What happens in Tempe, needs to stay in Tempe

What happens in Tempe, needs to stay in Tempe

TEMPE, ARIZONA- Wide receiver Johnny Johnson paced the Oregon sideline with his fists clenched as the clock winded down and the reality sank in. Despite the junior’s late heroics in front of his home crowd, including 40 family members and friends, Arizona State upset Oregon, 31-28. 

The loss killed all hopes of a College Football Playoff berth and marked Oregon’s first loss in Pac-12 Conference play. It was ugly, even cringeworthy at times, displaying a Duck defense repeatedly getting burned, allowing long passing plays and an offense incapable of coming through in the clutch.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert threw two interceptions. The Duck defense gave up the most passing yards allowed since 2015. Those are uncharacteristic anomalies, not the norm. There is still plenty to play for in 2019… but for the Ducks to find more success, what happened in Tempe must stay in Tempe.

In other words, one loss cannot turn into two losses like in did in 2018 when Oregon lost to Washington State and then Arizona the following week.

Senior linebacker Troy Dye added further perspective when giving advice to long-faced freshman after the defeat,

“You gotta keep moving forward. I mean, I lost seven straight my freshman year (2016), so it could be worse.”

The 2019 team is not the 2018 team and certainly not the 2016 team; they’ve already proven they can bounce back. After losing their season opener to Auburn, the Ducks rattled off nine-straight victories.

A bright spot, Johnson III set career-highs with 207 receiving yards, 10 catches and two touchdowns. Half of Herbert’s completions were to Johnson III, who became the first Duck to surpass 200 receiving yards this season. However, much of that production came in the fourth quarter, after Oregon trailed 24-7.

The sparks came too late for Oregon, ensuing literal fireworks of victory above Sun Devil Stadium as the fans stormed the field stomping on the Ducks’ highest goal.

The Ducks are confident they will let go of this loss to re-establish their mentality to go “1-0”. UO gets a chance to win the Pac-12 Title for the first time since 2014, which would earn an automatic berth to the Rose Bowl. Now that the national title is out of the picture, how important is it for Oregon to aim their ambitions to smell roses?

“It means everything,” Herbert said. “We are coming up on the end of our senior year and playing football here has been the best four years of my life. I’d do anything to have a couple more games. I know we are going to do everything we can this week to get better, learn from it and do our best to get ready for Oregon State.”

Looming is a date with rival Oregon State on senior night and an opportunity to prove Oregon can overcome adversity with a lot left to prove this season.

Oregon uniform update: White hot Ducks in Tempe

Oregon uniform update: White hot Ducks in Tempe

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks will be donning white uniforms with green helmets and cleats ­­­­on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (PT) in Sun Devil Stadium. Ducks fans are encouraged to wear white to the matchup.

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released (yet). 

Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) has secured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game as the North Division champion and is in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. The Ducks have two conference games left and Arizona State (5-5, 2-5) is the next opponent they must beat. 

Numbers to know: Oregon has 19 players who have scored a touchdown and 19 players who have at least a half-sack, both of which lead the nation.

MORE DUCKS

Keeping up with the Johnsons: Best friends with a serious competition

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How Mycah Pittman's injury affects Oregon

Juwan Johnson’s “Big Brother” advice to Mycah Pittman

Crunch time is nearing: Oregon is No. 6 in College Football Playoff

Historically, quarterback Justin Herbert plays extremely well vs. ASU

How Oregon can avoid disastrous defeat to Arizona State

How Oregon can avoid disastrous defeat to Arizona State

No. 6 Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) looks to stay unbeaten in Pac-12 Conference play and avoid a disastrous defeat to Arizona State (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12). The Ducks have secured a spot in the Pac-12 title game as the North Division champions and are in the running as a College Football Playoff contender.

Numbers to know: ASU's run defense is currently fifth in the country with only 23 rushing plays allowed over 10 yards this season. With five rushing plays over 20 yards allowed this season, ASU is 7th in the country. 

