With All Due Respect . . . Oregon is the Best Team in the Nation


 Kevin Cline

Alabama is a great team.  They have rightfully earned the accolades and awards heaped upon them with multiple national championships.  Nick Saban is a great coach, one of the best ever.  However, and again, with the utmost respect, this year’s Alabama team, at least on defense, does not resemble the championship teams of the past several years.  The defense is one of the worst in the country, having already given up 52 points to their first three opponents.  They are also allowing 420 total yards per game.  Through three games it appears that Alabama’s best chances for winning another national championship and cementing their dynasty status, lie with the offense.  Unless Saban can right the ship defensively, this may not be Alabama’s year.

Clemson is another of the top teams in the country, and possesses the marquee win against Georgia.  Tajh Boyd is one of the leading Heisman candidates in the early going.  However, after a less-than-stellar win over North Carolina State, Clemson also appears to have some distinct weaknesses.

Then there is Oregon.

The Ducks have one of the most complete, effective and, most importantly, balanced offenses they have had in years.  That pass-to-rush balance is more equal than it ever was during Chip Kelly’s tenure, and has zero turnovers through three games.  With Addison, Huff, Hawkins and last week Mundt, all making key contributions to the passing game, Marcus Mariota has begun the year as one of the leading Heisman candidates.  The offense’s 24 TDs have gone to 12 different players.

Bralon Addison and De'Anthony Thomas

Kevin Cline

Bralon Addison and De’Anthony Thomas

The defense, despite being on the field for more minutes than any other team in Division I, has only surrendered 27 points.  The Ducks are allowing a mere 9 points per game. They have held their three opponents to 3.4 yards per rush and 4.5 yards per pass attempt.  Certainly they have given up a fair share of overall yardage, but nearly all of it came when the game was already decided and the third- and fourth-string units were playing.

Oregon appears to be at a different level than anyone else right now.  They are faster than ever.  The passing game is better than it has been in years.  Right now Oregon is a team asserting its considerable will against its opponents, wearing them down with speed, power and intelligent play.  The defense plays with a chip on its shoulder and has done an excellent job of keeping opponents frustrated and out of the end zone.  They are playing like championship teams play.  But no one gives out championship trophies for three games, so there is plenty of time for the team to have a letdown, or for another Stanford to provide the kryptonite needed to derail the team.

There is still much Oregon can improve upon, a frightening thought for future opponents.  Despite not playing a single perfect game, they have dominated and crushed their three opponents.  There is a lot of work to do.

But for now, after three games, no one – not Alabama, Clemson or Stanford  –  is playing better than Oregon.

They have the look of champions.



*Watch for a joint OREGON/EAGLE Video Analysis next Tuesday! For the bye week we have three analysts who are helping me look at the similarities and differences of the Oregon offense and the Philadelphia Offense. This will be fun!

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Don Gilman

Don Gilman

Don Gilman is a second-year communications major at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. In addition to writing for FishDuck.com, he has been published in the Roseburg News-Review Newspaper, the UCC Mainstream Newspaper, Bucketlist Publications and is the featured author in the June, 2013 edition of eHorror magazine (under a pseudonym.) In 2013 Don received two awards from the Oregon Newspaper Association's annual statewide college competition: Third place for Best Feature Story and second place for Best Spot Photography.

  • Chris Andres

    Queue the hate mail from far and wide!

  • Rcs410

    Where’s the interior run game?

    • FishDuck

      The inside running game has been stuffed thus far as opponents know it is what we like to pound away with. (Actually that is not true as the Inside Zone Read and Power Plays have worked fine in the second half in both of the last two games when it was garbage time)

      But Coach Helfrich has shown me that he is NOT stubborn about trying to defeat an area that the opposing defense has thoroughly prepared, but instead will pivot to the areas the weaknesses the defenses are now giving us.

      When teams defend the outside run and passing game better–that will open up fewer defenders in the box, hence we will run inside effectively again. Helfrich will take what the defenses give us.

      • Rcs410

        Once we play a team with a capable secondary, please let me quote what you just wrote. Somehow I doubt this is just schematics. It’s always been about more than the scheme..

