Wednesday, March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012
In this continuing series from Duck Sports Authority, we continue to look at each of the Ducks 2012 football opponents. After a Thursday night game at Arizona State, the Ducks will get a mini-bye week with 10 days to prepare for their next opponent; the Colorado Buffaloes. This will be the first trip for Colorado to Autzen as a member of the Pac-12 conference. This will be the first trip to Autzen for the Buffaloes since September 13, 1986.

Things have changed, though, from those days. In 1986, Autzen stadium was a quaint little stadium that did not have a history of sell-outs and showed only modest successes. Today, Autzen Stadium is considered one of the rowdiest stadiums in the country and boasts a perennial top 10 team.

Colorado, meanwhile, has gone backwards with their program and regressed to the lower tiers of college football. If there were still "bottom 10" lists floating around, Colorado may have been included during their last two seasons. Looking to restore the pride of nationally relevant teams, the Buffaloes enter their second season under head coach Jon Embree.

Offensive Disparity. Colorado brings the lowest scoring team in Pac-12 play in 2011 to Autzen to face one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. The disparity was apparent in last season's game at Boulder as the Colorado offense failed to score during the game, while Oregon scored 45 without their starting running back or quarterback


Returning Starters: 4

Key returners: Tony Jones, 5-7, 175, RB; Paul Richardson, 6-1, 175, WR

Key Losses: Tyler Hanseon, QB, Rodney Stewart, RB; Tony Clemons, WR; Ryan Miller, Guard

Key Arrivals: None

Getty Images
2011 leading rusher Rodney Stewart
The already anaemic offense took a hit in the off-season with the loss of their starting quarterback, best running back and best wide receiver. Colorado saw promising starts to the careers of Tony Jones at running back and Nick Hirschman at quarterback. Jones rushed for 297 yards in limited time while Hirschmann appeared to have good tools at the quarterback position.

Paul Richardson is a dangerous receiver who can also hurt teams in the return game. Richardson is the leading returning receiver having amassed 39 receptions for 555 yards and 5 touchdowns last season. He turned one reception into a 78 yard touchdown and had a high game of 11 receptions for 284 yards. His speed can be lethal if he gets a chance in the open field.

The team lost its starting tight end to graduation as well and his production will need to be replaced. Unfortunately for Colorado, the backup at several positions were also seniors. With no impact freshman on the horizon, the offense for Colorado does not promise to be much improved over last season.

Early Offense Prediction: Breaking in new starters in the backfield and at wide receiver as well as a couple of key offensive line positions, even by mid October, the Buffaloes do not figure to be able to cause much damage to an Oregon defense likely to be better than any defense in recent Duck history. Do not expect to see long sustained drives or big explosion plays by Colorado. The Buffaloes will struggle to score points against the Ducks in Autzen.


Returning Starters: 6

Key returners: Jon Major, 6-2, 230, LB; Will Pericak, 6-4, 285, DE; Greg Henderson, 5-11, 185, CB

Key Losses: Josh Hartigan, LB; Patrick Mahnke, LB

Key Arrivals: Yuri Wright, 6-1, 180, DB, Don Bosco Prep (N.J.)

The defense should be in better shape than the offense in 2012. The Buffaloes bring back their leading tackler and best defensive back. Jon Major led the team in total tackles with 85 last season. He also notched 7 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. The team loses it's best pass rusher, though, with the graduation of Hartigan. Hartigan recorded 10 tackles for loss last season, 8 of which were sacks. The Buffaloes will miss that production, but have some talented linebackers that can step in and play well in his place. The most notable of the key back-ups is Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6-3, 240) who recorded 5 ½ sacks of his own in limited action last season.

The Buffaloes bring back 3 of 4 starters in the defensive backfield. Their experience in 2011 should prove valuable in 2012 as the young players mature and understand the college speed a little better. Yuri Wright, who gained notoriety after being expelled for his tweets, is, nonetheless, a very talented player who might make an instant impact for the Buffaloes. Look for him during the early part of the 2012 season and you might be able to gain some perspective on how ready he is to contribute at the Pac-12 level.

Ed Navarro
Linebacker Jon Major returns for Colorado in 2012
Early Defense Prediction: Though a year of experience will help this team improve on their poor rankings from last season after allowing a conference worst 36.5 points per game. Though they will be better as a unit, it will not likely make much of a difference against the Ducks. The pace and depth needed to play against Oregon's offense cannot be matched by many teams in the Pac-12 Conference. Colorado, despite their improvement, is not going to be close to fielding a team prepared to play 60 minutes of football against the high-flying Duck offense. Colorado will struggle to contain the starting unit and will likely be playing against subs sometime in the 3rd quarter or early 4th quarter.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: This is a game that, barring some sort of disaster, the Ducks should win handily. Oregon will still need to take care of the ball on offense and stay disciplined on defense, but there should be little question in the second half as to the outcome of this game.

OREGON WILL LOSE IF: It would take some sort of injury plagued game that had the Ducks resorting to Wildcat QB formations for a Colorado win to be plausible at this time. Even then, the Ducks should have enough talent at running back to be able to win this game.

PREDICTED OUTCOME: This is a game that Oregon should win and win handily. The Ducks will be at home after an extra couple of days rest. There is the possibility of the team looking ahead to the following game at USC, but expect the Ducks to win easily.


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