Helfrich on Ducks Plan in Virginia
No. 2 Oregon Ducks at Virginia Cavaliers
Time: 12:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
Records: Oregon (1-0), Virginia (1-0).
Coaches: UO's Mark Helfrich (1-0). Virginia’s Mike London (41-26 overall, 17-21 at Virginia, fifth season).
Oddsmakers say: Oregon by 23 ½.
Watch/listen: Television – ABC or ESPN2 (undetermined) with Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham and Jeannine Edwards. Radio - Oregon IMG with Jerry Allen and Mike Jorgensen. Also on Satellite Radio: Sirius 134, XM 194.
On the line: Oregon’s 15-game road winning streak. Oregon hasn’t lost a road game since falling 51-42 at Stanford in 2009. However, since that time the Ducks have lost three games away from Autzen Stadium: 2010 Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State, 2011 BCS National Championship Game vs. Auburn, and the 2011 season opener against LSU in Dallas, Texas. Virginia is hardly on par with those three teams. But the Cavaliers will be far more challenging than the Nicholls State University team Oregon defeated 66-3 last Saturday at Autzen.
When Oregon has the ball: The Ducks offense must contend with expected high humidity, a potentially soggy field and the Cavaliers’ fierce front seven. The latter is the strength of the team. Virginia relies on an attacking style designed to disrupt offenses. The defense led the Cavaliers to a 19-16 win over BYU by holding the Cougars to 362 yards in a whopping 93 plays. However, rain played a factor and the Cavaliers can’t count on that type of help Saturday. But they can count on having a strong defensive line that features a nice blend of size up front and 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore end Eli Harold coming of the edge as a pass rusher.
“He reminds me of [former UO star] Dion (Jordan) on the edge and gets in a track stance,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
Jordan is now with the Miami Dolphins so it’s too early to project that type of success for Harold. But if his 11-tackle performance against BYU with 3 ½ for loss is any indication, he could t at least be disruptive.
That said, one man has never stopped Oregon. Heck, 11 rarely have. There’s no reason to believe that this unit is capable of such a feat.
When Virginia has the ball: Probably the biggest problem Virginia's defense faces is the team’s offense. Teams that beat Oregon typically slow down the Ducks by limiting their possessions with ball control to eat up time on the clock. Virginia struggled on offense last year during a 4-8 season and managed just 223 yards against BYU. The Cavaliers rushed for 2.6 yards per carry and quarterback David Watford threw for just 114 yards on 32 attempts (18 completions). So even if Virginia manages to “slow down” the Ducks offense there’s no guarantee that the Cavaliers’ offense would be able to take advantage.
Individual matchup to watch: Harold vs. Oregon tackles Tyler Johnstone and Jake Fisher. Virginia is very active upfront and likes to give multiple looks. But chances are, Johnstone and/or Fisher will see the most of Harold.
By the numbers: 89 percent. The percentage of Oregon scoring drives to last under two minutes this season. Of Oregon’s nine scoring drives against Nicholls, eight took less than two minutes to end with the Ducks in the end zone.
Quotable: "They have the best spread in college football in my eyes, but I really think that we can give these guys a run for their money.” - Eli Harold, Virginia defensive end.
Fentress predicts: Oregon will win but it won’t be over early. Think Washington State last season when the Cougars hung around until the second half before UO pulled away for a 51-26 win in Seattle. Expect Virginia’s defense to have its moments. But in the end, Oregon will prove dominant. UO 52, Virginia 23.