CJ Verdell

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) is on track to the Pac-12 Conference Title game and in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. The Ducks have three conference games left and Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) is the next opponent they must beat. The Ducks are coming off a bye with a lot on line… Here are 10 numbers you need to know about the 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Autzen Stadium.

CROWN ON THE LINE

A Duck win against the Wildcats in the Pac-12-After-Dark game would clinch the North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. It would be Oregon’s third Pac-12 North crown.

AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE

Oregon is one of five FBS teams (Baylor, Clemson, Minnesota, Ohio State) off to a 6-0 start in conference play. 

BETTING LINE

Oregon opened as 26.5 point favorites over Arizona, which marks the Ducks’ sixth straight home game as a double-digit favorite.

BALL HAWKS

Oregon leads the nation with 17 interceptions, which is the program's most through nine games since 1988. The Ducks' 11.78 points off turnovers per game ranks second in the country and is a major contributing factor in the Ducks’ eight-game winning streak. Jevon Holland and Verone McKinley III each have four picks, leading the team. Eleven different Ducks have recorded an interception.

DON’T MESS WITH HOLLAND

Holland, a sophomore, leads active Pac-12 players in career interceptions with nine. The Jim Thorpe semifinalist is tied for the most career interceptions among sophomores in the nation.

UPSET HISTORY

Arizona has beaten Oregon each of the past three matchups where the Wildcats enter unranked and the Ducks enter ranked. The Wildcats topped No. 19 Oregon, 44-15 last year that featured Arizona running back J.J. Taylor rushing for 212 yards and two scores.

THE MAGIC NUMBER, 40

In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.

GOOD INJURY UPDATE

Oregon’s top two running backs, backs CJ Verdell (groin) and Cyrus Habibi-Likio (quad) are expected to play against Arizona. Starting right guard Dallas Warmack (hip flexor) is also good to go.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE TAYLOR

Arizona’s rushing attack ranks second in the Pac-12, led by JJ Taylor who is ninth in the Pac-12 in rushing with 566 yards. The Wildcats’ total offense (495.8 yards per game) ranks 12th in the country and second in the conference.

EXPLOSION PLAY ALERT

Arizona has had five plays go for 70 or more yards this season. Across the country, only Oklahoma State, Alabama, Colorado State and UCF have more.

MORE DUCKS

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Three notable changes to Oregon’s depth chart ahead of Arizona

Sabrina Ionescu jerseys are here but already sold out

Why Oregon football will beat USC: Three keys to victory

Why Oregon football will beat USC: Three keys to victory

No. 7 Oregon is the only remaining team in the North Division without a loss and looking to stay on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game. The Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) are looking for their seventh-straight victory to improve to 6-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2012. USC (5-3, 4-1) is tied for first with Utah in the Pac-12 South division.

Numbers to know: Under head coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is 9-0 when it rushes for 200 yards in a game.

Fun fact: USC has four players from Oregon on its roster, compared to the 48 Californians on Oregon’s roster.

[READ: Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC]

Betting line: Oregon is a road favorite. The Ducks opened as 4.5-point favorites against the Trojans. The over/under is 62.5 total points.

Three keys to an Oregon win

In a game that I’m expecting to be tight, there are three things the Ducks must do be victorious in Los Angeles.

1. Win turnover battle

The Ducks lead the nation in interceptions and lead the conference in turnover margin. UO’s secondary has eight interceptions in the last three games but also got burned by WSU and UW. The Ducks defensive backs need to return to dominance against probably the best receiving corps (including Michael Pittman Jr., Mycah Pittman’s older brother) in the conference.

If Oregon can continue to play mistake free (they have zero giveaways in five of their last six games) the Ducks have a huge upper hand. Quarterback Justin Herbert has just one interception over his last 360 pass attempts in Pac- 12 road games with 24 touchdowns over that span.

2. Run, Verdell (or whoever has the hot hand), Run!

Oregon’s rushing attack has been explosive as of late, thanks to impressive performances from sophomores CJ Verdell and Cyrus Habibi-Likio. Verdell leads the Pac-12 in rushing (753) following his 257-yard performance last week against Washington State. His 313 all-purpose yards against the Cougars are the most by an FBS player this season.

USC is giving up close to 200 rushing yards per game. The Trojans ninth ranked rushing defense in the conference provides an opportunity for Oregon’s running backs to control the game.