[READ: Keeping up with the Johnsons: Best friends with a serious competition]

Fun fact: Oregon has held six opponents under 10 points, which leads the nation and is a program best since 1960.

Betting line: Oregon opened as 14.5 point favorites over Arizona State.

An ASU victory would… Qualify the Sun Devils for a bowl game for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons.

A UO victory would… Make Oregon the first Pac-12 team since the Ducks in 2010 to start 8-0 in conference play.

Sun Devil to keep an eye on

Freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels is on milestone watch. Daniels needs 38 passing yards to set the ASU freshman school record. Daniels is particularly good at the end of games, recording seven fourth quarter passing touchdowns to one interception. 

Dual-threat Daniels excels at extending plays and improvising, adding 247 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns this season. Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. called him “the best freshman quarterback in the country.”

3 keys to an Oregon victory

Finish the game

Arizona State closes games strong, allowing only one fourth quarter touchdown in the last seven games. At 3.3 points allowed per fourth quarter, ASU sits tied for 5th nationally and second in the Pac-12. The Sun Devils are on a four-game losing streak but they aren’t getting blown out. Three of those games (UCLA, USC, OSU) came down to the wire, while wining dramatic games against Michigan State and Washington State.

In away games, the Ducks have outscored their opponents 56-20 in the second half. It’s important for Oregon to not let off the gas on the road to fly out of Tempe victorious.

Get to Daniels

Oregon’s 32 sacks ranks first in the conference and that stat must continue to grow on Saturday. Daniels has thrown for 2,236 yards with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions in nine games for ASU this season. The Ducks must contain the dual-threat quarterback to the pocket and stifle his impressive playmaking abilities.

Air it out

The best way for Oregon to move the ball against ASU’s unconventional defense is an effective passing game. Lack of an Sun Devil pass rush (115th ranked pass defense) has allowed opposing Pac- 12 quarterbacks to rack up almost 300 passing yards per game.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert and wide receivers Juwan Johnson and Johnny Johnson have found a groove. It’s a prime occasion for Herbert to air it out. It’s a substantial opportunity for the Johnsons to continue their battle for most yards.

How and where to watch

Time: Saturday, Nov. 23, 4:30 p.m. (PT)

Where: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

TV: ABC

Radio: KUGN-AM (590), KUJZ-FM (95.3), KZEL-FM (96.1)

Historically, quarterback Justin Herbert plays extremely well vs. ASU

Historically, quarterback Justin Herbert plays extremely well vs. ASU

Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) has secured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game as the North Division champion and is in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. The Ducks have two conference games left and Arizona State (5-5, 2-5) is the next opponent they must beat. 

The Ducks look to stay unbeaten in conference play as they head to Tempe… Here are 10 numbers you need to know about the 4:30 p.m. kickoff at Sun Devil Stadium.

ON A HERBERT HIGH

Coming off a season-high 333 passing yards vs. Arizona, quarterback Justin Herbert is displaying incredible accuracy. He’s completed 70 percent of his passes in three-straight games, connecting on 62-of-84 (73.8) over that stretch. Herbert has historically played well against ASU. In his career against the Sun Devils, Herbert is 69-of-111 for 1,032 yards, nine TDs and two interceptions. His career-best 489 passing yards came as a freshman vs. ASU in 2016.

CAN YOU SAY CLUTCH?

The Ducks have outscored their opponents 56-20 in the second half on the road. Oregon is also 25-for-41 (.610) on third down conversions in the last three games.

SINGLE DIGITS

Oregon has held six opponents under 10 points, which leads the nation and is a program best since 1960.

SPREADING THE LOVE

Oregon has 19 players who have scored a touchdown and 19 players who have at least a half-sack, both of which lead the nation.

CRISTO-BALLIN!

A win would make Mario Cristobal the fourth head coach in program history to win 10 games in a season. 

