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2007 Oregon Ducks

Collegefootballnews.com
Posted Dec 31, 2007


2007 Oregon Ducks Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 Oregon Ducks

Recap: Not a whole lot went according to the script for the Ducks in 2007.  Not the blazing start or the bowl upset, and certainly not the devastating knee injury to QB Dennis Dixon that transformed Oregon from a national championship contender to a rudderless ship at the end of the regular season.  When Dixon was healthy in September and October, he was building an impressive Heisman resume, and the Duck offense was a locomotive that could drop 50 points on any unprepared defense.  Seemingly on a collision course with New Orleans or Pasadena, Oregon never recovered from the loss of its superstar, losing the final three league games to earn a consolation Sun Bowl berth.              

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Dennis Dixon

Defensive Player of the Year: DE Nick Reed

Biggest Surprise: Blasting South Florida in the Sun Bowl with first-time starting QB Justin Roper at the controls.  Given up for dead weeks ago, the Ducks shredded a very good Bull defense for 56 points and 533 yards, getting four touchdown passes from Roper and 253 yards rushing and a pair of scores from Jonathan Stewart. 

Biggest Disappointment: Dixon’s ACL tear against Arizona State and hastening of the injury a week later at Arizona will haunt Duck fans for years.  So, too, will the Sept. 29 loss to Cal, in which WR Cameron Colvin fumbled through the end zone reaching for the game-tying score with just seconds left in regulation.   

Looking Ahead: Is Roper a long-term solution at quarterback, or just a one-game wonder that’ll go down in Oregon lore? The answer to that question will go a long way to determining the 2008 fate of a program that loses Dixon and probably Stewart to the NFL.

- 2007 Oregon Preview
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2006 Oregon Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-5
2007 Results: 9-
4

Sept. 1 Houston W 48-27
Sept. 8 at Michigan W 39-7
Sept. 15
Fresno State W 52-21
Sept. 22 at Stanford W 55-31
Sept. 29 California L 31-24
Oct. 13
Washington St W 53-7
Oct. 20 at Washington W 55-34
Oct. 27 USC W 24-17
Nov. 3
Arizona State W 35-23
Nov. 15 at Arizona L 34-24
Nov. 24 at UCLA L 16-0
Dec. 1
Oregon St L 38-31 2OT
Sun Bowl
Dec. 31 South Florida W 56-21

Dec. 31
2007 Sun Bowl
Oregon 56 ... South Florida 21

Oregon ran for 353 yards on the supposedly stout USF defense with Jonathan Stewart running for 243 with a 71-yard touchdown dash and an eight-yard scoring catch. USF hung tough in the first half with a 35-yard Delbert Alvarado field goal making it 18-14 Ducks at halftime, and then the Oregon attack blew up with 31 straight points on three of Justin Roper's four touchdown passes and a 25-yard interception return for a score form Walter Thurmond. USF's Matt Grothe came up with a miraculous 21-yard touchdown pass to Taurus Johnson in the second quarter after spinning out of a defender's grasp, but he got banged up in the third quarter and gave way to Grant Gregory, who led the team with 42 yards on four carries.
Offensive Player of the Game: Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart ran 23 times for 253 yards and a touchdown with two catches for 29 yards and a score
Defensive Player of the Game: Oregon CB Jairus Byrd led the Ducks with eight tackles with two interceptions, four broken up passes, and a forced fumble,
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 18-35, 197 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Grant Gregory, 4-42. Receiving: Taurus Johnson, 4-51, 1 TD
Oregon - Passing: Justin Roper, 17-30, 180 yds, 4 TD
Rushing:
Jonathan Stewart, 23-253, 1 TD. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 4-40, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ...
Oregon apparently needed a time out. After the disappointment following the Dennis Dixon injury, and the ugly three-game losing streak to end the season, the team got some time off to regroup and played like the Oregon that was in the national title hunt deep into the season. It started with the lines with tackle Geoff Schwartz and center Max Unger dominated USF front four. ... Where were the South Florida linebackers? Ben Moffitt was non-existent with a mere four tackles and Tyrone McKenzie made ten stops, but not enough meaningful ones. Jonathan Stewart and the Duck runners spent way too much time in the Bull secondary. ... Oregon's only problem was with penalties committing 13 for 138 yards. South Florida committed eight for 64 yards. ... Justin Roper might not be Dixon running the ball, but he showed a little bit of mobility and threw extremely well. It helped that he got time, and it really helped that the Duck running game took away all the attention, but he turned the game into a rout in the third quarter.

