As we've done for pretty much every TCU opponent this season, we sat down with jgundy85, who writes for Addicted to Quack, The Cauldron, and Sports Illustrated, to gain some insight into the Oregon Ducks. I also answered some questions for them, which will be up on their site in the coming days.
1. Oregon caught a few losses early in the season, largely due to an injury to Vernon Adams Jr. If he stays healthy all season, are the Ducks a top 4 team?
Without a doubt. Now, with three losses, all you need to do is remove two of those, which is easy: Michigan State and Washington State. Oregon went on the road, against a playoff team in Michigan State, and gave the Spartans all they could handle -- with Adams' finger being useless. In fact, they were a wide-open throw (that missed) away from winning. Then, against Wazzu, Oregon had a 10-point fourth quarter lead, with the ball, with our backup QB's rotating.
I don't like to play the 20/20 game -- but, yes...this is absolutely a playoff team with a healthy Adams.
2. Oregon's offense has always been solid, but what people don't realize is that the Ducks' defense has traditionally been pretty good too. That hasn't been the case this season, though. What changed?
Coming into the season, there was a split of optimism and fear regarding the defese. Our front seven was going to slide between solid and spectacular; the line was loaded, the linebackers were veterans. The secondary, on the other hand, was as green as the 'backers were seasoned. The optimism came form the fact that, from a talent standpoint, our secondary was as good as its ever been. Unfortunately, it was more of a trial-by-fire than we thought.
Watching every single snap, however, you realize that the defense wasn't as bad as it was made out to be. Don't get me wrong, there's many folks who think a change is necessary -- but the way Oregon's whole operation operates, if the offense bogs down, the defense will suffer. And for six weeks, the offense was a mess. The defense did as much as they could, but they were just too young. Once Vernon Adam's got healthy, and the secondary gained some experience, you started to see what they could be.
3. How do you feel Oregon stacks up to TCU, on both sides of the ball?
I think the collective feeling was YIKES. (Highly analytical, I know). The bottom line is, though, that what TCU does best -- sling the ball -- is what Oregon struggled with the most. So, at first glance, it's scary. But the one thing that Oregon always seems to do is take advantaged of bowl practices. And with the secondary already gaining confidence from their play the last two months of the season, it wouldn't surprise me to see a spirited effort from the Oregon defense. Plus, the front seven is loaded with seniors who will want to go out with a bang.
Defensively, I think it's a mirror image from the Horned Frogs. They won't truly be able to stop Oregon, either. It's been mentioned across the nation, but never really with the correct emphasis: When Oregon has a healthy Vernon Adams, they have the best offense in the country. Running, passing, downfield blocking and explosive receivers -- no team is as complete offensively as the Ducks.
4. Who are some big names TCU needs to keep an eye on for the Ducks?
Our do-it-all, Charles Nelson, needs to be on the radar. But I'm going to go off the path a bit: Dwayne Stanford, receiver. Stanford is Oregon's version of a possession-receiver, but he's every bit of 6'5". Stanford will never be on the level, explosively, as his teammates; but what he does -- the 7,10,15-yard catches, often times when the team is struggling -- are what allows Oregon's offense to be as dynamic as it is.
Defensively, along with Nelson, Ugo Amadi, a true freshman corner, has been getting better and better as the season progressed. He's the typical young, dynamic corner: occasionally brilliant, occasionally cringe-worthy, but he's the kind of player who will be foaming at the mouth with TCU throwing the ball so much.
5. Scott Frost just took the Central Florida HC gig, meaning the Ducks will be without their OC for the Alamo Bowl. How big of a loss is that for Oregon?
I don't think it's a big deal, honestly. Now, I'm not gong to say losing your coordinator doesn't sting -- that would be silly -- but Matt Lubick, the assumed heir apparent, is going to slide in seamlessly. There's lots of people around the country think that Lubick is a star in the making, and given a month to prepare, he will use this as an on-job interview.
By the end of the season, it seemed as if Frost had one foot out the door; whether that's true or not, we'll never know. But with Lubick, look for things to click just as well as they had been.
6. Give us some general insight into the Ducks, seeing how our two schools haven't played since 1978.
Quiet. Unassuming. Conservative.
Oregon is a fringe top-10 program. Despite having a top-3 winning percentage the past 10 years, they're not there yet. And with Chip Kelly gone (have you guys heard of him?), there's a whole line of people waiting for Oregon to come back to reality. But I think Mark Helfrich is the right coach, and our recruiting has never been better than it is now.
Oregon is what you see -- they try to stay one-step ahead of the curve, and, for the most part, they've done it. Will it last forever? No. Will there be down years? Yes. But Oregon has been doing this long enough that it's no longer a fluke. I think TCU is on the Oregon path, to be honest. You have to be explosive, offensively. You have to build slowly, which they have. And you have to be level-headed when things go wrong, and not blow it up.