Thursday NCAA Preview: No. 16 Oregon at No. 14 Boise State Predictions
by Matt Severance - 9/3/2009
Finally, football season is here, and arguably one of the most potentially entertaining games of the season is on Thursday's opening night: Oregon at Boise State.
Last year, Boise State went to Eugene and shocked the Ducks, 37-32. Oddsmakers at Bodog expect something similar, with the Broncos listed as 3 1/2-point favorites (the total is at 64); the line has moved somewhat to Oregon. I fully expect the over here because Oregon plays at a very fast pace and the Broncos like to spread the field out. Last season, the Ducks squeezed the most plays into their possession time of any team in the nation, almost three per minute, beating Houston (2.9), Oklahoma (2.7), Missouri (2.7) and Tulsa (2.7). The Ducks, therefore, ranked last in all of I-A in time of possession.
New coach Chip Kelly has even pushed his guys to play faster during fall camp, believing that practicing at that tempo carries over into games.
So what does this game mean in the big picture? A loss would be very costly to Boise State, because it likely needs to go unbeaten this season to crash a BCS bowl. This could be the Broncos' lone game against a ranked foe - and Oregon is the first-ever ranked foe to visit in the regular season. It's on ESPN and a record crowd is expected.
"It's like you're playing a bowl game right out of the gate," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said.
For the Ducks, they could afford a close loss and still resurrect their BCS outlook because of games remaining against Utah and the Pac-10. They might have beaten Boise State last year if starting QB Jeremiah Masoli (who really came on at the end of last season) hadn't been knocked out of the game on a late, helmet-to-helmet hit. Yes, the Ducks believe that was a cheap shot and are very motivated for a little payback.
Boise State won't see another running back this year like Oregon's LeGarrette Blount. He's 6-foot-2, 240 pounds and can run the 40 in 4.6. He is now the unquestioned featured back despite averaging just 10.5 carries per game in 2008 but at average of 7.3 yards per carry with 17 touchdowns last year.
It's concerning that Oregon lost three offensive line starters, has questions at receiver and saw four defenders get drafted into the NFL from last year's team. Plus Boise State is on a 49-game regular-season home winning streak, is 64-2 at home the past decade and 19-0 there under Petersen. But Boise State has just five starters back on defense and has to replace RB Ian Johnson, who seemed to play there about seven years. Thus, behind Blount and Masoli, I think the Ducks will prevail in a close one.
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