early in the year, and lets hope they don’t disappoint. 

Check back next week for an in-depth look at why Jeremiah Masoli fits Chip Kelly’s offense so well.

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