The Oregon Ducks should win this contest against Eastern Washington. But it's less about how they win today and more about specific performance aspects that could determine how their subsequent matchup with Michigan State ends up.
Let's take a look at a few things to watch for the Ducks against the Eagles.
1. How Oregon will cope without Thomas Tyner
Royce Freeman is more than ready to be a number one running back and will probably get the majority of meaningful carries today and next Saturday in East Lansing, but there is some questions as to how the guys behind him will perform. With Tyner out, the Ducks will rely on new faces like Kani Benoit, Tony Brooks-James and Taj Griffin to try and divvy up snaps.
Whomever performs the best this week will probably be the primary number two next week. Benoit is currently listed as the #2 but that is probably an interchangeable lineup. The Ducks should overrun the
2. Eastern Washington offense vs. Oregon pass defense will be telling.
Oregon is breaking in mostly a new secondary. The Ducks will have the talented Charles Nelson and Chris Seisay at cornerback, but Eastern Washington should be talented enough offensively that they will have a few dents in place. Cooper Kupp was a popular Adams targets at Eastern Washington, and how well Nelson and Seisay hold up will determine how ready they are for the talented Spartan offense. Of course, Oregon's front seven might negate a need for huge secondary games, but Ducks defensive back preparation is critical.
3. How well can the Oregon front seven stuff the Eastern Washington run?
This is critical for next week. Michigan State broke in new running backs LJ Scott and Madre London against Western Michigan. They had solid performances, and along with Gerald Holmes combined for 200 yards. If this ground game is consistent enough, they can open things up for the deadly Spartan passing game with Connor Cook.
Oregon has returned plenty of their depth, but they were not amazing last year at protecting against the run. As per their formula the last few years, the Ducks excelled when they took big leads and forced teams to pass on their speedy secondary. If Oregon struggles to stuff Eastern Washington, this is a huge warning sign for next week. Joe Walker and Rodney Hardrick have to be prepared to plug the interior.
4. A word on Vernon Adams.
Okay, we'll talk about him a little.
How Vernon ends up performing is probably inconsequential. He's played against Eastern Washington enough that he should be fairly comfortable at how to gameplan against them (the converse can be true, but Adams was definitely the engine of that offense the last few years). But how Adams is able to execute the Oregon offense given only a few weeks in it will tell us a lot on what Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost are planning. Will Adams get free run to execute a system similar to what he ran in Eastern Washington, will he do more Oregon plays, or will it be a blend of the two?
Michigan State secondary didn't have a good first week. They can be beaten against an accurate quarterback and a team with a capable gameplan, and few teams gameplan better than the Ducks. If Adams is capable of slinging with high accuracy in this offense, it's hard to see the Spartans having enough firepower to contend for four quarters.