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.

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