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Have the Ducks been “holding back” for Stanford and UCLA?

Dwight Jaynes at Comcast Sports Network posits that the Ducks have been “holding back” all season in anticipation of the UCLA and Stanford games, not in terms of effort, but in terms of their use of the playbook and scheme. He writes:

“…I’ve believed all season Oregon has been holding back a few things. I don’t think the playbook has been wide open all season long. Trust me, I don’t have any idea what they’re keeping in their bag of tricks, but I figure there are things tucked inside with “Stanford” (and maybe “UCLA”) written all over them.”

De’Anthony Thomas was held out for three weeks with an ankle injury, Jaynes notes, and he’s probable to return to the lineup for the Bruins. Thomas’ recovery opens a lot of possibilities for the Oregon playbook, because he’s so versatile and dangerous in the open field.

Oregon hasn’t blitzed as much. The linebackers have just 1.5 of the team’s 20 sacks.

Even when Thomas was healthy, the Ducks hadn’t yet used him as much as they have in previous years in the passing game. He has just three catches this season, after accumulating 91 for 1050 yards and 14 tds in his first two campaigns.

With Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner running as well as they have, it frees DAT up for the slash role, moving around between slotback, running back and going in motion. The defense will have to account for him on every play.

The Ducks haven’t had to run many trick plays. They’ve stayed pretty basic in getting to 7-0 against the weak part of their schedule. In the fourth quarter in particular, they’ve been as predictable as a football team can be, sticking chiefly to the zone read in every game but Washington, the only game that was close after three periods.

Fancy plays and tricks won’t beat UCLA and Stanford. Execution, particularly at the line of scrimmage, will determine if Oregon can reach 9-0 and pass Florida State. But Jaynes is right in observing that the Quack Attack has kept some wrinkles under wraps to this point in the season, some surprises in reserve for the biggest challenges of the year. Having all their playmakers healthy is a big advantage.

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