Dec. 1
Oregon State 38 ... Oregon 31 2OT
After the two teams traded field goals in the first overtime, James Rogers ran for a 25-yard touchdown to give the Beavers the lead in the second overtime, and then the defense came through with a stop, stuffing Jonathan Stewart on fourth and one on the 16, to get the win. Each defense scored, with Jairus Byrd returning a fumble 33 yards for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half, and Derrick Doggett returning an interception 28 yard for a second quarter Beaver score. Matt Sieverson carried the Beavers with 142 yards and a 38-yard touchdown, while Clinton Polk and Lyle Moevao each ran for one-yard scores for OSU.
Player of the game: Oregon State LB Derrick Doggett made 14.5 tackles and took an interception for a score
Stat Leaders: Oregon State - Passing: Lyle Moevao, 20-37, 245 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Matt Sieverson, 27-142, 1 TD. Receiving: Brandon Powers, 5-80
Oregon - Passing: Justin Roper, 13-25, 144 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Jonathan Stewart, 39-163. Receiving:
Jeffrey Maehl, 4-86, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
This was the offense that should've been rolling against Arizona and UCLA, with Jonathan Stewart the true focal point, or at least, part of a commitment to the running game. While the quarterback situation will be a convenient excuse for the three-game losing streak to close things out, Justin Roper actually played well against the Beavers. Dixon and Leaf didn't play defense, which was the real problem against the Wildcats and Beavers. There are enough pieces here to win a bowl game with, but the overall moral will have to be lifted after such a demoralizing end to what should've been a national championship-caliber season.

Nov. 24
UCLA 16 ... Oregon 0
Oregon QB Brady Leaf was awful, and then he hurt his ankle, was out for the game, and his backups were worse. UCLA QB Osaar Rasshan was miserable, missing on all seven of his passes with an interception, Ben Olson came in and was awful, but the Bruin defense dominated and the offense got just enough with a 20-yard Craig Sheppard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and a Kai Forbath field goal in each of the first three to get the ugly win. The two teams combined for just 22 first downs with 22 punts and 368 yards of total offense.
Player of the game: UCLA LB Christian Taylor made 13 tackles, a sack and four tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Cody Kept, 6-23, 52 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 13-33. Receiving: Ed Dickson, 5-31
UCLA - Passing: Ben Olson, 4-10, 64 yds, 1 INT
Rushing:
Chris Markey, 30-91. Receiving:
Brandon Breazell, 2-50
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Losing Dennis Dixon is one thing, but to not have a backup who can throw with any sort of consistency is inexcusable. Oregon is a D-I/FBS team; there should be someone who can hit an open receiver. Fine, so the quarterbacks struggled against UCLA; then the coaching staff should've figured out a way to get Jonathan Stewart rolling. He's an elite running back who never found a groove with the Bruin defense loading up to stop him. Now the Rose Bowl dream are kaput, and the once promising season will truly go in the tank if the offense can't figure out something in a big hurry before facing Oregon State.

Nov. 15
Arizona 34 ... Oregon 24
Arizona jumped out to a 31-14 halftime lead on Mike Thomas touchdown catches from 34 and 46 yards out along with an Antoine Cason 42-yard interception return or a touchdown and a 56-yard punt return for a score. Oregon scored on its first drive on a 39-yard Dennis Dixon touchdown run, but he later injured his knee and was lost for the rest of the game. With Brady Leaf under center for the Ducks, Arizona blitzed time and again and forced plenty of mistakes, but Oregon got within seven points late in the fourth on a 17-play, 71-yard drive finishing up with a two-yard Andre Crenshaw touchdown run. Arizona was able to all but put the game away by answering with a 46-yard field goal, but needed help from the replay booth as QB Willie Tuitama was ruled down before he fumbled the ball away to Oregon. Oregon outgained Arizona 463 yards to 322.
Player of the game: Arizona CB Antoine Cason made seven tackles, broke up five passes, returned an interception 42 yards for a score, and returned three punts for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Brady Leaf, 22-46, 162 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 28-131. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 8-120
Arizona - Passing: Willie Tuitama, 21-39. 266 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Nicholas Grigsby, 20-53. Receiving: Mike Thomas, 6-125, 2 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Oregon fans might point to the loss of Dennis Dixon early against Arizona as the main reason for the loss, but a national championship team finds a way to get around the landmine. Give credit to the defense for stepping up in the second half and keeping the game alive until the offense could get something going, and also credit the O line, and RB Jonathan Stewart, for pounding their way to within a score late. All is not completely lost. If the Ducks can beat UCLA and Oregon State, they still might be off to the BCS.

