Oregon's offense causes defenses fits
The answer to top-ranked Oregon's offense seems to be stamina.
Oregon's spread-option, no-huddle offense is so fast it simply wears defenses out. And opponents certainly aren't helped by the fact that the Ducks' star running back, Heisman hopeful LaMichael James, doubled up on the track team in the offseason.
''You've got to be really prepared for their tempo, and not just for the first quarter, but four quarters,'' Washington State coach Paul Wulff said. ''I think that's the challenge people have - that if they don't get on you early, they're going to eventually get on you because you can't stay that pace for four quarters.''
Oregon (8-0, 5-0 Pac-10) leads the nation in total offense with an average of 572.9 yards a game, and is ranked third with 308.8 rushing yards. The team has dropped an average of nearly 56 points on each of its opponents.
Washington State, despite its issues this season, actually put up an admirable fight against the Ducks, losing by ''just'' 43-24. The UCLA Bruins had a harder time in their 60-13 loss to Oregon.
''When you can spread the field like they do and you can't get pressure on the quarterback, it's difficult to cover the width of the field as well as the depth of the field for as long as we were asked to,'' Bruins coach Rick Neuheisel said. ''So they had us in that regard.''
Oregon coach Chip Kelly said there is no real magic to his offense.
Kelly developed his version of the spread when he was an assistant at New Hampshire but said he tailored it when he came to Oregon as offensive coordinator in 2007 to accommodate running backs Jonathan Stewart and Jeremiah Johnson, as well as dual-threat quarterback Dennis Dixon.
Already running a no-huddle offense, Oregon further sped things up this season by streamlining play-calling, using distinctive posters flashed from the sidelines.
The Ducks' speed makes them explosive. Through eight games, 39 of Oregon's plays from scrimmage have been for gains of 25 yards or more, and 22 of those have resulted in touchdowns. Twenty-five of Oregon's 51 touchdown drives this season have come in five plays or less.
It also makes them efficient. Oregon is so quick to score that they rank 115th in the nation in time of possession, averaging 26:46 minutes per game.
The quickness is enhanced by James, who is averaging a BCS-best 172.9 yards a game as well as 189.6 all-purpose yards.
USC coach Lane Kiffin said he had watched the tape of the Trojans' 53-32 loss to the Ducks last Saturday about five times: ''You could see us, we just ran out of gas,'' he concluded.
His advice to Oregon's remaining opponents is to rotate as many players as possible in order to stay fresh. The Trojans used some 43 scholarship players against Oregon.
He also suggested teams should focus on sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas.
''I think you're going to have to pressure the quarterback because they're so fast that people have the tendency to sit back and be stationary just to get lined up,'' Kiffin said. ''The problem is the quarterback doesn't get very much pressure on him and he sits back there and picks you apart.''
Kiffin said he believes Oregon can win out in the conference, which will set the Ducks up for the national championship. The Ducks host Washington (3-5, 2-3) on Saturday before the final stretch against California, Arizona and Oregon State.
''It will be interesting to see,'' he said. ''They're so explosive it's gonna take a team like Alabama, who has built their roster like Nick (Saban) has over the last three recruiting classes, to have enough depth to be able to hang with them.''