Young Oregon defense backs to be tested against the Air Raid


Here are some thing to watch when Washington State visits Oregon on Saturday.

1. Air Raid versus Oregon's pass defense: This will likely be the matchup that decides the game. Can Oregon's pass defense -- which has been miserable a lot of time this year -- play well against quarterback Luke Falk and an offense that averages 369 passing yards per game? Falk is completing 73 percent of his passes and has thrown 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He has, however, been sacked 11 times, so there's certainly an opportunity for the Ducks to get to Falk if they can get a pass rush going. Oregon has given up 287 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns to offenses that are far less predicated on the pass than the Cougars' -- this will be a tough match up for a young secondary.

2. Oregon's quarterback situation (broken record...): Vernon Adams Jr. won't be back out on the field until he's 100 percent and it's not looking like this weekend will be that time. Last weekend the Ducks went with a rotation of Jeff Lockie and Taylor Alie with the latter performing better. This week the Ducks' depth chart listed an “or” between all three players. The rotation system last weekend didn't really allow Lockie or Alie to get into much of a groove so it wouldn't be too surprising to see one get the nod for an extended period of time against a team the Ducks must score (and score often) against. Also, given the quarterback situation, it wouldn't be entirely surprising to see the Ducks do what they did last weekend and just pound the ball for 60-plus rushing attempts.

3. Wazzu defense holding strong: For all the folks who say that Mike Leach doesn't care about defense, just check out the defensive staff he has gathered in Pullman. Look no further than last weekend to see the effects that staff has had on this group. The Cougars held Jared Goff and Cal to 28 points -- 16 below the Bears' season average coming into that game. Washington State managed to pick off Goff once and held him to his second-lowest adjusted QBR of the season. If Wazzu's defense can do that to the best quarterback in the league, what will it make of whoever Oregon puts out on the field?

4. Receiver Darren Carrington's status: Sophomore wide receiver Darren Carrington is eligible to return this weekend after sitting out for his six-game NCAA suspension stemming from a failed drug test before the national title game. However, he put up another possible roadblock for himself recently when he was issued an open container violation. That may or may not push back his return date even more. But we could see Carrington this weekend and, for a struggling Oregon pass game, he'd definitely be a boost for the Ducks and a difficult one-on-one matchup for the Cougars.

5. Which team finds consistency? Both of these teams are struggling to find consistency this season. The Cougars surprisingly lost their opener to Portland State, but tacked together two wins in the nonconference portion of the schedule. They played well against Cal last weekend, but not well enough in the fourth quarter to come away with a win. Oregon lost to Michigan State on the road and then got upset badly at home by Utah. After not putting away Colorado on the road as well as some might've hoped, the Ducks would like to get back on track against the Cougars. Both squads need to put together a four full quarters of football.