Nov. 3
Oregon 35 ... Arizona State 23
Dennis Dixon threw four touchdown passes including strikes of 26 and 27 yards to Jaison Williams in the first half. Jonathan Stewart caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and ran for a 33-yard score to keep the Ducks ahead, but the Sun Devils kept pressing with Rudy Carpenter throwing a 26-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jones, and an 11-yard score to Brent Miller. But ASU blew two key scoring chances, with Carpenter throwing an interception in the end zone and a Tyrice Thompson fumble off a long pass all but sealing the Duck win. The Sun Devils outgained the Ducks 489 yards to 400.
Player of the game: Oregon DE Nick Reed made 11 tackles with 3.5 sacks and five tackles for loss
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 13-22, 189 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 21-99, 1 TD. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 5-106, 2 TD
Arizona State - Passing: Rudy Carpenter, 22-36, 379 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Keegan Herring, 12-83. Receiving: Brent Miller, 6-45, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... With Matt Ryan and Boston College losing, now Oregon is in a prime position for the national title, with a little more help, and Dennis Dixon might have wrapped up the Heisman after a good, but not as good as it's being made out to be, performance against Arizona State. The defense continues to have issues giving up yards, and while there have been some key turnovers, it still has to be questioned. With that said, Nick Reed and the defensive front was tremendous in pressuring Rudy Carpenter all game long with nine sacks. However, even with all that pressure, Carpenter still came up with 379 yards. In the end, this was a double-digit win that will go down as the signature victory, even more so than the win over USC.

Oct. 27
Oregon 24 ... USC 17
Oregon forced four turnovers, with Matthew Harper picking off two passes including one to stop USC's final drive. Dennis Dixon ran for a two-yard touchdown to start off the scoring. but USC tied it up at 10 in the third quarter on a nine-yard Patrick Turner scoring grab. And then Jonathan Stewart went to work, running for a touchdown run from 16 yards out and then from one yard away for a 24-10 Duck lead. USC wouldn't go quietly, getting a 14-yard David Ausberry touchdown catch with just under five minutes to play, forced a three and out, and then got picked off to end the game.
Player of the game: Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart ran 25 times for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 21 yards
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 16-25, 157 yds
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 25-103, 2 TD. Receiving: Ed Dickson, 5-69
USC - Passing: Mark Sanchez, 26-41, 277 yds, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Chauncey Washington, 11-42. Receiving:
Vidal Hazelton, 8-88
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Oregon showed against USC that it can move the ball when it had to on the ground, and considering the lack of healthy receivers, that's going to be a theme. The Trojans loaded up to stop the run, but it wasn't as easy as just moving the safeties up. Oregon did a great job of opening up the lanes for Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart to get through, and now the offensive line will have to continue the momentum against Arizona State. Next week will be tougher than this week.

Oct. 20
Oregon 55 ... Washington 34
The score was tied at 31 late in the third quarter when Washington QB Jake Locker threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game on a 38-yard play to Marcel Reese. And then the roof caved in, as the Ducks outscored the Huskies 24-3 helped by a 13-yard Dennis Dixon touchdown runs along with short scoring dashes from Matt Evenson and Remene Alston. Locker bombed away, highlighted by an 83-yard scoring pass to Anthony Russo, but the defense couldn't handle Jonathan Stewart and the Duck ground game that ran for 465 yards. Andrew Crenshaw, who ran for 113 yards, and Stewart each ran for two touchdowns as part of Oregon's six scoring runs. In all. Oregon cranked out 661 yards of total offense, while Washington amassed 421.
Player of the game: Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart ran 32 times for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and caught three passes for 20 yards
Stat Leaders: Washington - Passing: Jake Locker, 12-31, 257 yds, 4 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jake Locker, 13-78. Receiving: Anthony Russo, 5-127, 1 TD
Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 19-30, 196 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Jonathan Stewart, 32-251, 2 TD. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 5-60

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
There's no question the Oregon frontline offensive starters are as good, and as explosive, as any in America, but the concern was the depth after injuries have struck.  While it's vital for Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart to stay healthy, the win over Washington showed off how deep the Duck backfield is with Andre Crenshaw tearing off 113 yards and two scores as a dangerous option along with Stewart. It'll all have to be working next week against the USC defense.

Oct. 13
Oregon 53 ... Washington State 7
Oregon pitched a nearly perfect game, cranking out 551 yards of total offense and getting out to a 47-0 lead 32 minutes into the game. Jeremiah Johnson ripped off scoring runs from 42 and 18 yards out, before leaving with an injury, and then Dennis Dixon went to work with a one-yard touchdown run and three scoring passes, highlighted by a 52-yard play to Jaison Williams. Washington State finally broke the run with an eight-yard Michael Bumpus catch, but couldn't do anything else the rest of the way.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon completed 21 of 28 passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns, and he ran for a score
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 21-28, 287 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 13-66. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 4-108, 1 TD
Washington State - Passing: Alex Brink, 15-33, 251 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing:
Dwight Tardy, 11-34. Receiving: Michael Bumpus, 5-60, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The downer of the blowout win over Washington State was an injury bug that hit RB Jeremiah Johnson (knee) and WR Cameron Colvin (ankle), and now they're likely gone for the year. Outside of that, everything else was perfect, as Dennis Dixon ran the offense to perfection, the defense swarmed all over everything the Cougars wanted to do, and the team coasted to an easy win. With Cal losing, the Pac 10 race is wide open for the Ducks, and they'll have several chances to make national statements over the coming weeks. If they play like this, there won't be any problems.

