Oregon is off to a hot start, but are they a true national title contender? Photo: USA Today Sports
We’ve seen this movie before.
In each of the past three seasons, Oregon has jumped out to a blazing start in September, beating mediocre opponents to a pulp with ease. Every year, we fall in love with the Ducks for this, falling for the illusion that those 45-point (or more) blowouts mean they are national championship material.
It’s happening again this year.
Chip Kelly is gone, but Mark Helfrich has the Ducks moving ahead without skipping a beat. Through September, they’ve pasted Nicholls State (who won exactly one game in FCS play in 2012), Virginia (one of the three or four worst teams in the ACC), Tennessee (arguably the worst team in the SEC), and Cal (who sits firmly in the bottom half of the Pac-12).
Talk about a gauntlet.
Face it: Oregon has done nothing so far to prove it is one of the three best teams in the country. Alabama, Clemson and Georgia have.
Oregon bakes its bread with speed, speed and more speed. Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas are the lightning rods of an offense that executes its playbook to perfection.
There’s one important trump card that a select group of teams can use against the Ducks: elite size and speed along the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
Since 2010, the Ducks are 35-0 against unranked teams. They are 5-4 against the AP Top 25. Those four losses came against Auburn, LSU, Stanford and USC.
What did those four teams have in common? They all had an ability to impose their will at the point of attack and control the line of scrimmage.
If Oregon is able to get the ball to the second level of the defense, forget about it. No one is stopping the Ducks’ skill players in space. There are maybe 10 teams in the country that can corral Oregon’s playmakers before they break loose and dance their way into the end zone.
Don’t get me wrong, there is no stopping Oregon. But containing them is entirely possible for the most elite teams.
Oregon’s remaining schedule includes a home date with UCLA in addition to road trips to Washington and Stanford. Of those three teams, only the Cardinal has the ability to control the box against the Ducks. An Oregon win over Stanford en route to an unbeaten season would be enough to earn them a spot in the BCS Championship Game. There’s no denying that.
But even if the Ducks get to Pasadena, they will almost certainly face the SEC Champion (there’s an outside chance that Clemson could take the other spot, but the Tigers are essentially an SEC team across the board anyway). Even in a “down” year, Alabama, Georgia or LSU’s defensive line would outclass Oregon’s offensive front. Any of those three team’s offensive lines would certainly punish Oregon’s defensive front.
In Oregon’s 40 wins since 2010, it has scored 51.3 points per game. In those four losses, they averaged 23.8.
It is entirely possible to slow down the Ducks. And there are teams who can do it.
Would Alabama, Georgia, or LSU beat Oregon 100 times out of 100? Of course not. But the scales do tip in their favor.
Until Oregon proves it can go toe-to-toe with the best the SEC has to offer and actually come out on top, let’s remember who has earned the rights to be kings of college football and give them their due.
Tennessee ("arguably the worst team in the SEC") came 6 inches (the endzone fumble-touchback is probably the worst rule in football) from beating the consensus #2 team in the SEC. And Oregon destroyed them. A&M has an ugly version of Oregon's offense and a much worse defense, and they almost knocked off Alabama.
You're right that Oregon hasn't played top teams yet, but they have Washington, UCLA, and Stanford coming up. If they handle all 3 and don't pass Alabama in the rankings, something is seriously wrong.
Big deal. The big boys in the SEC have refused to remain on the Oregon schedule these past few years.
That tells the story, right there. Bunch of wimps who fear the Ducks.
Wow ... your headline sure drew me in. Unfortunately, the substance of your article doesn't live up to it. Most top-10 teams, including Alabama, would be proud of those numbers you called out above. Auburn beat the Ducks in the 2010 NC game by 3 points, which is really the only Duck vs. top-tier SEC team we have to look at until they face each other again. 3 points, Josh.
Slamming the Ducks for weak opponents? Really? You mean weak like Kent? Western Kentucky? Florida Atlantic? Western Carolina? North Texas? Vanderbilt? .... should I go on? These are 'Bama opponents in just the last two years alone. I can go on ... Georgia Southern? Duke? You mean like those?
And that "may-be-the-worst-in-the-SEC team" Tennessee? Are you high or did you watch the Georgia game Saturday? The Bulldogs barely made it out of Knoxsville with a win.
I give all due respect to the SEC, but to say the Ducks shouldn't be in the conversation is asinine.
Come on ...the SEC is chicken to come to the west coast, by admission they don't like the travel. They stay in the southeast, play each other and call themselves the best. Tennesse came to OR and look what happened. And Auburn is one of the dirtiest cheaters in the country.
