Down in Eugene daily doubles have come to an end and the Oregon Ducks are now beginning to focus completely on their opener with Washington. The Ducks announced they will be closing practices to fans and the media in anticipation of getting ready for the opener on August 30th.
Coach Bellotti typically runs one of the more accessible BCS programs in the country. From the team's perspective, there is too much at stake on Aug. 30 to freely disseminate certain types of information regarding UO's preparations for the start of Pac-10 play.
For example, UW boss Tyrone Willingham was quoted in Tuesday's Seattle P-I as wanting to know who Oregon's starting quarterback is going to be for the opener. "You'd like to know," Willingham said. "It gives you a better look at what the skills of that individual are. So, if you can have that information, it's better to know."
One of the big questions going into this game is who Oregon is going to go with at QB. For the most of the fall it was going to be Nate Costa, but Justin Roper the star of last years Sun bowl bowl victory has pulled even with him as the team heads into crunch time.
You have to think that Bellotti has a pretty good idea and will make a decision by Saturday, but the starter could actually end up being a game day announcement which is designed to keep Washington on its toes as far as preparation is concerned.
Whoever the starter is he will be guarded by one of the very best offensive lines in college football. The Ducks game plan will be to run the ball at the soft underbelly of Washington's smallish and inexperienced defensive line. This will take pressure off whoever the starting QB is and it will put the highlight on Oregon's trio of NFL bound running backs. Make no mistake about it, Oregon is going to try to establish ownership of the line of scrimmage before opening up the passing game in this one.
Coach Bellotti expressed concern at the offense’s tempo in last Saturday’s scrimmage. The Ducks went to a consistent no-huddle look last season, and became so efficient that they got off two snaps against USC at mid season in a span of just 13 seconds. With Dixon graduated the timing and rhythm just may not be there yet.
When I saw the Ducks in Husky Stadium last fall I thought they had the best offense in college football. We were all just amazed by the gamesmanship going on in the backfield. It was almost impossible to tell who was carrying the ball at times. You would think one second that the Huskies had stuffed a play only to see a Duck sprinting around the corner with the ball unmolested.
I think it is a given that whoever starts at QB won't be able to execute as well as Dixon in the opener but they may not have to. The Ducks have a solid offensive line and with the speed and size at RB they should be able to gain their yards playing straight up against almost anyone.
Oregon has the ability to be a great football team in 2008, but there biggest obstacle just might be the opener against Washington because the offense may not be running on all eight cylinders yet.
Whenever you are going up against a team with an athlete the caliber of Jake Locker anything can happen. Locker almost single handedly kept Washington step for step with Oregon in 2007 through three and a half quarters. With an additional year under his belt and Dennis Dixon gone the Huskies hope that gap has been closed.
“I think we’re a great football team, and I’ve said this before — if we don’t beat ourselves, there are very few teams out there that can beat us,” Bellotti said. “And I really, truly believe that.
This game is going to answer a lot of questions for the Pac Ten on opening night.