3. Pressure Kedon Slovis

Despite injuries at the quarterback position, the Trojans own the 20th ranked passing offense in the country, second in the Pac-12.  Since missing the Washington game, quarterback Kedon Slovis has been very accurate, with a 68 percent passing completion rate, eight touchdowns and a pick in his last three games, coming off of a 406 yards and four-touchdown performance vs. Colorado.

Oregon’s defense had its fair share of struggles against Washington State. The Ducks struggled getting pressure on quarterback Anthony Gordon, had no answer to his quick passes and committed uncharacteristic, unsportsmanlike penalties.

Basically, that can’t happen for Oregon to be victorious.

How and where to watch

Time: Saturday, November 2 at 5 p.m. (PT)

Where: LA Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles, California

TV: FOX

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

More Ducks:

Dana Shough's fight and win over breast cancer the "largest championship game" she's ever been in

Juwan Johnson has a sour taste for USC

Oh, brother! Oregon’s Mycah Pittman vs. USC’s Michael Pittman

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

10 numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. USC Trojans

Oregon takes a seven-game win streak to USC for a 5 p.m. Saturday showdown at LA Memorial Coliseum.

The crucial matchup is the first meeting between Oregon and USC since 2016. The No. 7 Ducks (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division. A win for the Trojans (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) would keep them on the path to the Pac-12 Championship game and eligible for a bowl game, after not qualifying last season.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know about perhaps the hardest game remaining on Oregon's regular-season schedule.

THE MAGIC NUMBER

Under head coach Mario Cristobal, Oregon is 9-0 when it rushes for 200 yards in a game.

[Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC]

VERDELL JOINS THE GREATS

CJ Verdell set the Autzen Stadium rushing record on Saturday against WSU. Also, his 257-yard rushing performance is the most since Kenjon Barner’s 321 yards at USC in 2012, the first and only Duck to rush for over 300 yards.

OH, BROTHER

The Pittman and Winston brothers will each be on opposite sidelines. USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Oregon wide receiver Mycah Pittman are brothers, as are USC outside linebacker Eli'jah Winston and Oregon outside linebacker La'Mar Winston Jr.

COMING HOME?

USC has four players from Oregon on its roster (S Talanoa Hufanga, DL Brandon Pili, DL Marlon Tuipulotu and OLB Eli'jah Winston). Compared to the 48 Californians on Oregon’s roster.

A WIN WOULD…

Give Oregon its first 6-0 start to Pac-12 play since 2012 and make them the first Pac-12 team to accomplish the feat since Washington in 2016.

IS THAT GOOD?

Oregon has outscored its opponents 267-91, including 142-34 in the second half, during its seven-game win streak.

INSANE RATIO

Quarterback Justin Herbert has just one interception over his last 360 pass attempts in Pac- 12 road games with 24 touchdowns over that span.

RUNNING BERSERK

CJ Verdell leads the Pac-12 in rushing (753) following his 257-yard performance last week against Washington State. His 313 all-purpose yards against the Cougars are the most by an FBS player this season.

BALL HAWKS

Oregon leads the nation with 14 interceptions and is one of five FBS teams with two players (Jevon Holland has four, Verone McKinley III has three) with three or more picks.

HOME SWEET, COLISEUM

USC is 4-0 at home in 2019, beating: Fresno State, Stanford, Utah and Arizona.

[RELATED: Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods]

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks are high after their gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State at home. However, the injury bug did strike on Saturday. Oregon football Coach Mario Cristobal provided injury updates on the Dye brothers.

[A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game]

Troy Dye is listed at starting inside linebacker this week after breaking his thumb against Washington and not playing against Washington State. Dru Mathis started in his place. Against USC, Troy Dye is good to go, he will practice beginning on Tuesday. 

Travis Dye is listed on the depth chart as co-starter at running back alongside CJ Verdell, Cyrus Habibi-Likio and Darrian Felix. According to Cristobal, he is healthy, ready to practice on Tuesday and will play vs. USC

Travis Dye suffered a helmet-to-helmet collision against Washington State and immediately went to the locker room. He did not return.

Off to its first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013, Oregon takes a seven-game win streak to USC for a Saturday showdown at LA Coliseum.

A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game

A once-in-a-decade player ignites Oregon's run game

Oregon’s 37-35 drama filled win snapped the Ducks’ four-game losing streak to the Cougars in front of a sellout 59,361 crowd at Autzen Stadium, the tenth highest attended game in history. When freshman kicker Camden Lewis nailed a 26-yard field goal as time expired, the Duck student section flowed over the fences to celebrate with the team that lifted up Lewis.

