Now that we’re only seven days from the return of Duck football, let’s take a look back at another season opener. What a difference just two years makes. Here we are, with an upcoming opening game at home against Nicholls State. Juxtapose that with those serious pre-LSU game jitters on a “neutral field” that most of us were feeling in 2011.
Over the summer, the FishDuck Classic will help familiarize readers with some our most important analyses and greatest stories. Today we have “Will Oregon be ready for LSU?”
This article originally ran on August 13, 2011.
meme – an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture, analagous to the way genes spread biological information.
Ad nauseam – a Latin term used to describe an argument which has been continuing “to [the point of] nausea”.
“The Ducks have trouble with elite defensive lines and teams with extra time to prepare.”
“Oregon is replacing three offensive linemen, and the last time that happened, at Boise State in 2009, the Ducks struggled to move the football. In fact, they didn’t manage a first down until the third quarter.”
The memes are repeated ad nauseam. For a while now, the SEC and ESPN have the country convinced that this game is a foregone conclusion; that all LSU has to do is prance out with Tiger pride, and the Ducks will collapse like scared little children in their fancy uniforms. After all, the Tigers are tougher and more physical. They’re big. They’re fast. They play in the SEC, the most dominant conference in football. Oregon is too small on the lines. LSU will control the line of scrimmage and push the Ducks around, just like Auburn.
Never mind reality, or the fact that the National Championship Game came down to a field goal with :02 to play. It’s a wonder that the Ducks are even bothering to show up, what with that intimidating home crowd and all, and that fast, physical defense LSU has. They’re contenders for the National Championship, along with Oklahoma and Alabama. Oregon? They can’t compete with top level teams.
There are three weeks to go. Get ready for a culture war, and an onslaught of presumption and pretense. In warmups, or the battle of reputations, Oregon doesn’t have a chance. Fortunately, the game isn’t played there. This one will be played on firm, fast REALGRASS Matrix turf, and the Ducks have the comfort and knowledge of having been to this kind of circus before. They’re not likely to be distracted or intimidated. The leadership on the team has been pointing to this opportunity for a long while.
Here’s a bold prediction: On September 3rd in Dallas, Chip Kelly and the Oregon Ducks are going to put together their finest, most focused performance of the last two years. The innovative practice routines and two full years of preparation are going to culminate. This is a young team, but the nucleus of it has been in the Chip Kelly system now since March of 2009. They understand what’s expected of them, and that understanding builds tremendous confidence. They’ve added some sharp, athletic newcomers, and at the Cowboy Classic the Oregon Way will enjoy a dramatic unveiling of Oregon football version 2011: blur-fast rock, shock and slobberknock.
LSU has an impressive tradition. They’re a good football team with plenty of talent, solidly coached. But this game will be no SEC punt-a-thon; no run, run, pass, punt borefest that comes down to a botched fake field goal or too many men on the field on the last play of the game. The Ducks will be precise, elusive and efficient. On key. On point. In unison. Disciplined and sharp. They’ll execute like no team LSU has ever seen before, and require them to defend every inch of the field.
Remember the cool efficiency Darron Thomas displayed in the UCLA game? Remember the final drive against Cal? Remember the inside/outside Barner/James running game the Ducks put together in the Civil War? This team, in three weeks, will combine those moments of innovation and resolve, to produce a game in Cowboy Stadium that is a thing of beauty. They’ll be ready. They’ll bust the myths and smash the stigmas. All the old, tired assumptions will be put to bed with a fast start and a hard finish.
With Darron Thomas now having a year of experience, particularly the experience of being on college football’s biggest stage, the Ducks will be calm and resourceful in Cowboy Stadium. The biggest and most significant change is that this year’s offense will be better at overcoming a negative play. Thomas can spread the ball around, and he’ll be even more decisive, better at finding the easiest and most effective option, better at his progressions and reads. He knows how to use the whole tool box, and it’s the most impressive offensive toolbox in college football. Kelly has a counter for every scrape exchange, a solution to every defensive problem.
LSU has a confused mess at linebacker, and a defensive line that, while talented, hasn’t worked as a unit in an actual game. Oregon’s offensive line is rebuilding, that’s true, but they are rebuilding an offense that scored nearly 50 points a game last season. QB Jordan Jefferson and the Tigers can’t score more than four touchdowns, and the Ducks aren’t stopping. LaMichael James can go 60 out of the smallest crease. The Tigers 3rd linebacker or 5th defensive back will have to cover Rahsaan Vaughn or Colt Lyerla.
Oregon’s defense will be a more physical and athletic unit in 2011. They’ll play with more aggression. They may not even wait until they get off the bus before they start blitzing. Jefferson has improved, but he threw 7 touchdowns and and 10 interceptions last season, in 209 attempts. Even if he triples one and halves the other, he’s little more than halfway to Darron Thomas.
The Tigers can’t fake enough field goals to win this one, and Chip Kelly isn’t about to be hypnotized by Les Miles’ weird voodoo or inspired idiocy in the closing minutes of games. The Ducks roll. Oregon 42, LSU 24.