Kickoff: Saturday, August 31st @ 1:00 p.m. PST
Autzen Stadium (Eugene, Oregon)
Spread: Oregon -58 (Vegas Insider)
This game is going to be an absolutely blowout that’s more than likely over before the end of the first quarter. Oregon brings back possibly its most talented team ever and faces a Nicholls State team that’s only won two games in the last two seasons.
Oregon’s second, third and even fourth strings are light years ahead of the Colonels’ first team offense and defense. Thomas Tyner could easily score three touchdowns if he plays. Nicholls State allowed Oregon State to score 77 points last season with essentially the same team.
If there was ever a game the Ducks reach 100 points this Saturday could be it. While the argument has been made that Oregon has “too much class” to blowout a team by that much, Oregon might not have a choice.
To not run up the score, Oregon will cease throwing the ball and stick to the ground game. The problem is Oregon’s biggest strength is rushing the football. Even with reserves seeing action, they still will be out there competing and will pile on the points. I don’t think they’ll hit triple digits, but then again I wouldn’t be surprised.
Oregon could score more points than the temperature outside…
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 87, Nicholls State Colonels 3
Game MVP: Byron Marshall
As FCS teams go, Nicholls is not a ‘good’ school. They won a game last year, as in one game. They lost to Oregon State 77-3. Barring an absolute disaster, the Ducks will roll. The focus of the game then becomes individual players on the Oregon squad and the changes Mark Helfrich makes as he patrols the sidelines for his first game as a head coach.
On the offensive side of the ball, second-year starter Marcus Mariota will quarterback the latest rendition of the Oregon offense, this time with offensive coordinator Scott Frost calling plays. Byron Marshall will also debut as the everydown back, splitting carries to an extent with Thomas Tyner and of course De’Anthony Thomas.
The Ducks depth chart lists Thomas as the first string running back but the expectation is that he will get minimal touches as a tailback and continue to be used primarily out of the slot as he has been the last two years.
Defensively the Ducks will play their first game without Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay. Rodney Hardick, Derek Malone and Boseko Lokombo will get the starts at linebacker while last year’s super-recruit Arik Armstead moves up to the starting group on the defensive line in his second season in Eugene.
Freshman Matt Wogan will handle kickoffs for the Ducks and is listed alongside Alejandro Maldanado as the first team place kicker.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 66, Nicholls State Colonels 6
Game MVP: Marcus Mariota
The Oregon Ducks kick-off their 2013 campaign against the Colonels of Nicholls State and ironically, the kickoff is exactly when the game will morph from a contest into a bloodbath.
But what the game does not represent is a new era in Oregon football. Though Chip Kelly will no longer march the sidelines for Oregon, the zone read, up-tempo offense and Pac-12 supremacy will continue on. Still, it will be interesting to see the little intricacies that his successor, Mark Helfrich will implement.
On paper, Nicholls State has no business playing on the same field as Oregon. The Colonels finished 1-10 last season, including a 1-7 mark in the Southland Conference. But not only that, they lost to Oregon State 77-3 last season and not trying to pile it on too much, but their only two wins over the last two years have come against NAIA Evangel. Suffice it to say, if the Ducks wanted to score 100, they could score 100. However, they have more class than to obliterate an opponent for the sake of obliteration and will likely sleep walk through the second half instead.
There will be some interesting things to watch for like how De’Anthony Thomas’ apparent weight gain affects his speed, power and durability. Also if Eric Dungy grasps a strangle hold of his position as second fiddle to Josh Huff? And will the relatively inexperienced line backing core make proper reads and handle assignments?
But really, this game is merely a warm-up for the Virginia game and beyond.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 60, Nicholls State 6
Game MVP: De’Anthony Thomas
It’s no secret that Oregon is starting the season against one of the worst teams they probably could have lined up against. Nicholls State is not good. Nicholls State is so not good, saying they’re not good is an understatement. The Colonels face up against the No. 3 Ducks, energetic after a way-too-long offseason. The Ducks return all the important offensive skill players, and an entire secondary from last fall; the Colonels, meanwhile, return three senior safeties this fall and have an NFL-pedigree quarterback in Bobby Hebert‘s son Beaux.
Beyond this semblance of talent, Nicholls State might be one of those teams a Texas high school could beat in 9 out of 10 games. The senior safeties (Siegan Vergenal, Jordan Hanberry and T.J. Lumar) and fifth-year senior nose guard Edet Udoh will keep the Ducks’ offense honest, but there’s just no way of knowing what strategy the Oregon coaching staff is drawing up to keep this game reasonable. Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas will make a couple of “Oh my god.” plays in the first quarter, which will probably end 30 seconds after B.J. Kelley collects Oregon’s fourth touchdown of the game.
Hebert will be tested by fire as Oregon’s secondary is probably the toughest any team will face this season. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu won’t play too long, but he’ll probably pick off the first pass of his campaign for the Thorpe Award this year, and Ekpre-Olomu’s interception will be accompanied by picks from Erick Dargan and Troy Hill. Then the game comes down to the backups and Thomas Tyner will look to shine, to show what the two-deep might have missed.
I project Tyner will pick up at least three touchdowns in garbage minutes, as he plays most of the second half. Whether it will be Jeff Lockie or Jake Rodrigues handing the ball off to him will be what I’m most interested to see.
Score Prediction: Oregon Ducks 80, Nicholls State Colonels 7
Game MVP: Thomas Tyner