Jared Light of SB Nation's Oregon blog, Addicted To Quack, was kind enough to answer some questions about the Ducks leading up to Saturday's game.
1. Oregon's two most impressive wins are against a Tennessee team that needed double-overtime to survive UAB and an Arizona State team that was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-10. While the Sun Devils have certainly looked better than most pundits expected and road wins are always tough to come by, what's the main question or concern you still have about this team after four weeks?
There are a few questions that I have, but I would say the biggest one is: what the heck is up with the offensive line? They didn't play all that well against Tennessee, and were pretty much dominated by the Sun Devils.
This is a unit that we thought would be tops in the Pac-10. They return every starter from last season's team and grew by leaps and bounds after their early struggles. Unfortunately, against both solid defenses they've faced, they've failed to open consistent holes, and Darron Thomas has made many throws under pressure.
We don't have a lot of reason to think the group won't get better, but they haven't really shown it yet this season.
2. Most Stanford fans are familiar with the names Darron Thomas and LaMichael James, and even Kenjon Barner and Jeff Maehl. Is there another player on the offensive side of the ball who you could see having a breakout performance against the Cardinal?
I'd keep my eye on two receivers: Lavasier Tuinei and Josh Huff. Tuinei is a lanky 6'5" receiver that is shifty and tough. He's been a solid third option for Darron Thomas this year, and seems to always do good things with the ball in his hands. Josh Huff is a true freshman who is Oregon's fourth option at receiver, and caught a long TD last week against ASU. Both are very talented players, and with how Oregon spreads the ball around, could see the ball a lot. Both are good down the field, and in space, and could play an important role in Saturday's game.
3. If you were Jeremiah Masoli's guardian angel and could hop in a hot tub time machine to go back in time and right his wrongs, would you? In short, would you rather have Thomas or Masoli quarterbacking the Ducks this season? What does Thomas do differently--better or worse--than Masoli?
Whoa, great question. And my honest answer is that I'd rather have Darron Thomas as the QB. Jeremiah Masoli, while great, was simply too inconsistent in the passing game. He had the ability, but could not always put it together. In some games, like against USC, he was unstoppable. In other games, he looked like he shouldn't be starting in a Pac-10 game. And good teams could exploit his passing issues. After last year's Rose Bowl loss, I was convinced that Oregon would be unable to win a national title with Masoli, simply due to his erratic passing.
Darron Thomas does not have the running abilities of Masoli. He will not take on a linebacker or DE one-on-one like Masoli would, which has led to more handoffs in the read option running game than Oregon fans are used to. But he is unquestionably a better passer. He is taller, can see down the field, and the Ducks vertical passing game is already far beyond where it was at the end of last season.
Thomas has struggled with his accuracy on these long passes. Against ASU, he barely missed two long passes to Jeff Maehl that could have possibly broken the game wide open. But Thomas has the ability to make defenses pay for stacking the box against the run, which is something that we didn't always have last season. In the end, I think the Ducks are better off for that.
4. Stanford and Oregon combined for 93 points in last year's thriller on the Farm and the over/under for Saturday's game is 65.5. Are you expecting another shootout, or will the punters get in some work?
While I would be surprised to see a shootout, I am actually expecting both defenses to step up a decent degree. In a way, it reminds me of the Cal/Oregon game in 2007, when both teams expected a shootout, and it was only 10-3 at the end of the first half. Both Oregon and Stanford have struggled to slow starts against decent competition, and I think that will continue.
If we see a slow start, a 31-28 finish is very possible.
5. For the Stanford fan who has never been to Autzen Stadium, can you attempt to describe what makes it such a difficult place for opposing teams to win? What are your thoughts on the Yellow Out?
What yellow out? Trying to get Oregon fans to color-coordinate has only ended in utter failure. I expect that to continue.
As for what makes Autzen so difficult, it's very easy to explain: noise. Oregon has the highest recorded noise level in college football at 127 dB. But beyond that, the noise is pretty much constant. Oregon fans do an excellent job on being loud on every single defensive snap. The noise will make it very difficult for Stanford to make adjustments at the line, and just adds that extra level of difficulty for the opposition.
While I think that many fans overstate this advantage (it does not provide a 7-point advantage to the Ducks), I believe this will be the first time that Luck has played in this type of environment. While I'm sure he'll be fine, the noise will make his job that much harder.