Oregon one good-looking team
No. 1 Oregon 60, UCLA 13
Now that's what a No. 1 team is supposed to do.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Oklahoma is the real No. 1, but Thursday night's spotlight was on Oregon against a decent UCLA team (and the light was glaring off the metallic pea uniforms), and the attack was devastating.
While it might not have been a perfect game, this was as close to being Doc Holliday as Oregon could’ve asked for, and UCLA helped the cause by going for field goals instead of touchdowns, bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Now do it against USC, even though its defense is ranked 90th in the nation.
On the road.
The precision, the timing and the balance of the zone-read offense had UCLA on its heels all night long as the hurry-up style never let the Bruin defensive front breathe, but in the three games away from Autzen Stadium, the Ducks struggled for a half against Tennessee, had to battle with Arizona State in a 42-31 win and allowed Washington State to make it interesting early in a 43-23 win. USC and Monte Kiffin are getting two weeks to prepare the defense, and that will be the true test.
Every defensive player and every coach says the same thing about stopping the triple option offense like Georgia Tech runs; if you get time and you’re disciplined, you can stop it. The same might be true for the zone-read, but if USC isn’t a test next week, then we won’t know exactly what the Duck offense can do against a real defense until the bowl, and possibly the national championship.
The zone-read, the triple-option, the Run 'n’ Shoot and the Wing-T all come down to players. You can overcome a talent gap with a quirky offense run perfectly, but with a month for a top-shelf defense to gameplan and scheme, Oregon might run into a 2010 Rose Bowl vs. Ohio State-like problem when it’s bowl time. And if it’s the BCS Championship, and the opponent gets six weeks to prepare, and the timing of the Duck attack is off just a little bit, it’s not going to rock like it needs to. But that’s getting well ahead of the game.
For now, Oregon was phenomenal with Darron Thomas threading the needle for a huge passing day, helped by getting 10 days to throw, and the running game ripped through the thoroughly confused and totally overmatched defensive front like it was rolling against air. But it’s time to see more.
It’s going to take a major push for Arizona State to go to a bowl, and UCLA is hardly a lock, needing to win three of its final five games against Arizona, Oregon State, at Washington, at Arizona State, and USC. Flip a coin and say either the Sun Devils or Bruins go bowling, but not both. If that’s the case, then Oregon has faced just two teams, Stanford being the other, that will go bowling, and it has yet to play a defense ranked in the top 50.
Just ask Nebraska what it’s like to run the spread against a jacked-up, athletic D that’s fully focused on stopping it (unlike the bizarre Texas performance against UCLA). But for now, Oregon looks perfect, and a whole bunch of fun. The pollsters will want to see what this offense can do against the big boys, and that perception is all that matters.
Duck RB LaMichael James is a phenom, plain and simple, and one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in America. That’s becoming common knowledge. What’s not, for many, is how much support he and the other backs are getting up front from the blockers. Did you see the size of the holes created by the Oregon offensive line, over and over again on Thursday night?
UCLA knew what was coming. Most opponents do, yet it’s not enough to even slow down Chip Kelly’s fast-paced spread-option. A lot of the credit belongs with those five anonymous veterans, who’ve combined for more than 150 games of experience. From left to right, Bo Thran, Carson York, Jordan Holmes, C.E. Kaiser and Mark Asper move together like a super-sized ballet, showing unexpected agility and quickness for such a physical group. Across the line, they have explosive get-off and outstanding fundamentals, creating enough space for the skill players to jet through with relative ease.
James continues to snap off long plays, like a future Heisman winner, because he possesses tremendous speed, balance and vision in the hole. Oh, and he’s also getting unparalleled support from his intrepid bodyguards up front. The Oregon offensive line is like that old BASF tagline. It doesn’t make the plays in Eugene. It just keeps making the plays better.
Get the latest college football news, features and much more at College Football News.
This game was over after Oregon’s 90-yard drive in just a buck-fifty-six gave the Ducks an early 7-0 lead. If there was any doubt about the game’s inevitable lack of competitiveness (once it started and took shape in the first 10 minutes), those doubts were removed when Rick Neuheisel unfathomably kicked a field goal inside the Oregon 10, knowing full well that he’d need a touchdown ... or six ... to stay close to Chip Kelly’s insane speed-racing machine of a football team. This mismatch led a commentator to say on Twitter that ESPN should adopt the NFL’s flex-plan television scheduling model, because this game ceased to be worth watching before halftime.
What did we learn about Oregon that was important? We learned that quarterback Darron Thomas is appreciably healthy after getting dinged up at Washington State on Oct. 9. Jeremiah Masoli’s replacement hasn’t just been serviceable this year; he’s been phenomenal. A 16-of-20 passing performance in the first half will work wonders for a team that already owns a turbo-powered rushing attack. If anything, the flawless and seamless execution of the entire Oregon offense diminishes the singularity of what LaMichael James does. This isn’t a knock on James; he’s the No. 1 running back at UO for a reason. Yet, as the Weekly Affirmation has said on many occasions when discussing the Heisman, the act of determining the Heisman winner is an exercise in distinguishing between the best college football player in the United States, and the second- and third-best players. It’s not a process of fault-finding but a process of making molecular, granular differentiations among a handful of elite college football performers. If Cameron Newton falters against LSU and Alabama, it could well be that James will emerge as the only obvious choice in a muddled Heisman race. Just know that James’s production is less a function of his individual brilliance than is the case for Mr. Newton ...
... at this (still-early) stage of the season.