KEEPING UP WITH THE JOHNSONS

Johnny Johnson III is coming off a four-catch performance vs. Arizona, including a 73-yard catch, the longest of his career and longest by a Duck in 2019. Juwan Johnson’s potential is also being realized, totaling 16 receptions, 263 yards and four touchdowns in the last three games. He led Oregon with five catches, one touchdown and 93 yards vs. Arizona.

THIBODEAUX TRAIN, FULL STEAM AHEAD

Freshman defensive tackle Kayvon Thibodeaux has 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in the last two games. He’s coming off a season-high three tackle for loss performance against Arizona. The highest rated recruit in program history, Thibodeaux ranks 4th among all freshman nationally in sacks(5.5).

STRONG SHANE

For the second time this season, Oregon left guard Shane Lemieux was named Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week. Against Arizona, Lemieux was the highest-graded (80.4) guard in the Pac-12 and third nationally. He has not allowed a hit, hurry or pressure on Herbert over 67 snaps and leads the Ducks with a season-high seven knockdowns.

DEVILS COME UP SHORT IN CORVALLIS

A failed two-point conversion proved to be the difference in Arizona’s almost-comeback win at Oregon State. ASU rallied from two touchdowns down late in the game but the Beavers beat the Sun Devils, 35-34.

ARIZONA STATE VS. THE RUN

ASU has held eight of its last 10 opponents to under 150 total rushing yards (151 vs. Utah, 217 vs. UCLA). Although, the Sun Devils pass defense ranks 115th in the nation.

Oregon makes a stand, blows out Arizona State

Oregon makes a stand, blows out Arizona State

Oregon opened its final Pac-12 Conference home stand with energy, high intensity and a 79-51 victory over Arizona State.

The Sun Devils (19-8, 10-5) were second in Pac-12 standings and have never won at Matthew Knight Arena (0-6).

Freshman Louis King led UO with 19 points. The 6-foot-9 guard has scored in double-figures in 14 of 15 Pac-12 games this season.

Junior Payton Pritchard (18 points) and redshirt senior Ehab Amin (11 points) made big offensive contributions. Freshman Francis Okoro also had a solid game, finishing with seven points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

The Ducks (16-12, 7-8) gained valuable experience and confidence by gutting out a win at home to snap a three game losing streak, once again proving that anyone can beat anyone in the conference.

Earlier in the week senior Paul White told reporters that he felt his team has not reached its full potential yet, “I am hoping we can work toward that and everyone will be clicking on the same page.”

Arizona State did not score in the first six minutes of the second half. The Sun Devils struggled from beyond the arc, going 3-of-23. Oregon outrebounded ASU, 44-26.

Off the bench, Ehab Amin (11 points) and Will Richardson (7 points) combined to give help give Oregon an edge in bench points, 24-to-10.

Oregon showed great ball movement, 50-50 ball fight and excellent rebounding. Most of all, the Ducks showed fight with the Pac-12 Tournament looming. The Ducks host Arizona on Saturday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Did the good outweigh the bad in Oregon’s 31-29 victory over Arizona State in its home finale? You be the judge.

BEST

Seven wins: With two games remaining, Oregon’s victory over ASU matched its 2017 win total with its seventh victory. The Ducks improved to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 conference play.

First half success: After a month of slow starts, Oregon’s offense hit the ground running. The Ducks scored on a 78-yard opening drive, 74 of those yards came on the ground. UO’s 28 first-half points were the most scored by the Ducks since their second nonconference game vs. Portland State. Oregon’s 364 total yards of total offense in the first half were its most in a half this season.

Come at me, bro: The Sun Devils went at Oregon's young cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir all game long. Graham Jr. covered one of the best wide receivers in the nation, ASU’s N'Keal Harry, most of the night and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Lenoir also had three pass breakups, two of which came while defending Harry.