Sept. 29
California 31 ... Oregon 24
Cal got 21 fourth quarter points on two Justin Forsett touchdown runs and a 31-yard DeSean Jackson scoring grab, but it had to hold on as the Ducks got in scoring range on the final drive, but Cameron Colvin, diving for a possible score, lost the ball through the end zone. After several minutes of review, it was ruled a touchback and Cal was able to run out the clock. Oregon held a 10-3 after a defensive first half, highlighted by a five-yard Jonathan Stewart touchdown run. Cal was able to tie it on a 25-yard Jackson score, but Oregon responded with a 42-yard Colvin catch. Oregon turned it over four times, with Dennis Dixon throwing two interceptions, while Cal didn't give the ball away.
Player of the game: California WR DeSean Jackson caught 11 passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 31-44, 306 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 21-120, 1 TD. Receiving: Cameron Colvin, 7-74, 1 TD
Cal - Passing: Nate Longshore, 28-43, 285 yds, 2 TD
Rushing:
Justin Forsett, 23-101, 2 TD. Receiving: DeSean Jackson, 11-161, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Just a thought; the Ducks might have wanted to pay a wee bit more attention to DeSean Jackson. The Cal star is only one of the nation's most dynamic playmakers, but he managed 11 catches and turned out to be the game-changer. The offense got the yards, but four turnovers, most famously the fumble through the end zone at the end, were the difference. Oregon played well, but Cal just played a little bit better. Now the key will be to gear it back up against Washington State and not let things slip away. USC and Arizona State each have to come to Autzen; the Pac 10 title is still possible.

Sept. 22
Oregon 55 ... Stanford 31
It took a little while, and there were some problems in the first half, but Oregon eventually got everything together, scored 21 points in the third quarter, and 34 unanswered, to pull away and win easily. Dennis Dixon threw four touchdown passes, including a 71-yard strike to Cameron Colvin on the first play from scrimmage. Stanford got in the game roared to a 31-21 lead on 28 second quarter points helped by three Duck fumbles. T.C. Ostrander threw touchdown passes to Mark Bradford and Ben Ladner, and Anthony Kimble tore off scoring runs from 60 and three yards out. And then Dixon took over, hitting Ed Dickson for a 33-yard score on the opening drive of the second half, and finding Jaison Williams from 15 and 50 yards for scores.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon completed 27 of 36 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and ran nine times for 15 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 27-36, 367 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 19-160, 1 TD. Receiving: Cameron Colvin, 8-136, 1 TD
Stanford - Passing: T.C. Ostrander, 25-44, 262 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Anthony Kimble, 16-119, 2 TD. Receiving: Mark Bradford, 6-72, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ...
Basically, the win over Stanford showed that the only way anyone mediocre can stay with the Ducks, is if the Ducks screw up. Three second quarter fumbles allowed the Cardinal to take the lead, but that only gave Dennis Dixon and the offense more chances to crank out even bigger stats. No quarterback is playing better right now than Dixon, but give credit to the offensive line for giving him time to operate. Now the real test kicks in: California. Win that, and it's a whole new ballgame on a national scale.

Sept. 15
Oregon 52 ... Fresno State 21
Oregon never let Fresno State in the game, getting up 42-6 in the first half before the Bulldogs got a Bear Pascoe one-yard touchdown catch with one second to play. It was more of the same in the second half, with the Ducks keeping FSU off the board until the final minutes. Dennis Dixon threw two touchdown passes and ran for a one-yard score, but the fireworks came from Jonathan Stewart, who tore off an 88-yard touchdown run to go along with a nine-yard dash that started off the rout.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon was 14-of-20 for 139 yards and two touchdown passes, while running eight times for 59 yards and another score.
Stat Leaders: Fresno State - Passing: Tom Brandstater, 18-32, 219 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Lonyae Miller, 16-40, 1 TD. Receiving: Bear Pascoe, 4-67
Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 14-20, 139 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing:
Jonathan Stewart, 17-165, 2 TDs. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 5-50

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Is this the nation's sleeper team in the race for really big things? The Ducks are playing like they're planning on being in the national title chase, with the offense as effic
ient as any in America, and the defense swarming. All the attention is being paid to Dennis Dixon and his incredible start, and rightly so, but the defense, after struggling a bit in the opener against Houston, has clamped down. Fresno State never got a chance to get into the game, and never had an opportunity to establish a running game. As long as Dixon remains effective, and Jonathan Stewart cranks out yards in chunks, Oregon has to be considered a threat to USC and Cal for the Pac 10 title.

