Ducks look like the real deal
Time to take a deep breath, college football fans.
Two weeks into the season, we have an idea about who our teams are:
• The Oregon Ducks look like a potential College Football Playoff team.
• The Oregon State Beavers look like they have a clear-cut starting quarterback in Chance Nolan.
• The Portland State Vikings? Not sure how they will fare against Big Sky Conference competition after struggling to keep up with two FBS offenses.
This week won't answer many questions, with Oregon welcoming Stony Brook, Oregon State entertaining Idaho and Portland State hosting Western Oregon. So there won't be the buzz of last week, when Oregon's 35-28 win at Ohio State was important for the national relevancy of the Ducks and the Pac-12.
Even if this Ohio State defense is below the standards Buckeyes' fans expect, the way Oregon's offensive line played bodes well for the Ducks. The line paved the way for CJ Verdell to run for 161 yards and account for three touchdowns in the win at Columbus, Ohio. It also kept quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. clean (no sacks).
Ditto the way Brown handled himself in front of more than 100,000 fans. He missed a few throws and had several dropped, but threw for 236 yards and two touchdowns while running for 65 more.
Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead had Ohio State figured out, and Brown executed the plan by getting the ball to 11 different receivers and by using his legs to keep the defense off balance. Perhaps most impressively, Brown's leadership allowed the Ducks' offense to stay composed after consecutive three-and-out possessions in the fourth quarter.
In short, the sixth-year senior outperformed the talented freshman in the other uniform.
Sure, Ohio State's C.J. Stroud threw for 484 yards (third most in Buckeyes history). But, at crunch time he threw an interception and was sacked.
It certainly helped that Oregon jumped in front and never trailed. The effectiveness of the Ducks' offense played into Buckeyes' coach Ryan Day choosing to go for five fourth downs. By denying three of them, the Ducks kept the Ohio State partisans restless.
The fact that Stroud had to try to rally Ohio State was one of the big stories. Because, even down several top defenders, including Kayvon Thibodeaux and Justin Flowe, Oregon's front seven handled OSU's ground game.
One of the most enticing takeaways: In Year 4 of Mario Cristobal's project, Oregon's highly-touted recruits looked every bit as talented as Ohio State's. And the Ducks didn't flinch with one of the best players in college football, Thibodeaux, among those unable to play.
The Ducks play three of their next four at home and should be double-digit favorites in each of them. The Oct. 2 game at Stanford looks more interesting after the Cardinal thumped USC.
The schedule should allow young Ducks to gain more experience. Not that Oregon has been shy about playing its recruits. Through two games, 27 freshmen (12 true freshmen) have seen the field.
Nolan cements job — Chance Nolan completed 21 of 29 throws for 302 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon State's 45-27 win over Hawaii, a performance that should lock down the starting job for the redshirt sophomore. Ditto for back B.J. Baylor, who ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
This week — Stony Brook (1-1) at Oregon (2-0), 4:30 p.m. Sept. 18 (Pac-12 Network). Trib's take: Letdown alert. You can bet that will be the talking point in Eugene this week as the FCS Seawolves from New York visit Autzen. The Ducks should be motivated to put this one away quickly and give depth players the second half. The most interesting part of the day should be finding out who among the freshmen QBs behind Brown sees the field first. Oregon 59, Stony Brook 10.
Idaho (1-1) at Oregon State (1-1), 12:30 p.m. Sept. 18 (Pac-12 Network). Trib's take: The schedule gets a lot more difficult after this game, beginning Sept. 25 at USC, so the Beavers need to roll the Vandals. Oregon State 59, Idaho 10.
Western Oregon (0-2) at Portland State (0-2), 2:05 p.m. Sept. 18 at Hillsboro Stadium (streaming ESPN+). Trib's take: After facing FBS foes the first two weeks, the Vikings should enjoy playing the bigger-school role this week. Portland State 60, Western Oregon 10.
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