Gus comes up big: Oregon defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander had a huge impact on the game. He recorded a career high two sacks, the first Oregon player with two or more sacks in a game this season. He also recovered a fumble after when outside linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. strip-sacked ASU QB Manny Wilkins on ASU’s final drive to seal the win.

Hello record books: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell broke tackles and made Sun Devils miss in space to reach 103 receiving yards, averaging 26 yards per catch. The junior’s six 100-yard game ties Oregon’s single-season record (Josh Huff 2013).

Freshmen shouldering a big load: CJ Verdell played Mr. Versatile. Verdell scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, his first touchdown catch of his career. Travis Dye showed off his cuts and spin moves to lead the Ducks on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, totaling 105 yards on 18 carries.

WORST

Second half blunder: Oregon’s offense couldn’t move the ball in the last 30 minutes, almost causing the Ducks to lose the game. Herbert passed for only 13 yards in the half, the team only gained 85 overall yards, and scored three points.

Turnovers: 17 of ASU’s 29 points came off of Oregon’s four turnovers: Herbert threw two interceptions, Ugo Amadi mishandled a punt return and Tony Brooks-James fumbled.

Injuries: According to Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, CJ Verdell is good to go after taking a "shot to the rib area" that took him out vs. ASU. Kano Dillon is "probable" after missing last week with strained ab. Steve Jones (concussion protocol) will be cleared or not on Tuesday. Penei Sewell (ankle) will not return for Saturday but could be cleared for the bowl game.  

Ready or not, it’s Civil War week! Oregon faces the Oregon State (2-9, 1-7) in Corvallis on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. 

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Arizona State

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Arizona State

Oregon’s final game at Autzen Stadium will be an after dark special vs. Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. A win would match Oregon’s win total (six) from 2017. Here is coverage and how to watch the game...

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NBC Sports Northwest, 7:30 p.m. Friday: Talkin' Ducks

  • With Jordan Kent, Joey Harrington, Aaron Fentress and Bri Amaranthus

Pac-12 Networks, 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday: Oregon vs. Arizona State  kickoff

Radio: 1080 "The Fan" in Portland, KUGN-AM 590 in Eugene

Live stream: https://pac-12.com/live

GET READY FOR THE GAME:

Two games left, what are Oregon's possible bowl game destinations?

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

How Oregon can win its home finale

Cristobal “formidable” in hypothetical Pac-12 coaches brawl, according to Leach

Streaks and stats you need to know: Oregon vs. ASU

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

No jokes. No frills. No gloves…?

Picture a 1970s or 80s running back, maybe at Green Bay in the snow; a workhorse scraping and crawling for yards on the ground.

According to junior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, that’s what true freshman Travis Dye is like.

Dye is the younger brother of Oregon’s star linebacker junior Troy Dye, but he jokes around a lot less than his “class clown” brother.

"Travis is an example of you go your career coaching and you'll have a few true freshmen that right away are mature enough to handle that pressure," offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. "I think him having grown up with Troy a little bit and his upbringing, they've done a really nice job… I think his maturity has showed.”

Dye enrolled early in January and has become Oregon’s No. 2 running back, behind CJ Verdell. However, this Saturday on senior day at Autzen Stadium, the 18-year-old may be asked to shoulder a bigger load due to the Ducks’ depleted depth chart.

Verdell’s and Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s status is unclear, after suffering a neck sprain and quad contusion at Utah, respectfully.

At Utah, Dye had the longest run of 18 yards and finished leading the team with 66 yards on nine carries. The best game of his excellent freshman season came at California; leading the Ducks’ rushing attack with 18 carries for 115 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

Among Pac-12 freshmen, Dye ranks in rushing yards (417) and rushing yards per game (41.7). Adding to his 83 carries and two rushing touchdowns, he also has 10 completions for 73 yards and one touchdown.

UO quarterback Justin Herbert complimented Dye on his route running and pass blocking. Dye has also impressed Lemieux.