    • Keith Dennis

      Being a great team doesn’t mean you are great in all areas all the time regardless of opposition. So when the interior run game is being bottled up, they go outside or through the air. If the question was, “Where’s the interior run game and the outside run game and the passing game?” That would be a problem.

      • I miss Mark Asper

        The problem though is it’s been youth in the offensive guard position. I think it’s an important weak link that’s been missing so far this year. We might be able to exploit Tennessee and Virginia loading the box, but Dion Bailey and Ed Reynolds are waiting. We won’t be facing mediocre one-on-one defensive backs forever and so Mana Greig and Hamani Stevens have some growing up to do.

        Big plays from the interior run game were the commonality of our biggest wins in the last five years, and saying “Well, we have speed on the edges” doesn’t solve anything.

  • ashlanduck

    You lost me when you said Alabama’s defense was one of the worst. You don’t need hyperbole to make your case.

    • Stephen Wallner

      I have to agree there, I had to re-read it several times to make sure I read it correctly.

  • hoboduck

    My feelings exactly…
    Go Ducks WTD

  • tramadon

    Yeah, I knew there would be some…disagreement. Alabama’s D really has been a let-down so far this year. I don’t believe I was using hyperbole. What is Alabama’s D rated right now? Here is what CJ Moseley had to say about his own defense:http://www.al.com/alabamafootball/index.ssf/2013/09/with_ole_miss_game_looming_cj.html

  • Come on.

    Alabama one of the worst Ds of the nation? Even taking Johnny Football out of the picture, and taking Bama’s numbers in a vacuum, that’s just a joke. When you consider that it was the defense that beat A&M, you just have to stand in awe of the writer who has the gall to say that this year’s iteration has that remarkably bad defense.

    Sure, their offense is what’s going to keep them in a couple games this year, but to write what you wrote is just good old fashioned trolling. I’m an Oregon fan, I think Oregon’s going to stand toe to toe with the Crimson Tide if they get the chance, and I think they have what it’ll take to knock them a couple times against the chin and come away with some crystal hardware. But even I have to say, your comments are plainly inaccurate.

    With all due respect.

    • hokieduck


  • hokieduck

    Wishful thinking here. I agree that the Ducks look like national contenders. Absolutely. However, to pan the Alabama defense is … well … kinda dumb. The Tide look beatable, but the season is young.

    On the other hand, Oregon has a lot of improving to do before it hits the meat of the schedule. No championship squad gives away over 100 yards per game in penalties and Oregon must be close to that if not spot on. We have yet to see the kind of inside zone read success that we had with LMJ and Kenjon and I do not think that Byron Marshall has the quick hole hitting ability that is required to do that. Hopefully, Tyner will be playing significant minutes by mid season. The kicking game is still a huge question mark. Finally, the defense has not been challenged much thus far, so it is hard to determine how well this group of linebackers will do against elite competition.

    Some good things (as I am being hyper critical of an excellent, excellent team), Mariota is awesome (after he settles in a few series). The receiving corp is the best I remember maybe ever. And it will get better. Scary. The team is *deep* at all the spots and freaking unbelievably fast. If these kids can gel and limit mistakes (penalties) without taking the edge off aggression and if Tyner becomes the weapon I think he will become … the sky is the limit.

    Go Ducks. Roll Tide. Pasadena Jan 6.

  • Jon Sousa

    A lot of football to be played. Every team that is well coached improves throughout the year. If Oregon is going to win in the end they will need to continue to improve. You know Bama is going to improve throughout the year.

    Let’s not count our chickens. Let’s just WTD.

  • tramadon

    Thanks for being (mostly) respectful folks. I actually expected a lot more vitriol and anger directed my way after writing this article. Hey, I know what a great team Alabama is, and they DO deserve all the respect in the world. However, having watched games from each of the top teams, I still believe that — right now — Oregon is playing on a different level than the other top contenders. But I also know that there is a lot of season left to be played. Alabama routinely gets better and better as the season goes on, primarily due to Nick Saban’s coaching, in my opinion. It could happen again this year, but what I was trying to say is now, at the moment, Oregon does look better than the other top teams. Plenty of time left for a huge let down. But thanks to you all for being respectful.