Sept. 8
Oregon 39 ... Michigan 7
Oregon rolled up 624 yards of total offense as it ripped through the Michigan defense and over it at will. The Wolverines had a first quarter lead on a seven-yard Adrian Arrington touchdown catch, and then Dennis Dixon went to work with an 85-yard touchdown pass to Brian Paysinger, a 61-yard touchdown pass to Derrick Jones, and a nine-yard scoring run, to go along with a two-yard Jonathan Stewart touchdown dash, for a 32-7 halftime lead. Dixon connected with Jaison Williams for a 46-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and then eased up on the gas.
Player of the game: Oregon QB Dennis Dixon completed 16 of 25 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns and ran 16 times for 76 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 16-25, 292 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Jonathan Stewart, 15-111, 1 TD. Receiving: Brian Paysinger, 4-97, 1 TD
Michigan - Passing: Chad Henne, 12-23, 172 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing:
Mike Hart, 25-127. Receiving: Mario Manningham, 8-117
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... Fine, so Michigan isn't any good right now, but Oregon had a whole bunch to do with that this week. Dennis Dixon got time, the speedy receivers had no problems getting open and things got ugly. Dixon is in a zone at the moment, making all the right reads and all the right throws, but he, and the Ducks, looked goo
d at the beginning of last year, too. Now Oregon has to keep the momentum going against a Fresno State team that battled Texas A&M in three overtimes, and then it's the Pac 10 season. If the Chip Kelly offense stays this effective, this will be a nasty team to beat.

Sept. 1
Oregon 48 ... Houston 287
Dennis Dixon had a huge day for the Ducks with 141 rushing yards, highlighted by an 80-yard scoring dash to put the game away late in the third quarter, and threw two touchdown passes. Houston hung around for most of the game, helped by two huge plays from Anthony Alridge with a 60-yard touchdown run and an 86-yard touchdown catch, but Dixon would prove to be too much, with his two scoring passes coming within a minute of each other in the third quarter as part of a wild sequence. Dixon connected with Brian Paysinger for a 24-yard score, and then converted a blocked punt into a six-yard scoring pass to to Jaison Williams, and then on the next play from scrimmage, Alridge scored on his 86-yarder.
Player of the game ... Oregon QB Dennis Dixon went 9-of-15 for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 15 times for 141 yards and a score..
Stat Leaders: Houston- Passing: Case Keenum, 14-27, 179 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Anthony Alridge, 22-205, 1 TD  Receiving: Donnie Avery, 6-66
Oregon - Passing: Dennis Dixon, 9-15, 134 yds, 2 TDs
Rushing: Dennis Dixon, 15-141, 1 TD  Receiving: Brian Paysinger, 4-63, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... While the running game tore off 339 yards and four touchdowns against Houston, there are a few concerns going into the Michigan game. The Duck defense struggled with the Cougar running game and there wasn't a consistent pass rush. It's never a good thing when two defensive backs, Matthew Harper and Walter Thurmond, have to combine for 24 tackles. However, if Dixon keeps playing like he did against the Cougars, the offense will make up for most defensive problems.

Sept. 1 - Houston
Offense: The graduation of four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb signals a new era in Houston, but it doesn’t mean the Cougars will be inept on offense in 2007.  There’s too much explosiveness and veteran leadership for that to happen.  Last year’s backup, sophomore Blake Joseph, is expected to get the nod at quarterback.  He’s got a huge arm and about as much fear as he does experience.  Surrounding Joseph will be a half-dozen players that earned all-league honors last year, headed by senior running back Anthony Alridge, one of the nation’s fastest players.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Alan Weddell’s goal is to bring pressure from every angle and invent ways to get as much speed as possible on the field.  With that in mind, he’ll be installing some elements of a 4-2-5 package in 2007 to periodically get an athletic rover into the mix.  The personnel is deep and reliable, especially with a front seven that includes dynamic junior end Phillip Hunt and a couple of all-league linebackers in junior Cody Lubojasky and senior Trent Allen.  If senior safety Rocky Schwartz is all the way back from knee surgery and the corners hold up, the pieces are in place for this to be Conference USA’s stingiest defense.              

