1. Marcus Mariota only completed 50% of his passes but torched Virginia with his legs. Would you consider him the Heisman frontrunner?
I would not consider Marcus the Heisman frontrunner for several reasons: 1) He plays on the west coast. Players on the west coast don't get as much exposure as players on the east coast due to the late start times for many of their games. I also think there is a perception among many media members and Heisman voters that outside of USC, Pac-12 teams don't play the same brand of "tough" football as teams in the midwest, south, and east coast; 2) Oregon has a tendency to blow teams out. Last year Marcus played very little in the second halves of games, which kept his overall numbers down. While Mark Helfrich has so far allowed Marcus to play deeper into games than Chip did, it remains to be seen whether that trend will continue going forward; 3) He might split votes with his own teammate, De'Anthony Thomas. If DAT continues receiving the same number of touches he is poised to put up Heisman worthy numbers himself and may even surpass Mariota in the Heisman race given his more colorful personality and penchant for explosive plays.
2. Do you trust De'Anthony Thomas to be your feature back, or will the offense have to change a little bit?
I trust DAT as a feature back but I don't think he will be used in that role as much as Lamichael James and Kenjon Barner were before him. People argue that this is due to his slight frame, but I think it has more to do with his versatility. It's simply a waste of his talent to have him line up in the backfield and run it 20+ times a game. Oregon is also fortunate not to have to use him in that role given the talent behind him in Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. I expect DAT to touch the ball more on offense than he did the last two years, but in a variety of roles.
3. Is the Ducks defense as good as the offense? Which unit has looked better through two games?
You can make a good argument that the defense is as good as the offense this year, both from a talent and execution standpoint. They might have the best defensive backfield in the country, and the defensive line is as deep, talented, and athletic as any in Ducks history. The biggest question mark coming into the season was about the linebackers, but so far they have looked pretty good with the potential for continued improvement. Linebacker Derrick Malone has led the team in tackles in the first two games. As to who has looked better between the offense and defense I would give the edge to the defense. On offense Marcus has missed some passes and also been victimized by drops from normally reliable receivers (most notably Colt Lyerla), while the offensive line had trouble creating space up the middle against Virginia. These are nitpicky things for a team that has outscored its first two opponents 115-13, but given the personnel the Oregon offense is expected to take a step forward this year, but hasn't quite hit its stride (insert qualifiers about relativity here).
4. What is the one improvement that you'd like to see Oregon make in upcoming months?
Clean up the penalties. They were a big problem for Oregon last year and so far have been an issue this year, which is troubling for a team that is otherwise very good at the fundamentals of the game. In a tight game penalties can go a long ways toward determining the outcome or swinging momentum.
5. When you look at the Pac-12 as a Duck fan, does anyone really scare you outside of Stanford?
I may be in the minority but I don't think you can look past any team in the Pac-12 (and certainly the team buys into that). I don't think anyone expected Oregon to lose to Stanford last year or USC the year before, but in both games I believe the Ducks had a letdown following a tough opponent the week before. UCLA looks dangerous this year, Washington is much improved, ASU is the favorite in the south, and you can never overlook the Beavers, despite their routine foibles to start the season. That said, I don't think anyone can keep pace with Oregon's scoring, and Stanford is the only team to "stop" their offense in the past three years, so Stanford is certainly the scariest team on the schedule.