“(Travis has) a mental capacity almost like a redshirt junior or senior would have,” said Lemieux. “He understands the ins and outs of defensive scheme, pass protections, where to hit the holes and how to be patient behind the blocks.”

Another major strength for Dye is his shiftiness and ability to run hard without hesitation. At 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Dye has worked hard this season on breaking tackles and making defenders miss.

“I can’t get tackled by one guy,” Dye said.

This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Dye will face a surging Sun Devils (6-4, 4-3) team that is looking for their fourth straight win to keep their Pac-12 South division title dreams alive.

Arroyo’s game plan is to pound the rock against an Arizona’s rushing defense that ranks 56th in the nation and allows an average of 153 rushing yards per game. In their last three losses (Washington State, Arizona and Utah), the Ducks have averaged just 86.3 yards per game.

If Troy is most likely to be Oregon’s class clown, what is Travis most likely to do?

“Score a touchdown,” Travis said.

With two conference games remaining, the Ducks (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) are counting on it.

What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

What exactly is it that the Ducks are trying to do on offense?

Oregon's 37-35 loss at Arizona State Saturday night was one big, hot mess.

A lot of things went wrong, plenty of mistakes were made and there was blame enough to go around. But I came away from the game amazed at how much improvement Oregon has made on the defensive side of the ball. And also wondering just what in the world the Ducks are attempting to do on offense.

First, the defense. This is a far cry from the group last season that couldn't tackle consistently and was seemingly out of position all night. The Ducks this season are organized and most often in the right position to make plays, even though -- like all college defenses this side of Alabama -- they don't always make them. They even covered receivers one-on-one pretty well when it mattered. Sure, you'll say, they gave up 37 points Saturday night to the Sun Devils.

Of course they did. A lot of that was because of the inconsistent and sometimes even inept offense. Oregon's offensive failings kept its defense on the field for 38:06 of the game. The Oregon offense managed just 21:54 of playing time. That's awful. And folks, don't blame Oregon's uptempo offense. ASU was not huddling, either.

I just don't understand what it is the Ducks want to do with the ball. Going into the game at Tempe, I assumed this was a team that was going to hang its hat on a power running game, running downhill behind powerful Royce Freeman. Well, where did that go?

Freeman averaged 5.4 yards per carry but ran the ball only 15 times. Oregon attempted only 30 rushing plays and 10 of those were assigned to quarterback Justin Herbert. Please tell me why on earth the Ducks didn't come out and establish their running game?

It seemed to me that once Oregon fell behind it panicked a bit and began to lose patience with the run game. And I will say, this is not exactly the most diverse offense Oregon has put on the field over the last decade. There was not a lot of deception or variation. There is a lack of creativity.

And a couple of other things, while I'm at it:

Going 1 for 11 on third down with all the offensive talent Oregon has in the backfield is just crazy. Most of that was because there were way too many long-yardage situations on third down. Too many times when Herbert had to pass on third-and-long and everyone knew it.

And yes, 14 penalties is ridiculous. And just an obvious point -- penalties are a direct result of coaching. Or lack of it. You can talk all you want about cleaning that up, but the bottom line isn't talking, it's doing. It's been a problem all season and that's on the coaches.

Lastly, Oregon had two cracks late in the game at running a two-minute offense and looked sadly unprepared to do so. I'm shocked that Herbert wasn't able to work the ball down the field at least close enough for a long field goal. He's too good back there not to be able to do that. Yes, Oregon's receiving corps is decimated and seemingly lacking in speed. But the Ducks either couldn't protect Herbert or he was having trouble judging where his receivers would be when he cut the ball loose. The defense got late stops when needed and the offense just couldn't even get close to paying it off.

So Oregon may be at a point where the defense is more reliable than the offense.

Who saw that coming?

A healthy Pagano will help UO in Pac-12 play, beginning with ASU

A healthy Pagano will help UO in Pac-12 play, beginning with ASU

Oregon graduate transfer Scott Pagano has returned to action just in time to help the No. 24 Ducks take on the high-scoring teams in the Pac-12 Conference. 

