With a defense to match its offense, Oregon is tough to beat | Pac-12 in perspective
It's becoming obvious nobody in the Pac-12 can do anything hurtful to the Ducks.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
A lot of idle discussion concerns whether the NCAA will do anything significant to Oregon in the Willie Lyles case. Who knows? But it's becoming obvious nobody in the Pac-12 can do anything hurtful to the Ducks.
What We Learned
The Oregon formula is still king. The combination of speed, the system and innovative scheming has the Ducks on top in the Pac-12, and it's hard to see an end to that in the near term.
It's also clear Oregon is more potent defensively than it's often given credit for. Last week, the Ducks stuffed a good Washington offense in a game Oregon had reason to overlook, and they made Andrew Luck and Co. play catch-up all night in their 53-30 victory at Stanford.
"These kids are magical," Nick Aliotti, the veteran Oregon defensive coordinator, told reporters.
It was thought (here and elsewhere) that Oregon's proficiency in the passing game wasn't what it was a year ago. But the rise of freshman De'Anthony Thomas has eased that concern, and the Ducks are so good running the ball, it hasn't much mattered.
"When they wanted to defend outside, we hit them inside," quarterback Darron Thomas said. "When they defended inside, we hit them outside."
Meanwhile, this quote will get a lot of air time this week: "I think Oregon is very good this year. But I think they were better when we played them in the past." That was USC quarterback Matt Barkley, whose team goes to Eugene this week. In fairness, he said it after the Washington game, surely before he knew Oregon was going to hang 53 on the nation's No. 4 team.
Now the debate will center on whether Oregon, if it can get Oklahoma State out of the way, would be more deserving than one-loss Alabama in a possible BCS title game against Louisiana State.
Luck could get stiff-armed. All season, I've thought Luck was a slam-dunk for the Heisman Trophy — great quarterback, future No. 1 NFL pick, fine representative of college athletics. But he's now thrown seven interceptions and fumbled once against Oregon. I'm not just going to rubber-stamp my vote now.
The Pac-12 South is a fine mess. Not only UCLA and Arizona State have a shot at the league title game, but even Utah. The Utes (6-4, 3-4), who began league play 0-4, would need ASU to lose its last two against Arizona and California, so it's remote.
UCLA (5-5, 4-3), with Colorado and USC ahead, goes if it wins out. In a three-way tie with 5-4 league records, ASU (6-4, 4-3) prevails.
Arizona State gave Oregon a stout game in October, but the league surely would have preferred something better than a four-loss team on the other side against the Ducks.
AT&T Park: Cal's new secret weapon. Teams going into the Giants' ballpark, California's one-year home, have been laying eggs with regularity. Utah got splattered, 34-10; Washington State fell 30-7; and Oregon State went flat, 23-6.
The running game is killing OSU (and Mike Riley). The Beavers have been outrushed 821-92 in their last three games. You'd never guess that Riley has coached the top four OSU career rushers — Ken Simonton, Jacquizz Rodgers, Yvenson Bernard and Steven Jackson.
"It feels really frustrating right now," Riley said.
Colorado won one from the heart. In a downbeat season, the Buffs finally broke through for their first Pac-12 win.
"When I came back in the locker room (after the pregame senior ceremony), I was bawling," quarterback Tyler Hansen said. "It was tough. The last game at Folsom (Field). Never again will I be running behind Ralphie. I just wanted to get this win."
According to The Denver Post, winds in Boulder reached 71 miles an hour and averaged 45.
USC at Oregon is the feature game, while Stanford, still hopeful of a BCS bid, hosts Cal on Saturday night.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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