Sept. 8 – at Michigan
Offense: Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord didn't change things up much in his first year, and there aren't going to be a lot of bells and whistles for an attack with all the stars returning. Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Mario Manningham form the best skill trio in America, while tackle Jake Long and quarter Adam Kraus form one of the nation's best left sides. The only issue is depth, which is stunning undeveloped or a program like Michigan. Of course there are talented prospects waiting in the wings, but there will be major problems if injuries strike early on.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Ron English did a fantastic job in his first season sending the dogs loose to attack more than previous Michigan teams. Now the hope will be for overall speed and athleticism to make up for the lack of experience and a few gaping holes. This won't be the nation's number one run defense again, and it won't be fourth in sacks, but it will create plenty of turnovers and force a ton of mistakes. It'll also give up too many big pass plays. The safeties are fine, the linebacking corps won't be an issue, even without David Harris to anchor things anymore, and the line, in time, will grow into a strength. The biggest issue will be at corner, where Morgan Trent isn't a number one lockdown defender, and there are several untested prospects waiting to get their chance to shine.

Sept. 15 - Fresno State
Offense: New offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will pump some life into a stagnant passing game with a wide-open attack featuring some funky, multi-receiver formations while not running quite as much. Call it playing to the strengths, as the receiving corps is lightning fast, but untested, while Tom Brandstater, who struggled mightily last year, is still a talent who appears ready to make a big jump and become a major player. The running game will suffer without Dwayne Wright, but Lonyae Wright and Clifton Smith should be decent. The line is the strength of the team with four starters returning to a group that allowed just 12 sacks.
Defense: After a tremendous 2005 season when the defense dominated, last year was a step back, especially in the secondary. Enough overall experience returns to be better, but the line has to do more to get into the backfield and the corners have to pick off more passes after taking away just three. There's plenty of speed and athleticism in the linebacking corps to swarm to the ball, and there's size and pass rushing ability from the front four, but there have to be more big plays and more takeaways.

Sept. 22 – at Stanford
Offense: Jim Harbaugh wants to attack defenses with an up tempo offense that’ll feature lots of pre-snap motion and a ball control element that harkens back to the Bill Walsh days of the West Coast offense.  It worked swimmingly at the University of San Diego for the past couple of years, but this is Stanford where ten points and less than 250 yards a game was the norm last year.  The Cardinal is experienced everywhere and pretty deep at the skill positions, but none of that will matter unless the offensive line does a complete 180 off last year’s atrocious performance. 
Defense: New defensive coordinator Scott Shafer is scrapping the 3-4 this year in favor of an attacking 4-3 that is designed to create more turnovers and more plays for negative yards.  The Cardinal is open to suggestions after finishing last in the Pac-10 in just about every defensive category in 2006.  There are holes, to be sure, but Shafer will also inherit some exciting young talent at each unit, such as sophomore tackle Ekom Udofia, sophomore linebacker Clinton Snyder and junior cornerback Wopamo Osaisai.  Above all else, the defense has to find some answers against the run after being humiliated for more than 2,500 yards and nearly five yards a carry a year ago. 

Sept. 29 - California
Offense: With Jeff Tedford at the controls, this is basically a pro-style offense that mixes the run and the pass evenly, and puts up points as quickly as any program in the country.  The head coach will be calling plays again after a one-year hiatus, meaning trick plays will be more frequent than a year ago.  The job of distributing the ball to an array of speedy skill position players belongs to quarterback Nate Longshore, a strong-armed junior that threw 24 touchdown passes in 2006 and a few too many picks.  Although he has plenty of receivers to choose from, none is more lethal than DeSean Jackson, a field-stretcher and legit Heisman candidate.  Super sub Justin Forsett takes over for Marshawn Lynch at running back, where he’ll be running behind an outstanding veteran line.  Center Alex Mack is on the All-American doorstep after earning first team All-Pac-10 honors as a sophomore.
Defense: There’s plenty of work to be done for a Cal defense that begins a new era without its signature all-conference player at each of the three defensive units.  Outstanding recruiting by Jeff Tedford and his staff in recent years ensures that the cupboard is far from empty, but there’ll be a learning curve early on in 2007.  Of greatest concern is a pass defense that gets modest support up front and will be relying on a slew of green cornerbacks.  Sophomore Syd’Quan Thompson and redshirt freshman Darian Hagan look the part, but need to deliver once Pac-10 plays begins.  Junior Zack Follett is the budding star of a linebacker unit that has the potential to be the next best thing to USC in the conference.      

Oct. 13 - Washington State
Offense: Washington State won’t abandon the run by any means, but this is an offense that’s traditionally wide-open and run out of three-wide sets.  The engineer of the attack will be fourth-year starting quarterback Alex Brink, who enters his senior season with a real nice complement of receivers, led by all-Pac-10 candidates Brandon Gibson and Michael Bumpus.  Although the offensive line welcomes back four players that started games a year ago, both tackles will be new, a big concern heading into the season.  If they’re overmatched, the ripple effect will reverberate throughout the entire offense.          
Defense: Expect some subtle changes as head coach Bill Doba steps in to coordinate the defense in 2007.  He’d like to utilize more man coverages and blitz packages, both of which could be suicide for a secondary that’s been gutted by graduations and is in dire need of a couple of reliable cornerbacks.  The Cougars are going to give up plenty of yards and points, but if they can create turnovers and sack the quarterback, like last year, there’s hope that the breakdowns can be managed.  The defense is loaded with big, agile bodies up front, but there’s a catch—serious injuries are mounting and could bleed into the start of the season.  While there’s no quick fix for the pass defense, junior college transfer Terry Mixon has the potential to be a star from the moment he steps foot in Pullman.