Meanwhile, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal found running back CJ Verdell to give him a congratulatory hug after the sophomore’s career night that will likely shoot him to the top as the Pac-12 Conference’s leading rusher. His 257 rushing yards ranks tied for fourth most all-time in school history and the most by a Duck in Autzen Stadium history.

There is something eerily similar between Oregon’s comeback victory vs. Washington in Seattle and its gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State at home.

The big plays to the left side.

If Verdell sparked the Ducks’ (7-1, 5-0 Pac-12) offense against Washington State, then left tackle Penei Sewell was the ignition.

Last week against Washington, running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio ran for a career-high 81 yards, all of which came in the second half, and credited Sewell for insane blocking.

Habibi-Likio and his girlfriend thanked Sewell by having him over for a home cooked meal of baked mac-n-cheese and chicken.

This week, Verdell had the hot hand and became the Pac-12 running back with the most yards in a conference game. A stunning highlight came in the first quarter: Oregon’s offensive line blew open a huge hole, wide receiver Juwan Johnson pancaked two defenders and Verdell cut, sprinting untouched to the end zone for a career-high 89-yard touchdown. The crowd lost control at the play that felt very vintage Oregon offense.

What’s it like for Verdell to run behind Sewell?

"Who was it that parted the Red Sea? Moses?” Verdell said. “Yeah, when Moses parted the Red Sea, that's how I would describe it."

Following Verdell’s three-touchdown and career-high 257 rushing yards plus 56 receiving yards on four receptions, the running back plans to also take care of lineman Sewell, but in his own way.

“Me and Penei are pretty much brothers,” Verdell said. “He pretty much lives with me. If he wants a home cooked meal then it ain't nothing. I'll make him some ramen noodles or something."

Sewell, the highest-graded offensive lineman in the country by Pro Football Focus, has had major honors roll in this season, earning Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week three times already.

He leads the team with 32 knockdowns and Oregon has a 13-2 record with Sewell as starter. Sometimes, Sewell almost out runs the running back. It’s easy to get lost watching his play during an offensive drive, he’s that impressive.

Oregon senior center Jake Hanson beams with pride when asked about Sewell.

"Penei is a guy that comes along in a program once every decade or couple decades honestly. He's that good,” said Hanson. “And on top of his natural talent he works very hard, he's passionate about the game, he's everything that you would want in a teammate… I love having him as my left tackle."

The win over WSU was another step forward towards Oregon’s first Pac-12 Title since 2014. The Ducks have more challenges ahead, starting with a trip to Los Angeles to play Pac-12 South foe, USC next Saturday. However, with a unique once-in-a-decade player like Sewell, the 2019 season is also beginning to feel very special.

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

As a freshman, Oregon running back Travis Dye quite literally flew onto the scene with his ferocious jump cuts and spin moves. His breakaway speed and agility amounted to 739 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 140 carries.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound sophomore may be the hardest worker on the team based on the stories his teammates disclose about him.

Wide receiver Jaylon Redd smiled wide when talking about determined Dye. Redd detailed that on multiple occasions, when the defense gets an interception in practice, Dye will be the Duck to sprint all the way down the sideline to keep them from the end zone.

“His effort is there, his heart is there,” Redd said.

Fellow running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio complimented Dye’s integrity. Habibi-Likio was impressed with Dye after he missed a block and linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. got around him. Later that day in film session, coaches missed the play and instead of dodging the error, Dye brought it back up so that the position room could go over it, correct it and learn from it.

His character earned A+ remarks from his team… And so did his on-field development and refined skills.

“He is a lot more physical this year,” Habibi-Likio said. “He’s able to run in between the tackles a lot more… He’s not afraid to put his head down and if there is someone in the way, he’s going to try to get through them instead of get around them.”
Over the past year, the game has slowed down for Dye, he knows the playbook like the back of his hand, his blocking has improved and he’s playing more physically. He’s ready to one-up himself, specifically when it comes to breaking runs of 10-plus yards and 20-plus yards.

“When I get the ball I’m always trying to shoot for touchdowns, not first downs,” Dye said.

The competition with the defense has been no laughing matter during fall camp. As it’s extremely difficult for any defensive Ducks to compliment their offensive teammates, including Travis’ brother, star linebacker Troy Dye.

“Iron sharpens iron, as everyone says,” Troy Dye said of his brother, Travis. “It’s always fun to compete against anybody and it’s a little more fun when it’s Travis.”

The shifty Dye is also an enticing option for the Ducks at punt and kick returner. He’s been one of a few contenders who have been taking reps and getting a shot during fall camp.

