Every game day this season, I will be interviewing a beat reporter covering the opponent, who will give us the inside scoop on the opposition. This week, I talked with Adam Chimeo, who manages SB Nation’s Addicted to Quack page, which covers all things Oregon Ducks.
Colton Molesky - Every season, the Ducks build the hype in the first three weeks but have not played a top 25 program in the first three weeks since 2015, why should people buy in this year or should they at all?
Adam Chimeo - It depends on what you are hyped about. This season has an intriguing mixture of known and unknown quantities. We know that Justin Herbert is a damn fine quarterback, we know that Oregon has elite talent on defense (Troy Dye, Jalen Jelks, Jordon Scott, Ugochukwu Amadi, and a few others) and this talent finally has some consistency in scheme and coaching with the retention of Jim Leavitt and Joe Salave’a.
The unknowns, however, are numerous enough to halt the hype train… for now. Cristobal has fully committed to the pistol, a move that will take time for the players to comprehend fully. He’s also elected to use up to six different players in the run game, as a sort of live-tryout, though it appears Tony Brooks-James and CJ Verdell have solidified their spots at the top of the pecking order. And as many have pointed out, we have no idea what Oregon will look like against a quality opponent.
So, to answer your question, I feel confident in saying buy into head coach Mario Cristobal but maybe not into this team’s chances of winning the PAC-12 North year one.
CM - The defensive front seems to be the strong suit for the Ducks, with Jelks and Apelu leading the charge up the middle, but is it enough against Love?
AC - Maybe not stopping him, but I believe the Ducks defense will do a decent enough job preventing him from taking over the game. It will be fascinating to see what Leavitt decides to focus on, whether it’s Love and the run game or Costello and his monster receivers. If Love finishes this game with under 100 yards, it’s because of one man, Jordon Scott (AKA Fat Mac). The behemoth nose tackle typically forces lines to dedicate two blockers, leaving room for Jelks, Hollins or even Amadi to reach the backfield.
CM - Justin seems to be the real deal, but can he hold up against Stanford’s unique, linebacker-based pass rush?
AC - I think the better question is, can Oregon’s offensive line hold up? The Ducks O-line under Cristobal has been superb at protecting Herbert (last year’s injury took place when Herbert was leaping towards the end zone on a run), but once again, they haven’t faced any real competition.
There’s an interesting combination of experience and raw talent in this unit. Juniors Shane Lemieux, Jake Hanson, and Calvin Throckmorton have played in every game since 2016. The Alabama transfer, Dallas Warmack, came to Oregon because of his close relationship with Cristobal and has made an immediate impact. The most talked about offensive lineman has been true freshman Penei Sewell. At 6’6, 345 pounds, Sewell is shaping up to be one of the best linemen in Duck history and will face his first real test against Stanford.
CM - What is the best matchup battle in this game for the Ducks?
AC - If Oregon wins this game, it will be due to a ferocious pass rush. The Ducks’ defensive backs have looked pedestrian at times, but the combination of Hollins and Jelks should strike fear in any quarterback. Stanford’s offensive line is taking some time to jell, and a handful of injuries hasn’t helped that effort. If the Ducks can regularly pressure Costello, combined with what should be a raucous Autzen crowd, maybe they can give Herbert enough scoring opportunities to win this thing.
CM - What is the matchup that keeps you up at night?
AC - J.J. Arcega-Whiteside vs. anybody. When you play three back-to-back cupcakes like Oregon has, you don’t gain much knowledge on what you’re good at, but you can certainly see what your flaws are, and the Ducks have flaws covering the pass. I have faith that the Ducks’ defense will force a good amount of punts, but just like every other defense that’s challenged Stanford, they’ll also give up some devastating explosive plays. And once Stanford makes it to the red zone, no one will be able to consistently stop the connection between Costello and the big bodies of Arcega-Whiteside, Colby Parkinson or Kaden Smith, so Shaw might as well throw it three-straight times.
Bonus nightmare for Oregon fans: Duck receivers have failed to get separation against Bowling Green, Portland State, and San Jose State, so the notion of them doing so against better competition is dubious.
CM - Who is set to have a big performance on offense and defense for the Ducks? And how does the game go down, what are your predictions and end score?
AC - OFFENSE
Justin Herbert- His 56% completion percentage is worse than Herbert deserves since his receivers have dropped a horrifying amount of well-thrown balls. Currently has a TD/INT ratio of 12-4. Beating Stanford would be the biggest win of his career.
Jacob Breeland- Breeland is a reliable and large target for Herbert, and steady hands will be mandatory if Oregon intends to compete against the Cardinal.
Jalen Jelks- Is a name that you will hear a lot.
Justin Hollins- So far, this has been his breakout season, can’t wait to see what he manages to do against better competition.
Ugochukwu Amadi- Is our best defensive back, and guaranteed to have at least a few game-changing highlights.
Jordon Scott- Demands that you send your two best linemen against him, or else suffer the consequences.
Troy Dye- Is the linchpin of Leavitt’s defense.
Never thought I’d write a list highlighting a plethora of Oregon defensive talent while struggling to find some standout skill position players, but alas, outside of Breeland, I am hesitant to say any pass-catcher will consistently gain positive yardage. That being said, this is how I think the game will go:
Oregon will win the coin toss and elect to receive the ball, where they will eagerly go three-and-out (two runs for negative yardage and a dropped pass to fill in receiver here). Then, K.J. Costello will methodically lead the Cardinal down the field, passing for five to 10-yard chunks until Love is able to score the game’s first touchdown.
The Ducks will tighten up on pass coverage, and a first-half interception will give them a short field goal, unfortunately for Oregon, that will be the only score they have till the third quarter. Stanford, on the other hand, will score one long touchdown (50 plus yards) via Arcega-Whiteside and a last-second field goal at the half, making it 17-3 at the half.
Unlike USC, Oregon will find their offensive rhythm in the second half, scoring on a deep Herbert touchdown. Then, the shootout will begin…
What started as a defensive game will evolve into a high-scoring thriller. In the end, both Herbert and Costello will throw for more than 300 yards and three touchdowns each, but the Cardinal defense will bat down a hail mary for the win, 45-38 Stanford.
...oh, and both will beat Washington.