Oregon Football 2011: Previewing Ducks' Week 2 Game Against Nevada
Oregon opened up its campaign for the 2012 national title in disappointment.
The No. 3-ranked Ducks lost to No. 5 LSU 40-27 in Cowboy Stadium.
LSU has since moved up to the No. 2 spot in the polls while Oregon has dropped 10 spots to 13th.
The Ducks, however, are returning home to Autzen Stadium and look to rebound after a tough loss and regain their composure before starting their conference schedule as they aim for their third straight Pac-10—now Pac-12—championship.
What to Expect from Nevada
The Wolfpack are replacing more than 60 percent of their offense from last year's team that upset Boise State.
Quarterback Colin Kapernick, arguably the greatest player in Nevada's history, is gone, as are the top three receivers, including tight end Virgil Green, and the leading rusher Vai Taua.
The reins are handed now to senior Tyler Lantrip to run head coach Chris Ault's pistol offense.
Lantrip will be without linemen John Bender and Jose Acuna, which will even the playing field for Oregon after losing three linemen from last year's runner-up squad.
On the defensive side of the ball, top player Dontay Moch is gone, as is cornerback Doyle Miller and the team's top two pass rushers.
LaMichael James Needs to Get Back on a Roll
LaMichael James had possibly his worst game against LSU. He ran for 54 yards on 18 carries and only reached the end zone once.
James will have to rebound at home against Nevada or frustration will soon build, causing him to have a poor season and meaning Oregon's offense will struggle without its main attraction.
Head coach Chip Kelly needs to keep giving James the ball so he can get back into his rhythm and rebound after a tough loss.
Front Seven Needs to Play with More Physicality
As I said after the game, Oregon played with no physicality against LSU.
LSU was able to have two 90-plus yard rushers who both gained the majority of their yards running up the middle. That is absolutely unacceptable.
Nick Allitoi's defense will have to make big plays up front and keep the run-heavy pistol offense under control so Oregon doesn't share the same fate as Boise State.
Will Cliff Harris Be Back?
Cliff Harris main have been one of the reasons why Oregon lost against LSU.
His replacement on punt return fumbled the ball leading to an LSU score while his replacement at cornerback allowed an LSU passing touchdown.
The Ducks will need to get Harris back soon if they want to defeat teams like Stanford and USC later this season. Fortunately he won't be needed as much against Nevada as the team is run-heavy, as said before.
Kelly has given no statement on when Harris will be back and even said that he wouldn't have given the Ducks the victory over the Tigers. LaMichael James, however, thought differently.
Can the Offensive Line Rebound?
Oregon's inexperience on the offensive line showed last week and it hurt because of it.
The Ducks were called on 12 penalties for 95 yards, which never helps a team win a game. Linemen were dropping like flies, bringing in even more inexperienced backups and causing quarterback Darron Thomas to run outside of the pocket all night.
The Ducks' O'line will have a much easier task protecting Thomas from a mediocre Nevada defense and should regain confidence after getting demolished by a stout SEC defense.
With the Target off Their Backs, Will Oregon Be Playing Tougher?
Believe it or not, the past two years the Ducks have been playing from behind.
In 2009, Oregon rebounded from a loss at Boise State where star running back LeGarette Blount threw a punch post-game. In 2010, Oregon was seen as inferior after losing star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to criminal charges.
Now the trend continues in 2011 after the Ducks' loss to LSU. Now not having the target on their backs, the Ducks can just play football and live under Kelly's preaching of "Win the Day."
Will De'Anthony Thomas Still Be a Part of the Offense?
Freshman De'Anthony Thomas showed flashes of brilliance but made two key turnovers that resulted in LSU points.
The question is will Kelly still integrate Thomas into the offense or try and put him at cornerback (a position Thomas dominated in high school)?
Oregon already has a surplus at running back and should only call on Thomas if there are injuries to James and Kenjon Barner.
Will We See Tra Carson at All?
The 180-pound James and Barner and 160-pound Thomas were dominated by the size of the Tiger defenders, but Oregon still never went with its big back.
In 2008, the Ducks' offense was able to have two 1,000 yard rushers with the undersized Jeremiah Johnson and oversized LeGarrette Blount.
Carson is very similar to Blount in size and speed. Carson is 6'0" and 227 pounds with 4.4 speed and should be integrated into the offense more.
Watch the highlights above and you'll see what I mean.
I think we will see Oregon easily win this game over the Wolfpack. It returns more members of its offense and defense and is back home at Autzen Stadium, where it haven't loss since Sept. 20, 2008, to Boise State.
Final Score: Oregon-47, Nevada-17