Planning for success: Oregon Ducks

The 2013 edition of the Oregon Ducks go on the road for the first time this weekend, carrying the nation’s longest road winning streak with them at 15 games. After demolishing Nicholls State 66-3 in their opener, the Ducks enjoyed a bump in the polls, checking in this week at No. 2

The natural thought process is to not jump to too many conclusions from one game. Yes, it was an FCS team. Yes, the Ducks were dominant. But this week’s matchup at Virginia figures to provide a slightly tougher test than the Colonels.

Specifically, Virginia showed some gritty defense in its Week 1 win over BYU -- a team that spends a lot of time in or around the top 25. Safety Anthony Harris had a banner game, notching 11 tackles and a critical interception late in the game that paved the way for Virginia’s come-from-behind victory.

Oregon’s offense figures to be a little more explosive than BYU’s, however. Last week the Ducks, for the first time in school history, had three different players break the 100-yard rushing mark. De'Anthony Thomas rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, followed by Byron Marshall (124 yards, one TD) and quarterback Marcus Mariota (113 yards, 2 TDs). Mariota also threw for 234 yards on 12 of 21 passing with a touchdown. As a team, the Ducks totaled 772 yards of offense.

As of right now, there doesn’t appear to be any difference between Mark Helfrich or Chip Kelly at the helm. Per ESPN Stats and Info, the Ducks ran one play every 16 seconds -- which tied their fastest pace in the last 10 seasons. They had eight touchdowns drives that lasted two minutes or less, the most of any FBS team in Week 1. Seven of those eight drives were of at least 60 yards. Last season Oregon had an FBS-high 45 touchdown drives that lasted two minutes or less and they ran a play every 20 seconds, which tied for the fifth fastest.

Thomas had a career high 18 carries in the win over Nicholls State. Again, it’s an FCS team, but it might also be an indication that he’ll be used more as a runner than he has been in previous years. And Mariota was just as dangerous throwing the ball, checking in with the second highest QBR of any FBS player. He took four shots down the field, completing three of four passes of at least 20 yards. By comparison, Virginia’s defense last week only allowed one reception of 20 yards or more on five BYU attempts.