Ducks have won 19 straight league games by an average of 20.6 points
By Mitch Light
At the risk of stating the obvious: Oregon is on quite a tear in the Pac-10-turned-12. The Ducks just won their 19th straight league game — and did so in impressive fashion — and they have won 27 of their last 28 conference games dating back to the 2008 season.
The most impressive stat during their winning streak: The Ducks have won those 19 straight by an average of 20.6 points.
How does this compare with USC’s run of dominance in the Pac-10 in the mid-2000s? I’m glad I asked. From late in the 2003 season through the midpoint of the ’06 season, the Trojans won 27 straight league games by an average of 24.7 points.
So Oregon, while clearly dominant, hasn’t quite reached the standard set by Pete Carroll’s teams. And, most important, USC won two national titles during that stretch.
Oregon was close last year, and might very well be ranked No. 2 in the BCS had it not opened the season against LSU in Dallas. There were concerns heading into the season — Oregon lost key parts on both lines of scrimmage — but the Ducks are still an elite team with one of the most explosive offenses in the nation. Oregon leads the Pac-12 (and ranks second in the nation) with 22 plays of 40 yards or more. Next on the list is Washington with 12.
The Ducks have also proven they can play a little defense. Two weeks ago, they held Washington to a season-low 17 points and only 278 yards of offense. Then, in the big win at Stanford last Saturday night, Oregon held the Cardinal to a season-low 30 points and a Pac-12-season-low 385 total yards.
Oregon, No. 4 in the latest BCS rankings, closes the season with home games against USC and Oregon State. The Ducks have to win one game to secure a spot in the first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game, which will be played at Autzen Stadium. Win that, and it’s back to the Rose Bowl for the second time in three years … unless, of course, things break just right and Oregon grabs the No. 2 spot in the BCS and finds itself back in the national title game.
Stranger things have happened. Just ask Les Miles.
AROUND THE PAC-12
• Keith Price’s efficiency has taken a hit as Washington’s schedule has toughened up. Through the first six games, the Huskies’ sophomore quarterback threw 21 touchdowns and only four interceptions. In the last four games — at Stanford, vs. Arizona, vs. Oregon, at USC — he has thrown four touchdowns and six interceptions.
• Utah has averaged 33.2 points in its six wins and 13.0 points in its three losses.
• The Utes are one of only two teams in the nation that has not allowed a play from scrimmage of at least 50 yards. Michigan is the other.
• Oregon has four of the top seven rushers in the league, as ranked by yards per carry — D’Anthony Thomas (7.96), LaMichael James (7.89), Kenjon Barner (6.63) and Tra Carson (5.74).
• Stanford is the only team in the country that is perfect in the Red Zone — 57 scores in 57 trips, with 45 touchdowns and 12 field goals.
• Oregon State has scored a total of 27 points in its last three games. It’s the worst three-game stretch for the Beavers since 1997, when they scored a total of 21 points in losses to Cal (14), Arizona (7) and USC (0).
• Cal has allowed a total of 23 points in its last three Pac-12 wins.
The Cowboys’ gunslinger may have passed Stanford’s Luck and Alabama’s Richardson.
Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck was considered by most college football observers to be leading the Heisman race throughout this season. However the Cardinal lost to Oregon on Saturday night, and many voters are now reevaluating their ballots.
Andrew Luck has led the Cardinal to the top of the Pac-12
By Mitch Light
Stanford lost its final three games of the 2008 season. Needing only one win to become bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001, the Cardinal lost consecutive games to Oregon, USC and Cal by an average of 16.7 points.
Standing on the sideline that season was a true freshman by the name of Andrew Luck. A 5-star recruit from Houston, Luck chose the Cardinal over Northwestern, Rice and Purdue. “Stanford has great tradition,” Luck told the Houston Chronicle at the time of his commitment. “I hope to help them get back to the top of the Pac-10, where they belong.”
Well, I think it’s safe to say that Luck has succeeded on that front. Stanford, which hosts Oregon this Saturday in the West Coast version of the Game of the Century, is sitting at the top of the Pac-12. Since Luck was inserted into the starting lineup — in Week 1 of the ’09 season — Stanford is an amazing 29–6 overall and 21–4 in league play. With Luck leading the way, the SU offense has scored 30 points or more in 29 of its last 35 games.
This season, the Cardinal’s numbers are simply astounding:
• They are outgaining their opponents by an average of 181.8 yards per game. In league play, that number jumps to 190.1.
• They lead the Pac-12 in both scoring offense and scoring defense.
