So Duck season opens up tomorrow in Eugene. Dave for Addicted to Quack was kind enough to do a little question and answer with us, our questions and his answers are below. You can head over to ATQ for his questions and our answers. As always we hope for a great injury free game....Good luck Dave!
1. Dennis Dixon seemed to lose control of this team towards the end of last season. Outside of settling in with a new OC, 3rd in 4 years, what else did Dixon do to reassert his leadership of this team?
I think that a lot of it is just confidence. If you remember last year, he started the season really hot, got rocked in the Cal game, and just never got it back. And to be fair to Dixon, that happened to multiple players. It was just that as the quarterback, it was most evident with him. He has learned from that, and is determined not to let it happen again.
Also, for all the grief people were giving him for it at the time, the coaching staff has mentioned that going to Florida to play minor league baseball also helped him out a lot. While it took him away from the team, it gave him some time alone to reflect and grow up.
2. Oregon has lost some players to either injury or suspension in recent weeks putting 2nd or 3rd stringer players in prominent roles. How does this affect how the offense is run and does that potentially put a little too much pressure on Dixon to make plays as he goes up against one of the tougher defenses that he will see this year.
Obviously, when you lose players of that caliber, it hurts. Fortunately, we are a deep team offensively. And it hasn't hurt Oregon yet. If Andre Crenshaw and Aaron Pflugrad can do what they did against Washington, it will ease the losses. But Jeremiah Johnson, Brian Paysinger, and Cameron Colvin were all big time playmakers. I think that the biggest effect that you will see is long term, the cumulative effect of players getting more and more snaps over the season, and you fear that they will start to wear down. But it doesn't affect the way that the offense is run, because the replacements can do enough of what the injured players can do. They aren't quite as good, and the team isn't quite as deep, and SC will be their biggest test all year. We'll see if they're up to the challenge.
3. Following up on that, outside of Dixon, who do you expect or need to have a big game on Saturday in order for the Ducks to pull out the win.
Jonathan Stewart. Everything that this offense does is predicated by the running game. The Ducks average almost 300 yards a game, and six yards a carry. In turn, that opens the passing game up. The front seven is the strength of the Trojan defense, and if they can manage to shut Stewart down, Oregon is going to have a very difficult time winning this game.
4. The defense in the Red Zone is #1 in the Pac-10 but between the 20's they are considered average by the stats found on the NCAA web site. How do to think the defense will adjust to the potential multiple threats of the USC offense.
It all depends on SC's quarterback play. Oregon plays the bend but don't break defense. As a result, they give up a ton of yards between the 20's, but avert a lot of crises with crucial red zone turnovers. For example, Oregon beat Washington State 53-7, but WSU drove into the red zone on the first three drives of that game, only to turn the ball over each time. Traditionally, Aliotti likes to stack the box against big time running attacks, and leave the secondary on an island, but that burned us big against the Huskies. I'm curious (and not necessarily in a good way) to see what Aliotti cooks up against SC. But I expect the Trojans to have no trouble moving the ball. Its turnovers that may get in their way.
5. Oregon is certainly not afraid to take on top teams like they did with Michigan, but as we have seen in conference play all bets are off. How is the team handling all of the exposure they getting as they stand on the doorstep of leading the Pac 10 and what is the general buzz on the campus and the alums about what they have seen so far this year.
I think that after the slap in the face that the team got last year, they aren't going to get full of themselves and start buying the hype. They know that they are going to have to earn it. As usual, the fans are a mixed bag. You have the totally irrational ones who think that Oregon is going to blow SC and everybody else out, and the melodramatic ones who are convinced that Oregon has no chance and that a late season swoon is coming. I think most are cautiously optimistic. National championship is certainly in the back of our minds. But we also know that many tough games lie ahead, and that any team with our remaining schedule is going to have to both play well and catch some breaks to win out. There is a definite buzz though. Student tickets went out Monday, and many students camped out all weekend. The crowd will do its job, that's for sure.
6. Finally, all teams have their crazy fans. But Autzen is a very different, very intimidating place to play. The fans, of course, will be nuts. Any thoughts on anything special that the Autzen faithful have planned for the SC players.
I don't know about anything special. Basketball season is where you usually see the personal chants and taunts come out. Autzen is just 55,000 yelling their lungs out. Let me put it this way--there will be a lot of sore throats on Sunday in Eugene.