Win the Day
The Oregon Ducks are coming into the 2012 expectations with some very high expectations coming from coaches, players, and fans.
Matchup: Arkansas State at Oregon
Venue: Autzen Stadium (Eugene, OR)
Game Time, TV: 7:30 PM (PST), ESPN
Date: Saturday, September 1, 2012
Team Records: Arkansas State (0-0) Oregon (0-0)
Standings: Season opener
The Ducks ended their 2011 season by winning their first Rose Bowl since 1917 and return a bevy of players on the offensive and defensive side of the ball that give them a talented, veteran base to build a special 2012 season from.
And, on Saturday night, Oregon will officially begin its quest for a fourth straight Pac-12 Title when they take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
The Ducks are coming into the 2012 ranked 5th in the nation and many have them contending for a BCS National Championship. Arkansas State, coming off of a Sun Belt Conference Title, is not ranked heading into the 2012 season but is looking to keep recent momentum going with new head coach Gus Malzahn leadeing the charge.
The 2012 opener will commence Oregon head coach Chip Kelly’s fourth season as head coach of a program and will also feature a number of outstanding players on both teams.
Though there are many analysts predicting this game as a cake walk for the Ducks, Arkansas State is not a bad team at all. They were ranked as high as number 35 last season in the BCS Standings and return a number of offensive and defensive players that should make this game interesting.
What to watch: Arkansas State
As mentioned previously, Gus Malzahn is the new head coach at Arkansas State and has really given fans of the team a lot of excitement and hope of great things to happen in the future.
The Ducks are no strangers to Malzahn as he was the offensive coordinator of an Auburn Tigers team that beat the Ducks in the 2011 BCS National Championship. Though it has been a year and a half since he saw the Ducks in live action, you can be sure that Malzahn has a gameplan and strategy that is based off what he saw when he was with Auburn in 2011.
An offensive guru, Malzahn has a few pieces to work with that should make the game exciting for the Red Wolves.
Returning quarterback Ryan Aplin had a stellar season last year and will be a player to watch as he has more than a few accolades heading into the 2012 season. He is a Heisman Contender and also on the watch lists for the Walter Camp Player of the Year, Davey O’Brien Award, Johnny Unitas Award, and Manning Award.
What to watch: Oregon Ducks
The obvious player to watch heading into the first game for the Ducks will be newly elected starting quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota, who beat out the talented Bryan Bennett for the starting position, will have all eyes on him as he leads the Oregon offense in a live game for the first time in his young career.
Just a redshirt freshman, Mariota boasts excellent traits all around. He has great pocket presence, can deliver an accurate ball, and has some of the best speed on the offense, using it to aid Oregon’s spread option attack.
Besides Mariota, the Ducks feature a slew of players that are some of the best in the conference. Kenjon Barner will make his official debut as a true starter for the Ducks, De’Anthony Thomas will be poised to start his Heisman campaign, Michael Clay will look to lead a stout Oregon defense, and Dion Jordan will be bursting off the defensive line and into the opposing backfield.
Matchup to watch: Ryan Aplin vs. Oregon secondary
One of the bigger issues the Ducks had on the defensive side of the ball in 2011 was their pass coverage.
An already young secondary plus the suspension of Cliff Harris forced young guys to step in all season and try and contribute as best as they can.
While these players did perform much better towards the end of the season, it will be very interesting to see how evolved they have become as they take on Ryan Aplin and the Arkansas State Red Wolves’ potent offensive attack. For Aplin, facing the Oregon secondary will give him a real gauge as to where he is as a player and how much potential he actually has.
Terrance Mitchell, Ifo Ekpre-Olumu, John Boyett, and Brian Jackson will be the starters on Saturday for the Ducks and definitely have a test in defending Ryan Aplin and his potential Heisman arm.
This game is going to be a lot closer than many people believe, especially in the first half.
Gus Malzahn will take the Red Wolves into Autzen Stadium and make it interesting for at least a little bit as his experienced offense will have time to expose the Oregon defense before the Ducks’ secondary is really prepared.
Mariota will have a good game but take awhile to really take hold of the college football atmosphere, giving the Red Wolves a great opportunity to put pressure on the young quarterback and force him to make plays.
That being said, the Ducks are much too potent on both sides of the ball and should come away with this game when it is all said and done. A strong defense combined with one of the more potent offensive attacks in the nation will begin to assert their case for being labeled the best team in the nation.