In Week No. 4, the Colorado football team will visit Oregon in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
Both teams are coming off a loss on the road, and both will be looking to get back on track this week.
BuffZone.com caught up with Ryan Thorburn, who covers the Ducks for the Eugene Register-Guard, to get his thoughts heading into Saturday’s game.
BuffZone: The outside perception is that Oregon doesn’t have that intimidation factor that it once had. From the inside, is the mentality and swagger still there for this program?
Thorburn: I think Oregon is still an aggressive, confident team with a lot of talent. Since Marcus Mariota left for the NFL, they are a competitive team that still puts up prolific offensive numbers but has trouble closing out wins on defense. Last week the “attack-mode” philosophy came back to bite Mark Helfrich after Oregon went 1-for-5 on two-point conversions in a 35-32 loss at Nebraska.
BuffZone: What has quarterback Dakota Prukop done well in his first season as a Duck, and what does he need to improve upon?
Thorburn: Dakota hasn’t turned the ball over and has been efficient in the passing game, completing 66.7 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions. He is also a dual-threat quarterback who is second on the team with 152 net rushing yards and a touchdown. The Montana State graduate transfer need to do a better job of connecting on deep passes to receivers like Darren Carrington and Charles Nelson.
BuffZone: To this point, the Oregon defense has given up a lot of yards and a lot of points. What is it that makes the defense so vulnerable?
Thorburn: First-year defensive coordinator Brady Hoke has a lot of work to do in transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3. The former Michigan coach has been shuffling the lineup every week to find the right chemistry. There is some talent on the defense, but most of the front seven is new.
BuffZone: Since Colorado joined the Pac-12, Oregon has dominated the Buffs. Any chance the Ducks overlook CU, or do you get the sense they have more respect for the Buffs?
Thorburn: Maybe if the Ducks rolled to an easy win at Nebraska they would overlook the Buffs. But this team is not in a good mood after losing in the fashion that they did. From the comments I’ve heard from coaches and players, Colorado has earned Oregon’s respect with its play this season. Even though the Buffs lost two key players to injuries, the Ducks are expecting a fight, especially if Sefo Liufau plays. Helfrich and his team are looking forward to hitting the reset button in Pac-12 play after letting one get away in Lincoln.