• They are one of only three teams in the nation that is averaging over 220 yards passing and 220 yards rushing. (Wisconsin and Missouri are the other two).
• They are 5–0 on the road and have won those five games by an average of 24 points.
• They have given up more than 19 points only one time.
• They have allowed only eight plays of 30 yards or more.
• They are completing 53.4 percent on third down, tied for fourth-best in the nation.
• They have scored on all 52 trips inside the Red Zone and are the only team in the country with a 100 percent success rate.
Okay, you get it: Stanford is pretty good.
The one knock on the Cardinal has been the strength of schedule. Only one of their nine wins has come against a team currently ranked in the AP top 25 (USC) and only two other teams on their schedule (UCLA and Washington) have winning records.
That’s what makes this week’s showdown with Oregon so interesting. There are those (i.e. SEC fans) who still question whether Stanford has the talent and athleticism to beat one of the nation’s truly elite teams. Last year, the Cardinal jumped out to a 21–3 lead over the Ducks in Eugene but were overwhelmed by Oregon’s speed and were outscored 48–10 in the final three quarters.
Now, the Cardinal has another shot at the mighty Ducks, this time in Palo Alto, where they haven’t lost in nearly two calendar years. And this edition of the Oregon Ducks, while still strong, isn’t quite as strong as the team that played in the national title game a year ago. The offensive numbers for Chip Kelly’s club are similar to last season, but the Ducks aren’t quite as formidable on defense in 2011, especially against the run.
Stanford will be on a national stage on Saturday night. This team is still very much alive in national title chase. Luck and the Cardinal offense should be able to score plenty of points. It will be up to the defense, which gave up 626 total yards in this game last year, to slow down the Oregon attack.
AROUND THE PAC-12
• Utah has won two straight in league play after opening its first season in the Pac-12 with an 0–4 record. And with a relatively soft remaining schedule — UCLA, at Washington State, Colorado — don’t be surprised if the Utes end their inaugural Pac-12 campaign with a winning conference record.
• Oregon State is 3–8 in its last 11 Pac-12 games dating back to last season.
• The top three runners in the league, on a yards-per-carry basis, all play for Oregon — De’Anthony Thomas (8.5), LaMichael James (8.0) and Kenjon Barner (6.75).
• Washington State sophomore Marquess Wilson is closing in on his second straight 1,000-yard season. He had 1,006 on 55 catches as a freshman and currently has 974 on 59 catches with three games remaining.
• Washington quarterback Keith Price was held to 143 yards passing despite throwing the ball 35 times in the Huskies’ 34–17 loss to Oregon. Price’s previous low in Pac-12 play was 226 yards in a win at Utah.
• Just under 40 percent of Keenen Allen’s 1,074 receiving yards have come on third down. The sophomore from Cal has converted 19 of his 22 catches on third down into a first down.
• Colorado has given up 42 points or more in all but one Pac-12 game.
Alabama’s Richardson, Stanford’s Luck and Wisconsin’s Wilson lead the candidates.
There seems to be a constant debate in the college football world over the best player in the country. Is it the best performer on a top team, the player with the best statistics, or the best pro prospect?
A win at Oregon Saturday could have Sun Devils thinking BCS
By Mitch Light
If it were a political race, the networks would already have declared Arizona State the winner of the Pac-12 South. Yes, we are barely into October, but it’s quite clear that the Sun Devils will be playing in the inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game on Dec. 2 — likely in Palo Alto or Eugene.
LaMichael James suffered an elbow injury against California.
Oregon Ducks running back LaMichael James suffered a rather nasty elbow injury in Thursday night's win over California. Before leaving with the injury, James posted his third-straight game of at least 200 rushing yards. The junior's final tally indicated 240 yards and one rushing touchdown against the Golden Bears.
The Ducks, Cardinal and Huskies have all been impressive early.
Oregon seemed to be the frontrunner in the preseason to host the first-ever Pac-12 Championship Game, but suspensions and a double-digit loss to SEC-power LSU in the opener raised questions. However, Chip Kelly’s Ducks have bounced back with three blowout wins in which they scored at least 56 points in each game.
Oregon's LaMichael James is back for another run as the Heisman.
They're the teams within the team - those cohesive little units bound together by their shared responsibilities within the larger team context.
Whether it's the offensive linemen firing off time after time into those familiar blocking sleds, or the defensive linemen drilling repeatedly on how to shed blockers, or the defensive backs breaking on ball after ball - these teams in miniature hone their tasks on the practice field until those tasks become second nature.