**Editor's note: Be sure to check out our answers to ATQ's questions over on their site!**
STL: So you guys had a pretty normal, relaxed offseason. Not much coaching drama, no worries from the NCAA, nothing like that. Or...the exact opposite of that. Most Virginia fans were hoping we could catch y'all early and maybe capitalize on some distractions. But your Week 1 performance put those hopes to rest. What's helped the team stay focused through a pretty topsy-turvy 2013?
ATQ: An important thing to remember is that even though Chip Kelly left for the NFL, Oregon probably has more coaching continuity than any other program in the nation. Kelly took only one coach-defensive line coach Jerry Azzinarro, with him to Philadelphia. The rest of the coaching staff stayed at Oregon-where many of them have been since the early 1980s under four separate head coaches. New coach Mark Helfrich was Kelly's OC for his entire tenure in Eugene, but DC Nick Aliotti, OL coach Steve Greatwood, RB coach Gary Campbell, and LB coach Don Pellum have been at Oregon since the Reagan presidency. There is incredible consistency on this staff, and that has helped keep the players focused throughout the offseason.
STL: Oregon's rise seemed to come on the backs of overlooked/underrated talent: guys that had been passed up by the big boys but fit The System. Now that Oregon IS one of the big boys, there are more four- and five-stars than in years past. Who are some of this year's newcomers that you're the most excited about?
ATQ: As far as new freshmen go, the most buzz has been centered on 5* running back Thomas Tyner, mainly because he is the rare elite talent that is an Oregon native. He didn't play against Nicholls St. due to injury, but is expected to make his debut against the Cavaliers. There are about five true freshmen located somewhere on the depth chart, but the fact of the matter is that this is a pretty veteran club. It's also easily the most talented club Oregon has ever had. I really think four guys (QB Marcus Mariota, RB De'Anthony Thomas, TE Colt Lyerla, and CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu) could leave early and be first round NFL draft picks. This is a far cry from 2010 when Oregon made the national championship game with two- and three-star guys that the other Pac-12 schools didn't want.
STL: The offense in Eugene gets all the hype. One of the consequences seems to be that a sick-nasty defense gets snubbed; partly a function of spending more time on the field against offenses struggling to keep up with your unstoppable points machine. Who are the playmakers on defense, and who are the guys who may not be as flashy but provide a good anchor for the unit?
ATQ: This is really the underrated aspect of Oregon's ascent. While the offense has certainly improved, the Ducks had good offenses going back to the Akili Smith years of the mid-90s. What really changed Oregon was the defense, and it was just a matter of getting a much higher caliber of talent on that end of the ball. The strengths are the secondary, which may be the best in the nation, and the defensive line. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell are the two best corners in the Pac-12, and backups Troy Hill and Dior Mathis were four star guys who would start for most teams in the country. The Ducks also go two-deep at safety. This is a unit that led the nation in interceptions last season, and returns the entire lot. Defensive line goes nine-deep, and unlike a few years ago, where it was full of coverted linebackers and tight ends, there is SEC grade beef. The linebackers are a bit of a rebuilding unit this year, but there is a lot of talent waiting in the wings even if the unit is short on experience.
STL: Your 2013 schedule looks to line up pretty nicely for another run at the BCS title game. The November road game at Stanford seems like the only obvious stumbling block. What other games have your attention? Your neighbors to the north looked impressive against Boise State; could the Huskies get you on the road?
ATQ: They've probably got as good a shot as anyone outside of Stanford. That's not a great shot, but a puncher's chance. That said, we've won nine in a row against our hated rivals (and yes Washington, not Oregon State, are our hated rivals). I'd like at least a clear decade of dominance.
STL: Normally this is where I ask "who ya got?" But that isn't as much fun this week. Instead, the spread is 22; the over/under is 64. Does Oregon cover, and are you taking the over?
ATQ: I think Oregon covers the spread, because this isn't one of those crazy spreads where Oregon is favored by four or five touchdowns. Oregon tends to wear out mid-level BCS teams in the second half. I think that's what we'll see here.