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Oregon Returns from Bye Week to Face Arizona

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Herbert Expected to Return

NCAA Football: Oregon at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

With two games left in the season, the Oregon Ducks (5-5) need just one win to obtain bowl eligibility. Time of possession will be a factor to stop the Arizona Wildcats (7-3) and their prolific quarterback.

Justin Herbert has patiently worked behind the scenes in recovering from his broken collarbone injury. The injury has been terrible for the team, Herbert, and Ducks’ fans. An end is on the horizon, and hopefully, a spark ensues from the current one-dimensional Oregon offense.

Herbert is expected to be available against Arizona, providing optimism Oregon can get their sixth win of the season. Coach Willie Taggart has yet to confirm if Herbert will play but has said he is getting close.

Coach Taggart also said Herbert has been drinking his milk. Perhaps he should have been drinking Muscle Milk like Stanford running back Bryce Love. In any case, Herbert’s possible return will undoubtedly benefit the Oregon offense.

Update: Herbert will start against Arizona.

Oregon is coming off a 38-3 loss on the road to Washington. The loss was the first time in Seattle since 2003, officially ending the Ducks’ dominance on the Huskies the past decade.

Ducks fans’ can breathe a sigh of relief as the Huskies will not be making a return to the College Football Playoff. Stanford upset then ninth-ranked Washington last week.

A passing game for the Ducks is critical this week against the Wildcats. The defenses have quickly zeroed in on Oregon’s attack under quarterback, Braxton Burmeister. Adjustments were made to prepare for either running back, Royce Freeman, or Burmeister to run the ball. As a result, Oregon has been nothing but vanilla.

The Ducks’ offense needs to step up as a whole as the Wildcats’ offense can strike quickly after the emergence of Khalil Tate.

Coach Rich Rodriguez is familiar with the current quarterback situation at Oregon. He experienced the same circumstances last season with quarterbacks Anu Solomon and Brandon Dawkins. Both got hit by injuries and ultimately led to Tate getting some play time. He initially was slated to redshirt his freshman year.

Tate appears to be the real deal, and his mobility makes him dangerous. He has run for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the air, Tate has thrown for almost 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.

Expectations were not high from early indications in Arizona but so far have been the surprise team in the Pac-12. Due to the efforts of Tate, the Wildcats were in position for the Pac-12 South after scoring a win against then fifteenth ranked Washington State.

Hopes faded the following week in a loss to USC. The Trojans will represent Pac-12 South in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

His emergence has gained national attention from what he has done on the field. Tate will be an unlikely factor in this year’s Heisman race but could be an early frontrunner for next season.

While the Ducks’ defense remains strong is stopping the rushing attack, Tate will provide a challenge. Jim Leavitt will have to dial up the right calls on defense. The defensive line must not get behind Tate, or he will break loose downfield.

Arizona also has two capable running backs Oregon needs to be aware of in J.J. Taylor and Nick Wilson. The Oregon secondary needs to limit the Arizona receivers from making plays in the passing attack. If the secondary can keep Tate from using his arm, Oregon could get more time on offense and keep Arizona’s offense off the field.

Charles Nelson will hopefully benefit should Herbert be back in the lineup. The dynamic receiver for the Ducks has seen little action since the injury to Herbert. Brenden Schooler hopes to factor into the game as he will be facing his younger brother, Colin Schooler, on Arizona.

The running game could prove difficult as both teams have been decent in stopping the ground game. Oregon has a slight edge in allowing only 129 rushing yards per game compared to Arizona allowing about 167 yards per game. If Herbert can be useful in the passing game, Oregon can come out with a win.

Saturday is not must-win, but a loss will set up for an entertaining Civil War Game against Oregon State next week. Coach Taggart would prefer the drama and just win both remaining games.