Watch out, Arkansas State.
Although this year’s season opener isn’t nearly the eye-grabber that last year’s matchup was against LSU, it’s still a time for Ducks fans to rejoice.
This season has potential to be special, but with Chip Kelly’s “Win The Day” mantra well in place, each game is as important as the next, and we begin with Arkansas State on Sept. 1.
Here are 5 things that I need to see the Oregon Ducks accomplish against the Red Wolves
5) A Blowout
Call it selfish, but anything less than a blowout will be a disappointing way to start the 2012 season.
If the Ducks come out and struggle against the Red Wolves, it’s going to be an indication that this team simply isn’t ready to contend for a national championship.
In the case against LSU, struggling meant chronically turning the ball over, getting stuffed on the run and losing 27-40. Against Arksanas State? Winning by anything less than 20 points would be a bad sign for the team from Eugene.
Nobody likes to watch a blowout, but when it comes to this Ducks team, a big-time victory will do wonders for first-time quarterback Marcus Mariota.
4) An Injury-Free Contest
The last thing you want to see is a player go down in the first game of the season, but you especially want to avoid injuries in games that you are favored to win by a mile.
Two seasons ago, when Kenjon Barner rushed for 147 yards and four touchdowns—he also had one reception for 60 yards and a score—in the first half of the season opener, the team sat him in the second half, and all was good at Autzen Stadium.
Unless this game is close late, there’s no reason for the starters to be on the field.
If they’ve taken care of business, take them out of the game.
3) Top-Caliber Defense
The Red Wolves averaged a respectable 32.5 points per game last year, which was good enough for 31st in the country.
That being said, the Ducks should have a borderline-elite defense this year, and their stellar play should begin with their non-conference opponent in week one.
Oregon’s offense should be great again this year, but with a redshirt freshman quarterback leading the way, the defense must be ready to make up for any growing pains that take place early in the game.
2) Solid QB Play
When Chip Kelly gave Darron Thomas the starting nod over Nate Costa back in 2010, Darron Thomas came in and threw an interception on his first-ever drive as a starting quarterback.
How did he respond? By finishing the game with 220 yards and two touchdowns on 13-of-23 passes.
Thomas was able to take advantage of a weak defense, and while Arkansas State was ranked 25th last year in points allowed, they never played a team with Oregon’s knack for scoring the ball.
A hot start is exactly what Marcus Mariota needs. He is a young, up-and-coming player. If he can start off right, his confidence is going to be sky-high as we progress through the season.
1) A Whole Lot of the Same
The Ducks are known for running a short playbook that is based heavily on deception and speed.
That’s exactly what we should see in the opening week against Arkansas State.
This Oregon team is going to have a different feel to it than it’s had the past few years, as an entirely different backfield will start in place of Thomas and LaMichael James.
We’re going to see a lot of new things throughout the 2012 season, but the opening game against an unranked opponent isn’t the time to show them off.
Play fast, keep it simple, and the Ducks will leave Autzen Stadium happy.