If there's a good time for reeling Utah State (1-2) to step up and play nationally ranked 3-1 Oregon, it's this week. The Aggies catch the Ducks a week after a highly emotional win over nationally ranked BYU and a week before their emotional Pac-10 rivalry with nearby Washington is renewed.
The Aggies admit they hope the Ducks are down.Between euphorias.
"That would help us, of course," says Utah State Coach Chuck Shelton.
But the very fact that Utah State's been off for nearly three weeks with a two-week bye may negate any chance of that happening.
The Aggies are, right now, an unknown quantity, and the Ducks are naturally curious. That means they're thinking about them. And the game.
They know the Aggies have been up to something in those three weeks, retooling the offense to suit strong-armed dropback passer Ron Lopez, who will replace rollout specialist Kirk Johnson at quarterback, and that alone could keep Oregon's interest level up for Saturday's 2 p.m. MDT start at Eugene's Autzen Stadium.
"Utah State, having two weeks off, can come up with a lot of things that could give us problems because we haven't been able to prepare for them," says Oregon Coach Rich Brooks.
"They may have put in the wishbone, for all I know.
"I don't know what they're going to do, and that's scary," Brooks says. "We're going to have to be mentally alert. What we've accomplished so far could be destroyed if we do not go out and play up to our capability."
Right now, that capability seems almost limitless. Their 32-16 win over BYU gave them national rankings, 17th on UPI and 22nd on AP, and they are 1 yard away from being 4-0 instead of 3-1. They were on the 1-yard line with :13 left at Arizona two weeks ago but didn't score and wound up losing 22-17.
As a team, the Ducks rank 12th nationally in scoring offense (36.5 points a game), 13th in passing offense (275 yards), 14th in total offense (457.3) and 13th in rushing defense (97.8).
Quarterback Bill Musgrave, who went into the BYU game needing 152 yards passing to break the school career record, now needs 152 yards in total offense to own that school career record as well. He ranks 10th nationally in total offense, averaging 269 a game.
Kick returner Michael McClellan is fourth nationally.
Defensively, junior cornerback Daryle Smith had three interceptions against BYU's Heisman Trophy candidate Ty Detmer, and Smith has averaged an interception a game. He also had six tackles and four pass deflections against BYU. Backup free safety Steve Kemp had two interceptions of Detmer. The Ducks sacked Detmer five times and held the Y. to minus-47 yards rushing, both school and stadium records.