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Opponent Offense Preview: Oregon Ducks

NCAA Football: Oregon at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When Oregon needed an offensive coordinator, Head Coach Mario Cristobal brought in one of the most in demand names in the sport, Joe Moorhead. He was innovative at Penn State running a tricky to defend run-pass option. If you want a recap, just watch the 2017 Fiesta Bowl. He employs a similar approach at Oregon, but with a little bit of Cristobal’s power run game mentality. They average 36 points per game and are second in the Pac-12 at 205 rushing yards per game.

A More Aggressive Anthony

Anthony Brown has been around college football a long time, joining the sport as part of Boston College’s 2016 recruiting class. He has since transferred to Oregon and played part-time last year before becoming the starter for 2021. For most of his career he showed some tentativeness throwing downfield, but supplemented that with running and avoiding turnovers. In a cruel twist of fate for the Huskies, he seems to have improved dramatically over the past three weeks, posting a career high 307 yards and three TDs last week against Colorado. Oregon fans will tell you he’s trusting his receivers more as the year progresses and looks like a better overall quarterback.

NCAA Football: Oregon at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On the season he’s thrown for 1,797 yards, 10 TDs and 3 INTs, completing roughly 65% of those passes. Outside of running back Travis Dye (who gets a lot of targets in the pass game, mostly on screens and flare routes) most of Brown’s completions go to the duo of Devon Williams and Johnny Johnson III. Johnson has been catching passes at Oregon forever, and is a smooth route runner and natural pass catcher. He’s also a very aggressive and physical blocker in the run game. Williams is 6-5 and can create some separation when he gets moving downfield. He’s PFF’s highest rated WR for the Ducks and fifth overall on offense, while Johnson is next way down at thirteenth.

Other targets include sophomore Mycah Pittman, and the freshmen Troy Franklin and Kris Huston. Franklin in particular has played great the past two weeks with five grabs for 67 yards and TD. I wouldn’t worry about him though - I hear he’s flipping to the Huskies any day now. Tight ends are also on the field a lot for the Ducks. Namely the trio of Spencer Webb, Terrance Ferguson, and the freshman Moliki Matavao.

Travis Dye in the Spotlight

Oregon’s running back room took a hit when CJ Verdell was injured and lost for the season, leaving just Travis Dye as the most experienced running back available. He’s shouldered the load and delivered, using his smaller frame to change directions quickly and make defenders miss. He plays with a lot of desire, and has great vision to squeeze through small running lanes. He currently leads the team in receptions with 24 - Dye is not only the focal point of the run game, but also a safety valve for Brown in the pass game. Per PFF, he’s the second highest graded player on offense, and has 600 yards and 10 TDs this season.

Like the receivers, younger players have stepped up in recent weeks. Namely, Byron Cardwell, who had seven rushes for 127 yards last week against Colorado. Of course, Anthony Brown contributes on both designed runs and scrambles contributing 6 TDs on the ground himself. This comes in handy on third downs where Oregon ranks second in the conference in conversion rate (50%).

NCAA Football: Stony Brook at Oregon Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line has generally played well this season, only allowing Brown to be sacked 12 times and powering a rushing attack that ranks sixth in the nation in expected points added. The past three games in particular have seen the run game play with incredible efficiency. It is perhaps no surprise then, that the highest graded player on the offense is G TJ Bass. Despite the good play, Oregon spends many games reshuffling the offensive line trying to find the best unit. Whatever they are doing seems to be working as it’s powering an explosive and efficient run game and giving Brown a clean pocket in which to operate.

Final Thoughts

If Oregon wants to just the run ball down Washington’s throats, I’m not sure UW can stop it. They employ some misdirection and creative schemes (what a concept!), a far cry from Stanford’s boring, straight ahead run game which UW handled. I love the emergence of Carson Bruener but I’m not sure we can expect a young player to shore up the run defense for the entire front seven. Or perhaps he was the missing piece all along. If this defense can stop Dye and the run game, forcing Brown to throw, they have a chance. His confidence and ability to push the ball down the field are getting better every week, but Washington’s best performances over the years occur when teams are forced to attack the strength of the team.


How many points will Oregon score?

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  • 1%
    (4 votes)
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    (24 votes)
  • 26%
    (105 votes)
  • 40%
    (161 votes)
  • 25%
    (101 votes)
397 votes total Vote Now