Pagano, who missed the first two games after undergoing foot surgery to repair a broken bone, saw minimal playing time on Saturday during Oregon's 49-13 win at Wisconsin. He did not record a tackle. 

“He did alright the times that I did see him," UO coach Willie Taggart said following the game. "We knew there was going to be some rust to get off. But it’s good to get him to get some game experience before we get into Pac-12 play.”

Oregon's defense is off to a strong start. But the addition of Pagano as a graduate transfer from Clemson, which won last season's national title, was met with glee for a reason. He is the best defensive lineman on the team. Having him healthy for Pac-12 play will be a must if the Ducks' defense is going to stand up to the test of facing strong offenses on a weekly basis. 

A fully healthy Pagano, however, could be weeks away for Oregon (3-0).

“I’m still not where I want to be right now,” Pagano said following Saturday's game.

Pagano estimated that is foot was at about 75 to 80 percent healthy. The plan is for him to play as much as he can without hindering the healing progress. When his foot begins to bother him, Pagano said, he would scale back his reps. 

Senior safety Tyree Robinson said Pagano's mere presence has been a boost to the team given that all of the Ducks players know where he has been and what he can do. Taggart said that Pagano still must get into football shape and that UO hopes to increase his repetitions each week.

For Pagano, transferring from Clemson to Oregon, which played so poorly on defense last season, was helped along by the presence of the new coaching staff under Taggart. He called Joe Salave'a the best defensive line coach in the country and said that he saw signs of things looking up while watching a spring practice. Pagano said he could tell that the team was buying into what new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt was selling.

The Duck are allowing just 23 points per game after surrendering 41.7 last year. 

“I knew we were going to have a great defense,” Pagano said. “I knew I wanted to play with a team like this."

Next up for Oregon is Arizona State (1-2). The Sun Devils are off to a slow start but have far more speed and weapons on offense than every opponent Oregon has faced this season. 

"This is going to be the most athletic team we've faced so far, by far," Taggart said. 

Here is a quick look at the matchup:

Oregon at Arizona State

When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Ariz. 

T.V.: Pac-12 Networks. 

Betting line: Oregon minus 14 1/2.

Records: Oregon (3-0), Arizona State (1-2).

Last week: The Sun Devils lost 52-45 at Texas Tech. Oregon won 49-13 at Wyoming. 

Coaches: Ducks' Willie Taggart (43-45, 3-0 at Oregon); Sun Devils' Todd Graham (89-57, 40-28 at ASU).

Sun Devils' impact players: Quarterback Manny Wilkins is off to a pretty hot start, averaging 308 yards passing with seven touchdown tosses and has yet to throw an interception. He has completed 68.3 percent of his passes. Wilkins, a redshirt junior, was the No. 6-rated dual-threat quarterback in the nation when he came out of high school in 2014.

"This will be the first time we've had a good mobile quarterback that we've had to go against," Taggart said. 

Senior running back Kalen Ballage has rushed for 179 yards and four touchdowns but is averaging just 3.7 yards per carry. 

Sophomore wide receiver N'Keal Harry is Wilkins' top target. The 6-foot-4 Harry has caught 24 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. 

ASU's defense is led statistically by two freshmen. Defensive end Jojo Wicker has three sacks on the season and linebacker D.J. Calhoun is averaging 10.3 tackles per game. 

Fear factor (five-point scale): 3.5.  It's a road game. It's a conference game. It's against what will be by far the best offense the Ducks have faced this season. There's a lot to be worried about for Oregon. However, ASU is about as bad on defense as the Ducks were last season. If the Ducks take care of the football they would once again surpass 40 points. We will know after this game if UO's defense truly has bite if it can keep the Sun Devils in check. 

Early pick: Oregon, 47-33. Oregon's defense will be challenged but it won't give up enough points to waste what should be a strong showing by the Ducks' offense.