Brent Haberly, a former Oregon Ducks linebacker from 2002-06 and current Ducks analyst at 750 AM in Portland, Ore., reached out to Arizona Desert Swarm last week to talk the Arizona Wildcats' match-up with the No. 10 Oregon Ducks on Saturday.
We talked Oregon's offense, whether Haberly thought the Wildcats could find their offense, and finally, if the epic dual in Tucson in 2009, which was a turning point for Arizona (they've gone 10-9 since), was also a turning point for the Ducks.
Arizona Desert Swarm: Going into this game what do you see from the Ducks and where they're at? Obviously, the loss (to LSU) early on and now two wins in a row, they look pretty good. Where do they see themselves?
Brent Haberly: I think it's probably the best situation they could be as far as where their head is at. I think it's a team that really realizes they have something to prove now. That one loss didn't necessarily ruin their season, it's just one of those chink in the armor deals. I think they had a good few games to get their timing back, to get their swag back and now they're ready to hit the Pac-12 running.
What's the difference between this team and last year's national championship game team? What have they lost? What all around is different?
I think it's a little bit of a power shift. We're a little bit more of a veteran offense and we're more of a green offense, where last year we were a bit of a veteran defense. At the same time, I think we've got more depth on the defense, which is a little strange. Every position on the defense is about two deep. There isn't a standout guy, they're more a unit rather than one or two single people.
How big of a deal is that depth on defense especially when you have an offense going up the field so fast. Obviously the defense is going to be on the field a lot of that time as far as time of position?
I think it's big. Obviously, you want to play the majority of the game, but when you get down the stretch playing the Arizonas, the Stanfords, the USCs .. being able to be two deep in case guys go down, in case guys get knicked up, you don't lose a step personnel wise come November, December.
And on the offensive end, you have LaMichael James, who is great. How much do you see the Ducks -- as porous as Arizona's defense has been -- how much do you see them running and cramming it down Arizona's throat or do you think they'll take it to the air?
I think they always like to establish the run game. I think that's like any offense, especially in the spread option. If you look at it, it's more of a wishbone spread is how they try to establish it. I think a lot of times they'll run instead of pass. They have some young wideouts. I think they want to get them in the flow of the game. They like to churn it up inside ... when you get guys like LaMichael James, Kenyon Barner and this new DeAnthony Thomas kid, it really puts pressure on your linebackers matching up. If you can create those mismatches early, it may have those guys not paying attention to keys later in the game, and that's maybe where you can expose them in the passing game and in the screen game as well.
With Arizona passing so much, they have had trouble in the red zone. Do you think Arizona will be able to score? They've put up the yardage the last two games, but haven't been able to get in the end zone. Do you see them scoring much at all?
I think this game is going to be a shootout. I think every team has their red zone playbook they like to go to. I think it's just going to come down to execution ... rather than necessarily the play calling.
From our view in Tucson it kind of seems like going back to '09 when there was that crazy game here, there was a turning point where since then, Arizona has struggled. Did you guys see that as a turning point as in you were a good team but not elite? Ever since then you've been elite.
I don't know if that was necessarily a turning point, maybe a springboard. That was the year Oregon had gone to the Rose Bowl. When you can go from hero to zero on Arizona's end it hurts you more mentally. But I think those games were more, Arizona goes to a bowl game or they're not. I think it's just that situation from when you go from hero to zero mentally, it can break you down.
Can you give me a player on offense and a player on defense for Oregon that you think will be keys?
I mean obviously, how Darron goes, the Ducks go as far as the quarterback is concerned. On the defensive side of the ball, there's a kid from (Chandler, Ariz.) named Dion Jordan who's playing D-end. He's coming home ... he plays a lot of special teams. You'll probably see a lot of this kid flying around. Other than Dion, I would say the presence of (linebacker) Kiko Alonso will be holding down the inside. We were playing well, but I think the combination of Kiko in the middle and Dion coming off the edge is going to be a good combination.
Final thing: do you have a score prediction?
I would say in my mind, 48-27, something like that. I think Arizona is going to put on some points but the Ducks are going to be able to turn it on in the second half like they have the last two years.