No. 5 Oregon is wary of Portland State
The fifth-ranked Oregon Ducks have ample motivation when it comes to Saturday's game against Portland State. They've got the upsets sprung by James Madison, South Dakota and even Jacksonville State.
All three of those programs pulled off stunners in the season's opening weeks. James Madison shocked then No. 13 Virginia Tech and South Dakota topped Minnesota last weekend, after Jacksonville State beat Mississippi in the season opener.
''I feel like those (upsets) add to our motivation. For the most part, we're playing against the image of our team,'' Oregon linebacker Spencer Paysinger said.
Portland State, of the FCS Big Sky Conference, is making its fourth trip south on Interstate 5 to Autzen Stadium. The Vikings are 0-3 against the Ducks, who won the last meeting 55-12 in 2006. First-year coach Nigel Burton was keeping the expectations realistic.
''We talk about the fact that each game depends on our execution and what we do, not necessarily our opponent,'' Burton said.
The Ducks are 2-0 with decisive victories against New Mexico and at Tennessee last weekend. Coach Chip Kelly is treating Portland State (1-1) the same as those opponents, which has become something of a trademark for the Ducks.
Last season Kelly kept Oregon focused after a season-opening loss to Boise State and the debacle that followed with LeGarrette Blount's infamous punch. And the Ducks stayed grounded as the wins mounted in pursuit of the Pac-10 title and a Rose Bowl berth.
This season Kelly has steadied the Ducks after a spate of offseason trouble, including the dismissal of quarterback and potential Heisman Trophy candidate Jeremiah Masoli.
''You only get 12 chances to play a game and you can't take any of them lightly,'' tight end David Paulson said. ''You have to be prepared for every one of them.''
Oregon is the highest-ranked opponent the Vikings have ever played.
Truth is the game likely will serve as a tuneup for the Ducks before the start of the Pac-10 season. Darron Thomas, who took over at quarterback, is developing nicely with 422 yards passing and four touchdowns so far this season.
LaMichael James, who set the Pac-10 rushing record for freshman last season, ran for 134 yards - including a 72-yard touchdown run - against Tennessee last weekend. Backup Kenjon Barner ran for four touchdowns in the Ducks' opener while James served a one-game suspension.
Overall Oregon has scored 120 points in 120 minutes this season, averaging 60 points per game, second best in the nation. The Ducks have allowed an average of 6.5 points per game to rank sixth nationally.
But Oregon has some key injuries. Defensive end Kenny Rowe had an ankle injury that had him in a boot this week and tight end Brandon Williams had an injured left hand that was encased in a cast. Linebacker Michael Clay and offensive lineman Carson York were also hurting.
As is his custom, Kelly would only say those players were day-to-day and not offer any specifics; they have not been declared unable to play Saturday.
The Vikings are 2-26 against Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They are 0-9 against teams from the Pac-10, including their 54-9 loss at Arizona State in the opener.
Portland State, with its new pistol offense, beat UC Davis 41-33 last weekend for Burton's first victory as a head coach. He took over the Vikings from Jerry Glanville, who was popular with players and fans alike but largely unable to help his team win. Portland State went 9-24 in three seasons under the gregarious former NFL coach.
Junior quarterback Conner Kavanaugh is expected to make his fifth career start against the Ducks. He threw for a career-high 178 yards and a touchdown in last weekend's victory over the Aggies.