The Oregon Ducks put on an offensive display in their season opener against FCS Nicholls State, piling up 772 yards of total offense, including 500 yards rushing, as they cruised to a 66-3 win. That game will act as little more than a preseason tune-up in the long run as the Ducks didn’t really learn much about themselves against a woefully overmatched opponent. That will change in Week 2 as Oregon travels east to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in Mark Helfrich’s first real test as a head coach.
While Virginia hasn’t found much success so far under Mike London (16-21 in his first three seasons), the roster is filled with excellent talent. London has shown a fantastic ability to recruit to Charlottesville, evidence by his 2014 recruiting class currently ranking at No. 21 in the country. Some of that talent is starting to make an impact on the field as the Cavaliers opened the season with a defense-centered win over the BYU Cougars in their season opener.
The Cavaliers look like a solid ACC squad with the size and athleticism to put up some resistance against the Oregon offensive onslaught. London has added a ton of college football experience to his coaching staff for this season in an attempt to get the most out of the talent on his roster. After one game, it looks like they are on the right track, but they will have a much bigger challenge defending their home field this week as the Ducks are much more explosive than BYU.
Last week, Oregon had three different players rush for more than 100 yards as quarterback Marcus Mariota and running backs De’Anthony Thomas and Byron Marshall put on a clinic on the ground. As a team, they gained 500 yards behind an experienced offensive line and haven’t even gotten superstar true freshman Thomas Tyner on the field yet. The Ducks haven’t even scratched the surface of their potential in the passing game and the defense looks to be even better than it was last season led by one of the best secondaries in the nation.
In recent history, Oregon has done very well traveling east. Since 2000, the Ducks are 3-0 when playing east of the Mississippi, beating the Michigan Wolverines in 2007, Purdue Boilermakers in 2008 and Tennessee Volunteers in 2010. Helfrich plans on following the road trip preparations of his predecessor, Chip Kelly, to the letter to make sure that strong play on the road continues under his regime.
On paper, Oregon is a superior team with elite athletes and the chance to play for a national championship at season’s end. That’s why they are the No. 2 team in the country and favored by three touchdowns on Saturday. But Virginia is no pushover. There is talent up and down the roster hungry to prove themselves and a coaching staff pushing them to be the best they can be. Will it be enough to hang with the high flying Ducks in Week 2?