Such a hot-headed, and Incompetent post. Each of the teams that have been able to knock off the ducks have had top 5 in the country TALENT. I say talent because USC arguably had the best quarterback, and HAS the best receiver in college football in Matt Barkley and Marqise Lee. These two, on a good day, would've torched Alabama's secondary in any of the three previous years any day of the week. LSU has always been a top 5 team, just because of the TALENT they receive on the defensive end. Auburn was in the NCG (Which Oregon only lost by a last minute field goal in, but for SEC fans any win against a pac-12 team is essentially a blow out, am i right?) Stanford, as of years late has been a top 5 team as well.. with a stout defense, and solid run game. Listen, any team can lose to a top 5 team any day of the week. That's just college football.. no, that's just COMPETITION. Good teams exist in more than one.
And what does, "Tigers are essentially an SEC team across the board anyway," even mean? Is this some dumb effort at justifying Georgia's loss at the beginning of the season? Just because a good SEC team LOST, doesn't mean the other team is now part of the SEC... it doesn't work that way. The SEC bias is so strong in this one, it's insane.
Alright, we want to talk about losses, huh? Ok, let's do that.
In the last 4 years, Alabama has lost 5 TIMES to: LSU, Auburn, LSU, SCar, and Texas A&M.
A&M was #15 in the country..SCar was #19
Over the last 4 years, Alabama has lost 5 games to a combined rank of 47
Over the last 4 years, Oregon has lost 4 games to a combined rank of 43.
Now, whats the difference between these two teams? How come Alabama has challenged for more titles than Oregon?
SEC BIAS. It's everywhere. In this post, on ESPN, literally EVERYWHERE online. It's posts like these that ruin the perception on the SEC. The PAC is better than the SEC this year, and it has been close in recent years as well.
I suggest, before you write another article, you look at the facts.
I love how the author says that the Clemson "Tigers are essentially and SEC team across the board anyway." That shows clear bias. If Clemson had 2 losses, I doubt he would say that.
The author mentions Nicholls State's 2012 record of 1 win over an FCS team. Let's just overlook this year's team, which has won the past 3 of 4 games, not that it matters, it's just Nocholls State, but if you want to smear the subject of the article, the 1-win seasons are the kind of stats you would choose to utilize.
Look at the scores and stats of those games you mentioned that Oregon lost...
Auburn beat Oregon by a field goal at the end of the game, The same Auburn Team that dominated the SEC.
LSU beat Oregon by 13 points, Oregon had more total yards than LSU if you watched the game it was Oregons 4 turnovers, especially the two off special teams that determined the outcome of this game, but again LSU went on to dominate everybody in the SEC, Then Alabama was allowed another shot at LSU.
USC won by Oregon missing a last minute field goal.
Stanford won by Oregon missing a couple field goals.
So in 2012 Alabama loses by 5 to a team (first year SEC) ranked #15 at the time of play. Oregon loses to #13 by 3 in over time. Oregon is the worse team because they dominated every team they played except Stanford.
Tell me whats the better competition because the # they put next to your name. Tell me about a Alabama "down year" is that when you beat everyone but lose in the SEC Champ game and then lose to the UTAH Utes (BTW Utah is at the bottom half of the Pac 12)
The simple fact is SEC teams (strong athletic front lines) are Oregon's Kryptonite. Oregon's (fast agile athletes) are SEC's Kryptonite. This is why Oregon is trying to recruit larger stronger front lineman, Nick Saban is saying he'd like to incorporate a little more up tempo and needs to recruit some different guys for that. A lot of people run up-tempo offense this year thats not the SEC's real problem, Its Oregon has perfected it with recruiting, training, and coaching the right athletes.
As difficult as it is to watch Oregon v Auburn was one of the best football games I've watched in... a while. Both teams came prepared, both teams tried to force their offensive and defensive wills on the other. I believe when the ball finally traveled through the back of the endzone everyone felt like they had given their all.
I don't think I was talking about the SEC. Merely making the point that Oregon gets slammed for being in the PAC 12 but if this were Notre Dame racking up all these numbers the media would be drowning us with "how great notre dame is" pieces.
What bull crap. If this were notre dame you would be telling us this is the greatest team to walk in a field. Bad opponents? Seriously when is that ever an issue
@VicMcCarty Oregon has not played anyone yet. Neither has Ohio State or Florida State.
SEC still rules
@magicman24 @VicMcCarty but they havent lost either. Who has Georgia played... oh ya they lost, who has LSU played... oh ya they lost, who has Texas A&M played... oh ya they lost, who has Florida played... oh ya they lost. There's only two unbeaten teams in the SEC Missouri & Alabama. So of the 7 ranked teams in the SEC they have lost to the best opponent they have played, except Alabama. Of the 5 ranked Pac 12 teams 4 have not lost. If you rank everyone in your conference then you only lose to ranked opponents.