Oct. 20 – at Washington
Offense: All eyes in Seattle will be fixed on the debut of hot-shot rookie quarterback Jake Locker, but if there’s one priority for Tyrone Willingham in 2007, it’s to get more consistent on the ground.  Conservative by Pac-10 doctrine, the third-year coach wants to pound it between the tackles to set up the pass.  Top back Louis Rankin is more of an outside runner, putting the onus on 210-pound sophomore J.R. Hasty to start realizing his vast potential.  While Locker has all the tools for stardom, he’ll spend most of the upcoming season adapting to his new role as the face of the program.  His big-play target will be senior Marcel Reece, a Mike Walker clone poised to make a salary run.
Defense:
Even with a slight improvement in 2006, the Husky pass defense ranked among the nation’s worst for the second straight year.  With no stars and two new starters, expect more of the same in 2007.  The problems in the secondary will again overshadow a sneaky good front seven that features four returning starters on the defensive line and a group of young, dynamic linebackers, including sophomores E.J. Savannah and Donald Butler that could evolve into playmakers.  Defensive ends Greyson Gunheim and Daniel Te’o Nesheim are a couple of warriors that combined for two dozen tackles for loss last fall.  At 6-5 and 265 pounds, Gunheim runs like a gazelle, making him a magnet for NFL scouts visiting the Northwest. 

Oct. 27 - USC
Offense: Does anyone in the country reload faster than the Trojans?  While there’ll be new faces on the line, at wide receiver, and at offensive coordinator, the high-powered results that have become commonplace in the Pete Carroll era aren’t about to change.  Of course, it helps to have at the controls strong-armed senior John David Booty, one of the early favorites to add a fourth Heisman Trophy to Heritage Hall in the last six years.  He’ll be surrounded by an absolutely decadent amount of skill position talent, but most of the receivers lack experience at this level.  In this case, talent will overcome inexperience in a rout.  At 6-5 and 220 pounds, junior receiver Patrick Turner has the imposing size and sticky fingers to conjure up images of Mike Williams and Dwayne Jarrett, and have a breakout year.  Although the line is going to miss the presence of center Ryan Kalil, returning two-time All-American Sam Baker to protect Booty’s blindside will help cushion the blow.    
Defense: The Trojan offense is good.  The Trojan defense is scary good.  Backed by a Who’s Who of future first-day NFL Draft choices, USC is ready to unleash the nastiest and stingiest unit of the Pete Carroll era.  Led by Sedrick Ellis at the nose, Keith Rivers at middle linebacker, and Terrell Thomas at cornerback, the Trojans boast seven players capable of making a run at All-America honors in 2007.  Yeah, a few more sacks and takeaways would be nice, but this is as close to a flawless unit that there is in the country.  From front to back, they’re aggressive, experienced and fast enough to create a swarming effect on the ball carrier.  Although the Trojans will give up yards to teams playing from behind, scoring meaningful points on them in the first three quarters is going to be a year-long nightmare.   

Nov. 3 - Arizona State
Offense: Arizona State really wasn’t Arizona State in 2006, but with ten starters returning, there’s reason to believe that the Sun Devils will score in bunches this year.  Dennis Erickson brings a balanced and unpredictable system that’ll use multiple formations and plenty of shotgun, yet still lean heavily on the running game.  The success of the unit hinges on the play of quarterback Rudy Carpenter, who looked destined for stardom as a freshman before suffering through a humbling sophomore season marked by turnovers and lapses in confidence.  His supporting cast is headed by Ryan Torain, one of the nation’s best backs that no one outside the Pac-10 has seen.  With six seasoned linemen back, he’s destined to become the first Sun Devil in over 30 years to go for more than 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons.  Although Carpenter’s receivers did nothing to help him out of his slump in 2006, they’re now awash with the kind of speed and playmaking potential that’s customary in Tempe.       
Defense: Six starters return to a defense that improved in 2006, yet still allowed more than 40 points in four of the final ten games.  The Sun Devils will continue to run out of a 4-3 base while asking their linebackers and safeties to freelance and make plays all over the field.  There are building blocks—and question marks—at each unit heading into 2007.  Tackle Michael Marquardt and Dexter Davis have all-league potential, but both are going to need support from a couple of new starters.  Although the linebackers have considerable upside, the man in the middle, Morris Wooten, is a first-year player.  And while safety Josh Barrett and corner Justin Tryon will play on Sundays, the pass defense is in deep trouble if the other cornerback gets routinely exposed.  The net result?  A nice collection of talent that’ll still allow plenty of yards to the Pac-10’s finer-tuned offenses.                                    

