The Ducks (4-1) enter Saturday’s marquee matchup with No. 11 Washington State in an interesting spot. Following a gut-wrenching loss to ASU, the Ducks responded with a dominant win over Cal. Yet, it felt like a loss for UO after the injury report was released.
Welcome back for ATQ’s newest series Prognostication Station! Each week of the Pac-12 season, I will take a look back at my preseason projections and make a few new ones for the week ahead. Let’s break down the first full slate of games on the Pac-12 calendar:
WEEKLY PAC-12 PICKS (9-2 OVERALL, 5-0 LAST WEEK)
Comment: If you were riding the money line with my picks last week, you were ‘perfectly’ happy.
Oregon State vs #14 USC
Sam Darnold and the Trojans have looked terrible lately, but Beavers are the best slump buster
Final Score: USC 56, Oregon State 0
Arizona vs Colorado
I like Buffs’ QB Steven Montez, look for him to explode at home vs a bad Cat defense on the road
Final Score: Colorado 40, Arizona 17
Stanford vs #20 Utah
Cardinal win first road game against overrated Utah run defense, as Bryce Love scores three TDs
Final Score: Stanford 27, Utah 24
California vs No. 6 Washington
You would expect the Bears to fight back after their loss last week, but it only gets worse for Cal
Final Score: Washington 45, Cal 31
PRESEASON PREDICTIONS (3-2 OVERALL)
Comment: I had the team 4-1 at this point, but I chose the wrong loss (Wyoming) and win (ASU).
Washington State (W, 5-1)
Clearly, my early-season predictions will no longer work moving forward with the injury to Justin Herbert alongside many others. To make my projection more relevant, here is an updated version! However, you can still read my old version below for fun. I know. Oh, joy.
Last year, WSU had three different running backs rush for two TDs each (6) vs Oregon in Pullman. Not to mention, quarterback Luke Falk tossed for 371 yards on 48 pass attempts. Washington State was the first team in college history to have their first five games of a season at home. That ends this week with their first road game in Eugene. If UO wants to have a chance, they need to make the Cougars one-dimensional. Oregon’s run defense has been stout to start 2017, but it will be a test to hold Jamal Morrow under 85 rushing yards. If Falk is isolated, it will force him to make some uncomfortable throws into the Duck secondary. Jalen Jelks records a pass deflection, two more sacks, and four hurries. Tony Brooks-James will amass 150 total yards in a featured role. Royce Freeman plays but will be used more as a decoy. WSU has the No. 7 ranked pass defense in the nation. Whoever is behind center for UO will NOT be throwing often. Kani Benoit will add 75+ rushing yards and two scores to remain in the national Top 3. Look for tight end Cam McCormick to make a few plays with starter Jacob Breeland banged up. This could be the Deommodore Lenoir game. Keep your eyes on No. 15 as Ducks seek back-to-back Pac-12 wins and upset of a Top 15 team. Final Score: Oregon 31, Washington State 27
The Ducks enter the AP Top 15. Some media members have a strong feeling about WSU this season and it’s completely understandable after their stellar 2016 campaign. Nevertheless, on the road in Eugene, they should struggle. Last year, WSU never seemed to slow down against the Ducks. This year, I believe a locker room filled with players from the 2016 team want another crack against the Cougars. This is going to be a Charles Nelson game. The receiver will catch eight passes for 137 yards and two scores. Jacob Breeland will secure two TDs in the huge win. Final Score: Oregon 48, Washington State 38
California (W, 4-1)
This will be one of the toughest home games for the Ducks this season. Oregon owes the Golden Bears a taste of their own medicine following the 52-49 double-overtime loss in Berkeley last year. Justin Herbert will toss four scores against Cal this year, bringing his career total to 10 against the Bears. Davis Webb is now in the NFL with the New York Giants. Meanwhile, Ross Bowers has thrown more INT (8) than TD (6) in 2017, so look for the Duck secondary to try and jump some routes. Patrick Laird is the Cal workhorse who will be held under 80 rushing yards by the Duck front seven. Jacob Breeland will secure seven catches or more if Charles Nelson remains out. Watch for Justin Hollins who will record three sacks in the victory. Final Score: Oregon 42, Cal 41
Comment: Laird was held to eight yards, so I really understated UO’s run defense. This game felt closer than it was.
@Arizona State (L, 3-1)
We have seen our share of shootouts between these two programs. However, this year's matchup will stay rather subdued thanks in large part to Oregon’s defense finding their rhythm. Herbert will explode for four scores in the Pac-12 opener, including a rushing touchdown. Brenden Schooler will make a big impression in the middle of the field and Thomas Graham Jr. will record an interception in the win. ASU will extend their losing streak to 14 straight vs the Ducks (2004). Final Score: Oregon 45, Arizona State 23
Comment: Yikes, I was way off. Manny Wilkins outplayed everyone on the field. ASU kept the ball out of UO’s hands.
@Wyoming (W, 3-0)
I’ve seen a lot of outlets, especially around Eugene, that are predicting this as a win for the Ducks. Clearly, they have not watched Josh Allen yet. Most scouts have him as the No. 1 quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft class. He had 36 overall TDs and 3,700-plus yards from scrimmage in 2017. This game frightens me more than most Pac-12 contests this year. Wyoming is talented and underrated no matter the popularity of their gunslinger. Being the first road test for the Ducks, it will be tough to overcome an early deficit. This will be a struggle early in the season. Final Score: Wyoming 27, Oregon 24
Comment: Allen looked awful, as did the rest of his Wyoming team. I was pleasantly surprised by Ducks’ defense.
Nebraska (W, 2-0)
The rematch from last year is set to continue at Autzen Stadium in 2017. The Huskers may not be as good, but the program from Lincoln is always fundamentally solid. It will be another barnburner, as Herbert and the Ducks will escape late in front of the home crowd. Freeman left last years contest with an injury and did not return. He will make up for lost time in this one with 163 rushing yards on 19 carries in the victory. Leave it to kicker Aidan Schneider to blast us home victorious. Final Score: Oregon 37, Nebraska 34
Comment: The offense was unconscious in the first half, but let the Huskers back into the game with complacency.
Southern Utah (W, 1-0)
The Ducks shouldn’t have much of a problem with the Thunderbirds, but we all remember how bad the defense looked last season on opening day. Playing a team like Southern Utah is simply a tune-up contest in preparation for the Huskers. None of the first team players should stay on the field beyond the first half. However, Justin Herbert and the offense will be out there long enough to make some big plays. Look for Charles Nelson and Johnny Johnson III to get started early, while Royce Freeman should have a light workload. Kani Benoit will rush for over 100 yards. Final Score: Oregon 63, Southern Utah 10
Comment: Pretty much what we expected versus a lesser opponent. A record-setting performance by Oregon’s offense.
Next Friday we’ll project the upcoming week on the Pac-12 Conference calendar, as well as looking back at our preseason predictions for Oregon’s next opponent.