Dave, who writes for the great Oregon Ducks Blog Addicted to Quack took time out to answer a few questions about tonight's game. My answers to his questions will be up later today.
1. How has Dennis Dixon lived up to expectations this year? He was a cool as a cucumber in the comeback win against Oklahoma yet seemed inconsistent against Washington last week.
Dennis has been really up and down this year. He played excellent in the beginning of the season, but completely laid an egg against Cal and Washington State. He obviously has all the physical tools, and has made some key plays. However, lately he has been interception city. I think that its just a matter of trying to do too much. He has to be able to read his progression and take what the defense gives him instead of locking in on one receiver. All is calm in Eugene right now with Dennis, though criticism could grow considerably louder if he lays another egg vs. SC.
2. The Oregon Red-zone offense is one of the best around, what have been the keys to their success?
A lot of it is just the ability to run the football. Last season, Oregon had a lot of trouble in the red zone becuase they relied so much on the pass. Its too damn hard to pass in the red zone because all the defenders are bunched up. But, for the most part, Oregon has just been able to get the ball to Stewart and Johnson and let them take over inside the 20. It also helps that the spread has a lot of screens and misdirection.
3. Will the UO running game be a tandem of Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson or will Stewart get the bulk of the work this weekend?
Stewart will always get more carries, but you'll see a healthy dose of both this weekend. The thing is that they compliment each other so well. Stewart is a big power back, and Johnson is speedy and shifty. Bellotti said that one of his biggest mistakes of the season was not playing Johnson against Cal. You won't see another game this season where both don't get 10+ carries.
4. With all the players from the LA area that UO has recruited over the past few years it's obvious that these guys are a little chippy who do you expect to step up in front of the home town crowd?
Many of these guys are from Southern California, and a lot of them are probably upset that they are not at SC. Jeremiah Johnson is the kind of guy who feeds off this stuff, and I expect him to have a big game. Darius Sanders, the defensive end, is another guy I would expect big things from. He's a fifth year senior who has never played in the Coliseum. Unfortunately, receiver James Finley is out. He was really looking forward to the game. But you have to figure Jaison Williams, from Inglewood, will have another big game.
5. What are your keys to the game?
Oregon State showed the blueprint for beating USC--stop the run, force turnovers, and get Booty in comeback mode. Thing is--SC still almost won that game, and there is no way Oregon can be that effective against SC's run game. The only teams without 100 yard backs vs. Oregon are Stanford and UW, not exactly the top of the conference. However, a lot of injuries on the defensive line are being healed. To win, the Ducks need to stop the SC running game, and not turn the ball over. For SC to win, they need to be able to pound the football to help out the passing game, and force Dixon to throw a couple of picks on defense.
6. While there were high expectations for Oregon this year if you win out what will the general opinion be of the program this year?
Well, if they win out and go 10-2, it has to be considered a successful year. Most fans were expecting 8-9 wins and this year to be a rebuilding year, but the team got off to such a hot start that expectations rose in a hurry before the team kind of fell back to earth. But winning out won't be easy. SC is really good, and we always seem to lose to the Beavers in Corvallis. We could just as easily go 1-2 in the final three, and that would have to be considered a huge disappointment.
Thanks Dave! God luck to your guys tonight.