EUGENE, OR - SEPTEMBER 1: I hear this kid is pretty good. (Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer/Getty Images)
Quickly and often.
These are the words that come to mind when I think of how Oregon's offense will go on Saturday. We know very little about Fresno State's defense--a 37-10 victory over FCS Weber State that wasn't televised doesn't leave us with a lot to work with. However, what we do know isn't exactly encouraging. This is a group that gave up over 35 points per game last season in the WAC, and face a scheme change under new head coach Tim DeRuyter from a 4-3 to a 3-4. They also have a completely rebuilt defensive line with two new starters, including the loss of first team All-WAC performer Logan Harrell. They return seven starters overall, including first team All-WAC linebacker Travis Brown, but having to rebuild your defensive line against Oregon isn't a situation you want to find yourself in.
Further complicating matters for Fresno State is the offense that they are going to run. Once players fully grasp the system, DeRuyter's no-huddle pass based spread could prove to be very potent in the Mountain West. And the Bulldogs don't plan to try and play keep away--they want to speed things up even more for Oregon. While I don't believe you can change your whole system to accommodate one opponent, it puts Fresno State in a tough bind. The Bulldogs will be facing a defense that faces the very best no-huddle offense in practice every single day. Forget wearing the Oregon defense down, this is a recipe for quick three-and-outs, simply giving Oregon's offense that many more possessions with which to work. Especially when you see reports like this:
Part of the issue with Fresno State's sluggish stretch was penalties, inconsistency with running routes by receivers and them getting back to the line of scrimmage quickly after plays to potentially catch the defense off guard.
So the Ducks will have a lot of opportunity against a mediocre defense, and I want to see them put the game away early and convincingly. However, that will not be enough. I want to seen continuation and improvement on the things we saw in week one. I want the offensive line to dominate Fresno's rebuilt defensive line. I want to see Marcus Mariota's poise, especially if he faces a moment of adversity (such as an interception or fumble). I want to see the improvement of Byron Marshall after a week's worth of watching film.
In short, I don't expect the Fresno State defense to put up a whole lot of resistance. This game should be over by halftime. However, that alone shouldn't be satisfying for Oregon. They know they can beat mediocre teams. The question is can they beat mediocre teams and get better at the same time? That is the difference between good teams, and great one.