For the second consecutive week, the Ducks face a top-tier tight end.
This time, San Jose State’s Josh Oliver comes to town as the nation’s leader among tight ends in catches (13) and yards (135). Typically, not a big-play threat, Oliver is used primarily as a possession receiver, able to use his frame (6-foot-5, 250) to box out opposing defenders and make himself steadily available.
“He’s a really good player — he’s a big target with a big catch radius,” Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal said. “He presents a challenge to us, and one that our guys are looking forward to responding to.”
Apart from Oliver, Bailey Gaither is the only legitimate threat in the passing game. He has eight catches on the year with two of them going for scores. His 17.5 yards per catch shows how explosive he can be with the ball in his hands. He also has two rushes for 26 yards, showing off his versatility.
"They do a good job of getting the ball to their athlete(s) in space," Cristobal said. "They have some fast and athletic guys who have found some success, especially in game one."
The big question mark in the San Jose State offense will be who’s behind center.
Spartans quarterback Montel Aaron is the listed starter and started last week. Thus far, Aaron has thrown for 348 yards and two touchdowns on the year, showing good poise and the ability to read his offense and know where to go with the ball. He has yet to throw an interception on the year and is completing just 59.1-percent of his passes, limiting mistakes and turnovers.
Potentially seeing time at quarterback is Josh Love, a more dynamic runner but nowhere near as polished thrower as Aaron. Love has thrown for 109 yards and one touchdown with one interception on the year.
Regardless of who’s at quarterback, it’ll be up to them to get the ball to the Spartans playmakers on the outside because their running game is very dismal.
San Jose State enters the game with one of the worst rush offenses in the nation, averaging 75 yards per game on 2.5 yards per carry.
Tyler Nevens was the expected starter but an injury in the season opener doesn’t have him on this week’s depth chart. The duties of carrying the rushing offense now fall on Malike Roberson and DeJon Parker, two players who’ve combined for 76 yards on 23 carries this season.
Defensively, the Spartans have the nation’s second-worse pass defense, yet their four interceptions rank fifth in the nation. Although not listed as a starter, or even on the depth chart, Spartans head coach Brent Brennan was extremely complimentary about the play of cornerback Nehemiah Shelton.
Shelton returned from injury in a big way last week against Washington State, totaling four tackles and one interception. He did a good job holding up against the Cougars air raid defense and should get more playing time moving forward.
Apart from Shelton, Dakari Monroe is San Jose State’s best cover corner. He has one interception and three passes broken up on the season, often using his size (5-foot-11, 191), length and strength to make things tough for opposing receivers.
If the Spartans excel anywhere on the field, it comes from its defensive line; a senior laden group who’s been in the trenches and knows what it takes to win games.
"Their entire defensive line is made up of seniors who’ve played a lot of ball together," Cristobal said.
This is a game Oregon should dominate and win, but anything can happen. The Ducks might be looking ahead to Stanford and San Jose State has enough talent on the defensive line and skill positions to not start its season 0-3.