STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL/GAME BREAKDOWN
Scouting the run offense: Stepping into the spotlight as Oregon’s starting running back is Tony Brooks-James, a player who shows all the signs of being a star but has yet to stay healthy.
After a breakout sophomore campaign when he ran for 771 yards and nine touchdowns in place of the injured Royce Freeman, Brooks-James suffered his own injury-riddled season and fell to No. 3 on the depth chart last year. To help ensure those injury woes won’t come back to haunt him as a senior, Brooks-James put on nearly 20 pounds in the offseason.
Opening up the holes for Brooks-James is an offensive line that returns 75 combined starts. This unit helped the Ducks average 251 yards on the ground last year, good enough for 12th best in the country.
Backing up Brooks-James is quintet of running backs who all bring something special to the unit. CJ Verdell should see a lot of action as a more physical running back while Taj Griffin is the speedster with big play ability.
Bowling Green struggled mightily on defense last year, giving up an average of 253.25 yards per game, fourth worst in the nation.
With new head coach Mario Cristobal wanting to implement a power running game to compliment the quick-strike passing attack, Oregon should dominate on the ground and get the season off on the right foot.
Scouting the pass offense: Junior Justin Herbert started last year on fire, leading the Ducks to a 4-1 record before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the next five games. He returned late in the season and led the Ducks to a 2-1 finish. Herbert threw for 1,983 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, completing 139-of-205 (67.5-percent) passes with eight different receivers scoring.
Junior Dillon Mitchell is the star of the receiving group. He finished last year with 42 catches for 517 yards and four scores. He’s a talented player who really came on strong last season and is primed for a breakout year.
Johnny Johnson III caught 21 passes for 299 yards while Brenden Schooler finished with 20 catches for 274 yards and three scores. Big things are expected of Schooler — who was a starting safety during his freshman season — after he spent all summer and fall learning the intricacies of the receiver position.
Tight end Jacob Breeland (team-high five touchdowns) and senior transfer Tabari Hines are players to keep an eye on.
Together, this is a unit that could pose a huge problem for Bowling Green.
The Falcons gave up 253.3 yards per game through the air last year but return both Clint Stephens and Marcus Milton, two ballhawks who combined for six interceptions. Bowling Green is a big team at the defensive backs position, but they’ll have to be ready for the Ducks’ athleticism.
Scouting the pass defense: If the Ducks have any concern defensively, it comes from the defensive backs. It’s no secret Oregon has struggled in the backend, but this year its defense returns a lot of experience.
Senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi is a four-year starter but will draw the toughest assignment come Saturday.
Because Bowling Green runs the air raid offense and likes to spread the ball around, Amadi is expected to drop down into the nickel position and face off with Scott Miller, the Falcons’ top receiver. Last year, Miller caught 63 passes for 722 yards and four scores, doing most of his damage out of the slot position.
Apart from Amadi, sophomore cornerbacks Thomas Graham Jr. and Deommodore Lenoir are going to have their hands full on the outside with Deric Phouthavong and Quinton Morris. Phouthavong and Morris are both legitimate redzone threats, standing 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-4 respectively. Graham and Lenoir top out at 5-foot-11 but are physical corners with great feet and hips to help offset the height differential.
Last year, the Ducks surrendered 240.6 yards through the air while Bowling Green averaged 286.3 passing yards in its final three games with sophomore quarterback Jarett Doege leading the way. Doege is a proven passer who knows how to spread the ball around. But he tends to lock onto Miller or throw the ball up for grabs a lot with Phouthavong and Morris on the outside, which should give the Oregon defense plenty of opportunities for turnovers.
Scouting the run defense: Oregon finished 25th in the nation in run defense last year, surrendering 128.54 yards per game and 3.47 yards per carry.
It all begins with sophomore nose tackle Jordon Scott. Listed at 329 pounds, Scott is shockingly athletic and nimble with great hands and leverage that led to him being a freshman all-American last year. He has the capability to beat single coverage or stand his ground when double-teamed.
Defensive end Jalen Jelks and linebackers Troy Dye and Justin Hollins provide the pass rush, combining for 40 tackles for loss and 14 sacks last year. Jelks and Hollins often play opposite one another, funneling the ball carrier to Scott and a waiting Dye.
Bowling Green will counter with a big and physical offensive line, hoping to spring sophomore running back Andrew Clair into the open.
Clair started one game last year but finished with 725 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry. Listed at 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Clair shows good vision and footwork for a player of his size.