Special teams need aside, the Ducks desperately need Dye to help UO’s transition to Cristobal’s hard-pounding vision. The Ducks struggled with the physical, between the tackles rushing attack in 2018, finishing the season with the 191 rushing yards per game, the least amount for this program since 2006.

The good news? The Ducks return the entire starting offensive line and both leading rushers in CJ Verdell and Dye. Better news? Dye is trending upwards, improving rapidly towards the latter half of the season. Dye had 507 rushing yards after mid point of the season. To close out Pac-12 play, he rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games, including his record setting Civil War performance.

This season, Dye is adding physicality to his determination and naturally agility… Which is just what the Ducks need for a reliable run game and success in 2019.

Oregon Ducks' surprising hobbies: Can you guess who is the best at video games?

Oregon Ducks' surprising hobbies: Can you guess who is the best at video games?

Have you ever wondered which Oregon Duck football player is the best at video games? Did you know that UO’s leading rusher lived in Japan for three years of his life? Would you guess that an incoming freshman is a huge Star Wars fan?

At Oregon football media day, players’ personalities shined through, and we discovered divulging hobbies and facts that fans might be surprised to find out.

At this point, you’ve seen Oregon football’s strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld and his mustache. You’ve heard of Flex Friday. Today we are trading in Flex Friday for Fun Friday, so you can learn more about the Ducks off the field.

A few highlights from the video above:

- Starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. loves video games and is the self-proclaimed “best player at Madden on the team". The only person that can challenge him is fellow junior cornerback Deommodore Lenoir.

- Freshman tight end Patrick Herbert, quarterback Justin Herbert’s younger brother, is a huge Star Wars fan.

- Safety Jevon Holland is from Vancouver, British Columbia. In his spare time, he loves to paint.

- Defensive tackle Jordon Scott can throw down in the kitchen.

CJ Verdell trained for a literal break through season

CJ Verdell trained for a literal break through season

CJ Verdell, most likely to make you miss? Oregon’s leading rusher has advanced his game by adding muscle, sharpening his eye for holes, improving his explosive speed and stepping up as a pass-blocker. Verdell is looking to break through in his sophomore season as an elite ball carrier, literally.

“What I’m trying to apply to my game this year is trying to make people miss in the third and second levels,” Verdell said. “I’m trying to take them to punishment and elevate my game that way.”

Verdell made history in his redshirt freshman season, joining LaMichael James and Royce Freeman as the only Duck freshmen to lead the team and rush for over 1,000 yards. The former four-star recruit out of Mater Dei High School is the only Power 5 player in the nation with 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving.

He’s got bigger plans for the 2019 season.

Last season, Verdell averaged over five yards for 202 carries with 10 touchdowns. The five-foot-nine 210-pound running back plans to exceed those marks, specifically by breaking big runs to beat his eight carries of 20-plus yards in 2018.

How? Verdell bulked up in the offseason, adding nine pounds, six pounds of muscle. His speed clocked in at 21 miles per hour this summer. In practice, every time Verdell breaks through the first level of the defense, he sprints at least 30 yards farther down the field to condition his body for game speed. With a season under his belt and countless live snaps, he’s able to better train his eyes for holes.

“Verdell is a downhill runner; north and south with force,” former Oregon running back and Heisman Trophy runner up James said. “I love how he runs.”

In short, Verdell was already a forceful runner and reliable pass-catcher and now he’s changed his body to become an even more exhilarating package of top speed and agility. Plus, he’s focused on pass blocking to better protect quarterback Justin Herbert and the ball.

“The offense should be a lot more exciting this year,” Verdell said.

In order to have a successful season, the name of the game is durability for Verdell. He received 46 percent of Oregon’s carries last season while pushing through lingering hamstring and shoulder injuries. 100 percent healthy currently, Verdell says the added six pounds of muscle is intended to help carry a bigger workload this season.

“The biggest thing I’m taking into this season is a focus on taking care of my body,” Verdell said. “Coming in earlier, doing little things like stretching, just doing my best to make sure I can be durable for this whole season.”

His teammates have noticed a difference in Verdell’s maturity and physicality at practice.

“He’s explosive. This year, he is even more hungry,” wide receiver Johnny Johnson III said. “I think he’s put on even more muscle and he looks like he is moving even faster.”

In year two, it is clear that Verdell is also feeling more comfortable off the field as well. The Ducks don’t have a scholarship upperclassman running back on the roster and Verdell is stepping up as a leader.

