Oregon's second bye week of the season is here and it really couldn't have come at a better time. With two games to go in the Ducks' regular-season slate, Oregon has secured a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game and set itself up nicely for a real chance to play in the College Football Playoff if it can come out of that with a win as well.
But in order to get to that ultimate goal, here are four ways the Ducks need to use this bye week:
1. Get healthy
Uh, duh. Tight end Pharaoh Brown won't be back this season (we'll get to that later), but cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and center Hroniss Grasu need to use this week to rest up and get back on the field.
We've seen what offensive line injuries have done to this squad, this run game and Marcus Mariota's sack numbers (see Washington State and Arizona). So, Grasu needs to get healthy and get back to leading this line because Oregon needs him. At this point in the season reshuffling could be devastating and while Doug Brenner looked fine when he came in against Utah, the Ducks really need consistency there. Chances are, Oregon could sneak by Colorado and Oregon State without their offensive line at 100 percent, but every missed snap is one more snap that they're missing when it comes to building cohesion. And where that's really going to pay off is in a national semifinal or championship game. Oregon needs Grasu. It also needs Ekpre-Olomu. Reshuffling the secondary also could be too much for this defense to handle just when it seems to be hitting its stride, Ekpre-Olomu gets injured and new faces are coming in and out. He told The Oregonian that he'd be back and ready for Colorado. The Ducks hope he's right.
2. Continue building chemistry in the pass game
This is a perfect time for Mariota to just go out and throw and throw and throw with his group of wide receivers. They've all looked good recently, but coach Mark Helfrich has said that some of the incompletions are because Mariota is running the routes for the receivers or there's some kind of a misstep somewhere. Again, against the Beavers or Buffs, Oregon probably can get away with a few of those. But against a stronger team? Not so much. They need to use this week to keep getting Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford, Keanon Lowe and Charles Nelson some catches.
3. Find a tight end to fill Brown's shoes
It's unfortunate to see Brown go down at this point in the season. He had really stepped up (15 catches, 289 yards, five touchdowns in the past five games), and he was poised to keep contributing more and more. Now, the Ducks will look to Evan Baylis or Johnny Mundt -- both of whom Oregon was high on coming into this season -- to step up and step into the reps left behind by Brown. Baylis is known to be the better blocker, while Mundt was known to have better hands. So who can address his weakness? That'll likely be the guy they bring in and count on.
4. Defense needs to get in the film room
OK, offense does, too. But the Oregon defense took some major steps forward in the past few weeks. The Ducks have been better on first down, which has made second- and third-down situations a far better scenario than earlier this year. While some of this is obviously going to be opponent-based, Don Pellum has said that the Ducks just need to keep working on themselves defensively. So, Ducks, work on yourselves defensively. Get in the film room and figure out where the miscommunications are happening, why so many big plays are happening, which nuances can and should improve. Like points Nos. 1 through 3, the Ducks will be able to survive the rest of the regular season with these glitches still in their systems. But, if they want to be a national championship-caliber team, those glitches need to continue disappearing over the next three weeks.