Happy Hate Week everyone! That in mind, I’m gonna forgo any dumb introduction here and jump right into it:
All the excitement in Oregon’s off-season involved the new hire of former Michigan head coach, Brady Hoke, and his implementation of a new 4-3 base defense. This has so far been...a work in progress. The Ducks are allowing just over 36 points per game under this new scheme, which is good for 109th in the FBS.
Part of this dip is the inevitable discrepancy between the 3-4 scheme for which Oregon had been recruiting the past few years and their current 4-3. For the moment, they need more D-line depth than they have. However, I’d also hypothesize that even in a few years when Oregon has the depth from recruiting specifically for the 4-3, we might see that it’s not the most effective scheme for the offensive styles we see in the Pac-12. It could end up that Hoke’s 4-3 — ideal for the purists’ favorite, battle-of-the-trenches football that happens in the B1G — doesn’t translate well to the explosive air attacks that are more prevalent in the Pac.
Oregon’s defensive woes are exacerbated by the people they have to play without; DeForest Buckner is now in the NFL (reunited with Chip Kelly), Johnny Ragin was injured against WSU, Jalen Jelks is injured, Drayton Carlberg is injured, and Torrodney Prevot is suspended. The factors keep compounding and it’s not pretty for the Ducks.
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, true freshman LB Troy Dye, was also absent against WSU. On that topic, Mark Helfrich refuted that this was due to a disciplinary issue and then said: "By the same token, we don't talk about injuries and availability, so you can probably put two and two together on that one."
Ragin, who left the game against the Cougars with a leg injury, was the team’s leading tackler despite missing the Virginia game. The two directly behind him in tackles are Dye, who may or may not play against Washington, and CB Tyree Robinson, both with 27.
When a cornerback leads the active players in the team in tackles, it doesn’t bode well. Because, ya know, in an ideal world a cornerback will more often than not be preventing their guy from getting the ball anyway.
In many facets, the Ducks seem to be struggling where their Husky counterparts are thriving; nationally they’re last by far in first downs allowed on defense with 142, they’re allowing opponents to score 84% of the time after entering the red zone, and they are 102nd in the nation in rushing defense. This, while giving up more than 200 yards per game in the first five weeks of the season and more rushing touchdowns than almost every team in the country (16).
Of course injuries and the suspension are putting even more stress on a struggling unit. Although Oregon’s offense has overshadowed their defense during their 15-year reign of terror, I feel like their defense never got enough credit. I mean, did you see them ruin Jameis Winston’s day in the Rose Bowl two years ago? It was gnarly.
This decline, and its specifics, should see Washington dominate the line of scrimmage, especially in the run game. Especially now that we’re seeing the emergence of Lavon Coleman to partner with Myles Gaskin’s side-stepping slipperiness; along with UW’s offensive line coming into their own, I could see the Huskies piling up ground yardage.
Of course, it could very well end up that that’s what Oregon’s anticipating. In that case they’ll probably pull a Rutgers, aggressively attack the run game, and we’ll see Montlake Jake 2.0’s passing efficiency control the day.
Either way and with all bias aside (or at least as much as I can) I’m not anticipating Oregon coming away the victor on this side of the ball.
Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.