“I’m trying to get the mentality instilled that we are going to work hard. Nothing is given to us here,” Verdell said. “Ask questions, you don’t want to go on the field not knowing or not sure what you are going to do. In the meeting room I tell the guys to ask as many questions as you have.”

The crowded backfield includes: returners Travis Dye, Darrian Felix and Cyrus Habibi-Likio; and newcomers Sean Dollars and Jayvaun Wilson.

The competition creates a good problem for Oregon at running back. Don’t forget, the Ducks also boast one of the best offensive lines in the country. Verdell’s preparation has set himself up to top his impressive freshman season to an explosive 2019.

"One-two punch" running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye named to Doak Walker Award list

"One-two punch" running backs CJ Verdell and Travis Dye named to Doak Walker Award list

2018 saw the emergence of Ducks duo CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who will be excellent for years to come. Now the self-proclaimed "one-two punch" have been named to the Doak Walker Award watch list. 

[RELATED: LaMichael James' take on Oregon running back Sean Dollars: Dangerous]

From the Oregon Athletic Department:

One of just two returning Power 5 running back duos in the country that rushed for more than 700 yards each in 2018, Oregon sophomores Travis Dye and CJ Verdell were named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List on Wednesday.

Oregon is one of eight teams with multiple players on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top college running back.

Verdell is coming off a redshirt freshman season in which he was the only player in the nation with 1,000 yards rushing and 300 yards receiving. He was one of eight FBS freshmen with 1,000 yards on the ground and just the third freshman in Oregon history to accomplish the feat. Verdell finished seventh in the Pac-12 in both rushing yards (1,018) and rushing TDs (10).

An early enrollee in the 2018 signing class, Dye made an immediate impact in his first season with 739 yards and four touchdowns. All three of Dye’s 100-yard games came in Pac-12 play, as he finished 11th in the league in rushing. 

In Oregon’s regular season finale win at Oregon State, the duo combined for 386 yards and six touchdowns on the ground while Dye set the program single-game freshman record with 199 yards on 33 carries. Verdell scored five TDs in his 187-yard performance, becoming the first FBS player since 2016 with four rushing TDs and a receiving TD in the same game.

[RELATED: Preseason award watch lists rolling in for Justin Herbert]

LaMichael James' take on Oregon's Sean Dollars: Dangerous

LaMichael James' take on Oregon's Sean Dollars: Dangerous

The best recruiting class in Oregon football history is in Eugene and preparing for their first collegiate season. Hype surrounds the star-powered 2019 class looking to make an instant impact, including Sean Dollars, who has all the tools to have a stand out freshman season and develop into a starting running back before his time is up at Oregon.

He’s also caught the eye of former Duck running back star and Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James who believes Dollars is already “college ready.”

“I think he will be a special player once he gets his opportunity,” James said. “He’s the highest rated running back to come to Oregon since Jonathan Stewart. You pair that with the best offensive line Oregon probably has ever had and it could be a dangerous combo.”

Dollars is the highest rated running back on Oregon’s 2019 roster and the nation’s No.1 all-purpose back, per 247sports. He is one of three Mater Dei High School players to sign with Oregon in the 2019 class. The 5-foot-10, 185-pound special talent is praised for his versatility to be a workhorse, every-down type of back that can also catch the ball out of the backfield.

"Can do it all,” Coach Mario Cristobal said. “Line him up in the slot, line him up in the backfield, empty, wildcat — you name it, he can do it. Excellent as a kick returner, also."

But exactly how can the Ducks’ utilize Dollars and where does he fit on the depth chart?

2018 saw the emergence of Ducks duo CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, who will be excellent for years to come. Cyrus Habibi-Likio is poising himself for a breakout season and Darrian Felix had a strong spring showing before being sidelined by illness.

[READ:Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn: Oregon football prediction]

That’s enviable veteran experience, which creates a good problem for UO offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo and running back coach Jim Mastro.

Should Dollars enter Oregon’s fall camp in peak physical and mental shape, he could be an elite addition to the backfield. James compared the potential blend of speed and power of the 2019 UO backfield to when he was a Duck (2009-11).

“Verdell is a downhill runner; north and south with force… I love how he runs,” James said.  “Dye is a slasher and a smooth transition from Verdell. Then you have Dollars who can be used in unique ways. (It reminds me of) me, Kenjon Barner, DeAnthony Thomas and Josh Huff, who were all pretty exchangeable in backfield.”

Undoubtedly, Dollars’ elusiveness and versatility will make him a special player at Oregon. In the right role, Dollars’ could climb the depth chart and start his Duck career right away with a money freshman season.