Opening up against the Ducks in Autzen Stadium at night on national TV is not exactly the way you want to start the season with a young team. The Huskies hung with the Ducks by the grace of Jake Locker in Husky Stadium last year, but just plain ran out of gas in the fourth quarter as Oregon played one of their best games of the season. I really thought at that point that Oregon was headed for the BCS championship game, but an injury to Dixon scuttled the season.
Dixon, and Stewart aren't back this season, but the Duck's have plenty of firepower to take it to the next level. Jeremiah Johnson returns and is teamed up with a JC animal RB by the name of LeGarrette Blount. Don't forget Andre Crenshaw who is also more than capable of taking over the position. The Ducks aren't really going to miss JS too much.
It all starts at quarterback, and this is one of the two only real question marks on the team. Will the starter be Nathan Costa, a dual-threat like Dixon, Justin Roper or BYU transfer Cade Cooper? Once the position has been settled, the team should get back to some stability, but look for them to stumble a bit early as the QB gets experience.
The wide receiver unit is a little iffy, and really dependent on how consistent Jaison Williams is. It's that simple. Well, that, and remaining injury-free. Last year Williams' stats were down from the previous year despite being thrown a lot of passes by Dennis Dixon. The Ducks get a possible boost from USC transfer Jamere Holland, another projected starter, and TE Ed Dickson returns as one one of the better TE's in the country this year.
On the offensive line Center Max Unger, an All-American candidate, is back, as well as LT Fenuki Tupou and RG Mark Lewis. The Ducks as usual will have a solid offensive line.
Oregon’s defense could be the strength of this team, as they are returning 7 starters which is surprising for a team that is more concerned with outscoring you, than stopping you.
The secondary will probably be one of the better in the country. They only lost two free safeties, which sounds like a big problem, but it's not, thanks to Rover Patrick Chung. He's First Team Pac-10 and the heart of the D. Throw in Walter Thurmond and Jairus Byrd, the two best corners in the Pac-10, and you have a solid ourfit that will play on Sundays.
Senior DE Nick Reed who led the Pac 10 in sacks with 12 will anchor the defensive line. The team will have two seniors stepping in at the tackle positions, and they will probably go a long way in how this team performs on this side of the ball. While the Ducks look secure on their ends, there is a depth issue on the line. Two JUCO's have been brought in to solidify the tackle positions.
At linebacker the team is pretty set as you will have returning starter John Bacon and junior Kevin Garret on the outside. Where things get interesting is if senior John Bacon can hold off sophomore Casey Mathews in the middle, either way the future is bright with Mathews.
How do you beat Oregon?
You exploit the inexperience at QB, and WR and force them into mistakes that give up some points. Oregon can be beaten, we saw what happened to them when they lost Dixon last season. Well Dixon isn't around, and it is going to take some time for Costa, or whoever to get to that level of proficiency. Oregon's strength on offense is obviously going to be running the ball, you want to get them out of the mode by seizing the lead early and making them play catch up and making mistakes.
What Do I Think?
We are going to have our hands full with these guys, they have the talent to shut our WR's down on opening night which means we have to depend on the legs of Jake Locker, Brandon Johnson, and Chris Polk. I really have to pick Oregon in the opener because all they have to do is hand the ball off and keep it simple on offense. If they keep it simple for Costa to eliminate mistakes they are going to win this one.
The key is Costa, or whoever Bellotti goes with at QB. Washington was able to pace the Duck offense last year for most of the game, if the new QB slows down the Duck offense it could be a close one. UW needs to force the young QB into making mistakes. Getting points off those mistakes is essential.