Every year, I like to go through Oregon's schedule to see which team the Ducks are going to beat up on that year. It's a bit of a different process with other teams, where I try to pick out the potential FCS-FBS upsets. But with Oregon, it's all about seeing whether the Ducks can hang 60 on this year's FCS victim by halftime. Here's a sampling:
2013: Nicholls State, 66-3
2012: Tennessee Tech, 63-14
2011: Missouri State, 56-7
2010: Portland State, 69-0
That's an average score of 63.5-6. Even Alabama isn't that consistently brutal in its beatdowns of FCS foes.
Anyways, this year's Oregon victim is South Dakota, and rather than give you a list of ways that the Coyotes (pronounced Ky-oates, not Ky-o-tees) can beat the Ducks, let's just recognize the inevitable and know that this is probably going to be within reach midway through the first quarter. But, it can't hurt to take a look at what Oregon's objectives should be in this cupcake contest.
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How to witness
TV: 10:30 pm ET, Pac-12 Network
Radio: Oregon IMG Sports Network, Coyote Radio Network
Online streaming: Pac-12.com
Rankings and records: Oregon went 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12 last year. South Dakota went 4-8 overall and 3-5 in the Missouri Valley Conference of FCS.
Vegas: There is no line.
Weather forecast: Though there is unlikely to be more than one team playing great football in Eugene, Ore. on Saturday, there should at least be great football weather. The temperature should be around the mid-70s by kickoff.
Three names to know
1. Keanon Lowe, WR, Oregon: Despite returning quarterback Marcus Mariota and a great line, the Ducks will be without two of their best wide receivers from last year — Josh Huff and Bralon Addison. If Oregon is to have as much success passing the ball as it did last year, it's going to have to lean on Lowe, who is the most-used returning receiver, but was not a top target in 2013. This will be the first time we see him as "the guy," and the Coyotes' defense could help him build some confidence.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon: After choosing his final year of eligibility at Oregon over the NFL Draft, Mariota will be one of the best quarterbacks in college football. The question is what the offense will look like with him leading the way this year. Last year, Mariota showed off his skills as a passer in Oregon's usually run-oriented offense. With his top receivers gone, will he run more, or will he use his arm just as much as last year? We might get an answer on Saturday.
3. Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon: Marshall turned into the latest great Oregon running back with a breakout 2013 season. With the possible return of an even more run-oriented offense in 2014, could he be in line for an even bigger year?
Two things at stake
1. This will help Oregon establish its identity. The rest of the schedule will present more of a challenge, but this game will help the Ducks figure out what they want to do. Can they be as consistent in the passing game as they were last year? Is this personnel group better fit for a very run-based style? We'll get some hints on Saturday, though it will evolve over time.
2. There's really nothing at stake here for South Dakota. A loss to Oregon is a loss to Oregon, and it's really not a big deal. A win would be a major boost for a program that needs to figure out how to compete in its own division, much less consistently beat FBS teams.