September 5, 2013

Game Preview: Oregon at UVa

Virginia's 2013 campaign commenced last weekend with a come-from-behind, 19-16 victory over BYU in front of (at least to start) some 53,310 fans at Scott Stadium. Now the Cavaliers prepare to host an even tougher test in front of even more eyes as the No. 2-ranked Oregon Ducks head cross country to face UVa this Saturday (3:30pm, ABC/ESPN2).

Oregon comes in riding high after a 66-3 drubbing of Nicholls in the debut of former offensive coordinator turned head coach Mark Helfrich. Needless to say, his first game wasn't a difficult one.

This weekend's contest, however, could be. It will mark the first time Oregon will have ever played in an ACC stadium and it's first trip the Ducks have taken to the east coast in 43 years. Oregon will also be the highest-ranked team to come to Charlottesville since 1999 when then No. 1 Florida State came to town and beat the Hoos 35-10 on its way to a BCS National Championship.

As if the prospects weren't daunting enough for Mike London and the Wahoos, Oregon also brings the nation's longest road winning streak, at 15 games, to Scott Stadium this weekend. The Ducks' last true road loss was way back on Nov. 7, 2009, when they lost a 51-42 shootout at Stanford.

But this is, in many ways, a different team. Oregon has had to adjust to life after Chip Kelly, who left Eugene in January for to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Ironically, former UVa offensive coordinator Bill Lazor also left college for Philly, where he now serves on Kelly's staff as a quarterbacks coach.

During Kelly's time overseeing Oregon's program, the Ducks amassed an astounding amount of success: From 2009-2012, UO won three conference titles and appeared in four BCS bowls, including a loss to Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game in 2010.

Kelly was 46-7 in Eugene, pioneering arguably the most dynamic offense in college football, and sweeping the national coach of the year honors in 2010. The now Eagles head coach didn't leave under the greatest circumstances, however. In his wake, Oregon received three years probation from the NCAA, including a reduction of scholarships, for recruiting violations that happened under Kelly's watch.

Helfrich, the man tapped to replace Kelly, was the team's OC from 2009-2012. Before taking that job, he was the offensive coordinator at Colorado for a few seasons under then head coach Dan Hawkins. Although Kelly was the play-caller during his time at Oregon, Helfrich was a very well-respected offensive mind who had a significant role in the molding the offensive gameplan. Instead of calling plays, he's entrusted those duties to offensive coordinator Scott Frost, the team's wide receivers coach prior to Kelly's departure.

The biggest questions about this Oregon team are more about keeping up past success than anything else. The Ducks return plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and, aside from their unreal level of offensive success, actually have a lot of pieces back from a very good defense last season.

As we get you ready for this one on Saturday afternoon between the Ducks and the Wahoos, we'll break down Oregon and give you our view of the way things play out.

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