Nov. 15 – at Arizona
Offense: After averaging a 100th place finish in total offense over the last three years, Mike Stoops has handed the unit off to former Texas Tech coordinator Sonny Dykes.  Dykes has learned from the likes of Mike Leach and Hal Mumme over the last decade, so expect to see a rejuvenated Willie Tuitama in the shotgun, putting the ball up a ton more than last season.  The Wildcats’ quest to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally in the spread offense will hinge on their ability to develop dependable receivers other than junior Mike Thomas.  The beleaguered offensive line is a year older, intact and poised to benefit from a system that forces the quarterback to make quick passes and even quicker decisions.  Sophomore Eben Britton is on the brink of becoming a prodigy at right tackle.
Defense: With the return of ten starters and an all-star caliber player at each unit, Arizona should be even stingier than 2006, when it led the Pac-10 in turnover margin and allowed fewer than 20 points a game.  The headliner once again will be senior Antoine Cason, one of the smoothest corners in America and a leading candidate for the Thorpe Award.  Led by underrated senior Spencer Larsen, the linebackers are a no-name crew that just goes out and makes a bunch of tackles every Saturday.  The onus for jump starting the pass rush falls squarely on the shoulders of senior Louis Holmes, a massive talent that underachieved in his first season out of junior college. 

Nov. 24 – at UCLA
Offense: Tired of his feeble offense and conservative play calling, Karl Dorrell is turning the unit over to Jay Norvell, a Nebraska import who’ll be calling plays for the first time in his career.  With him comes an up tempo version of the West Coast offense that’ll be rooted in high percentage passes and the occasional use of the shotgun.  Norvell’s triggerman will be lefty Ben Olson, who’s held off the challenge of Patrick Cowan, and is still waiting for a breakthrough season five years after being a ballyhooed BYU recruit.  Although 12 players with extensive starting experience return, only guard Shannon Tevaga and running back Chris Markey can be considered bona fide threats for all-league honors.  To help get Olson where he needs to be, a playmaker or two needs to emerge among a pedestrian receiving corps.
Defense: Kudos to defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, who did the improbable in 2006 by whipping a sorry Bruin defense into shape.  Ten starters are back from that unit, which finished No. 2 in the Pac-10 in total defense and tops against the run.  One All-American rush end, Justin Hickman, has departed, but one, Bruce Davis, returns to wreak havoc on league quarterbacks.  Although the linebackers look nothing like the ones across town at USC, they’re fast, instinctive and a nice fit for Walker’s defense.  Middle linebacker Christian Taylor is the definition of a hard-working college athlete that makes a ton of plays, but likely won’t be wearing pads beyond 2007.  The secondary is an enigma that’s loaded with returning talent, yet still vulnerable through the air.  Strong safety Chris Horton laid the groundwork last year for what should be a terrific final season at UCLA.

Dec. 1 - Oregon State
Offense: While the Beavers regularly skip using a fullback in favor of a third receiver, they’re a balanced offense that’ll run it as much as they throw.  When you’ve got a back as talented as senior Yvenson Bernard, that’s called using your resources wisely.  Bernard has run for more than 1,300 yards in each of the last two seasons behind a nasty, no-nonsense line that welcomes back all but one starter.  Senior split end Sammie Stroughter is an open field dynamo coming off a monster season in 2006.  What he can do for an encore depends in large part on how well one of two sophomore quarterbacks adapts to a full-time gig.  Hard-throwing lefty Sean Canfield is the acknowledged favorite to supplant Matt Moore, but Lyle Moevao sent a message this spring that he won’t go away quietly.             
Defense: Much of the unit that led the Pac-10 in takeaways and sacks is back in Corvallis for 2007.  The front seven, in particular, is rock solid and made up entirely of seniors.  The best of the bunch is outside linebacker Derrick Doggett, who has the range and long stride to literally make plays anywhere on the field.  After bagging a team-high nine sacks as a reserve in 2006, end Dorian Smith is a sleeper with a chance to shed his anonymity this fall.  Whether the Beaver D can get from really good to impervious in 2007 depends on the development of a suspect secondary that allowed 223 yards a game a year ago.  Junior corners Keenan Lewis and Brandon Hughes are moving in the right direction, but you don’t get better by losing long-time patrolman Sabby Piscitelli.                                     

 

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