UW football vs. Oregon: 5 things to watch

2012-01-02T03:55:00Z 2012-01-10T02:59:18Z UW football vs. Oregon: 5 things to watch madison.com
January 02, 2012 3:55 am


Oregon running back LaMichael James is as dangerous as they come. The junior has three straight 1,500-yard rushing seasons - something Ron Dayne didn't do - while averaging 6.6 yards per carry and scoring 52 touchdowns for his career. The Ducks are 25-0 when he has at least 100 yards on the ground. But there is a common theme for the five losses he's experienced at Oregon. James was held to less than 80 yards rushing in each, scoring two TDs and averaging 4.0 yards per carry. It's happened twice this season - vs. LSU and Southern Cal - and his longest runs from scrimmage in those games were 13 and 9 yards, respectively.


Much is made of the up-tempo, quick-strike Oregon offense. The Ducks have 13 scoring drives that spanned a minute or less (including 12 that resulted in touchdowns) and 28 scoring drives that lasted 100 seconds or less (including 26 that produced TDs). Would you believe the Badgers are even quicker? They also have 28 scoring drives that lasted 100 seconds or less this season (26 finishing up with touchdowns) and 16 that took a minute or less (14 resulting in touchdowns). This is why many believe this matchup will be a dizzying offensive bonanza.


Eleven Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks threw for 30 touchdowns or more this season, but only four were doing it for the second consecutive year. One was Darron Thomas of Oregon, who matched his output of 30 TD throws from 2010 while reducing his interceptions from nine to six. His duel with UW counterpart Russell Wilson is unique in that it's one of two BCS games pitting QBs in the 30-touchdown pass club. The other is the Fiesta Bowl where Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden (34 TDs) faces Stanford's Andrew Luck (35). The Badgers don't often face quarterbacks this productive through the air. Since 2000 the list of opposing quarterbacks UW has faced with 30 or more TD passes in a season includes Colt Brennan of Hawaii in 2005, Kyle Orton of Purdue in '04 and David Carr of Fresno State in '01.


Oregon opponents wrack their brains trying to devise ways to slow that fast-paced offense. The Ducks thrive on tempo, trying to run plays as fast as possible, trying to generate a lethal combination of fatigue and confusion. But TV timeouts in nationally televised games like this are pace-killers. Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said the phenomenon is real and it's been addressed in practices leading up to the Rose Bowl. It might help explain why the last two BCS bowl appearances by the Ducks have seen them fail to rush for 100 yards (vs. Auburn in the 2010 national title game) and pass for 100 (vs. Ohio State in the 2009 Rose Bowl).


Oregon players and coaches say the key to limiting the Badgers on offense is to put them in second-and-long and third-and-long situations, thus removing the threat of play-action schemes. "We're going to have to stop the run and get them into uncomfortable downs," senior cornerback Anthony Gildon said, "because if they have second-and-short all day then they are going to feel real comfortable and they are going to be able to do everything that they want to do." By the way, UW has the second-best third-down conversion ratio in the nation at 54.1 percent, while the Ducks rank 40th in third-down defense, allowing conversions 37.5 percent of the time.

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