The calendar has flipped to the month (that in my mind) makes or breaks teams seasons, October. No longer are the A-list football programs paying upwards of a $500,000 to play FCS schools, and then almost losing, Auburn.
Conference play has kicked-off across the country, and they’re some enticing match-ups which we will get to at the end when I Pick ’em.
As for now, we need to back track and ask ourselves, What the @#$% has happened in College Football?
The obvious and proverbial nod goes to Eugene where the Oregon Ducks self-destructed against Utah last week, losing 62-20. If you caught even a glimpse of the game, you couldn’t believe what you were seeing. Not only did the Ducks look out-classed, but for the first time in a very long time, they did not look faster than their opponent.
Now, let’s take a minute and realize how transcendent of a player Marcus Mariota was/is. The Heisman winner from a year ago was lethal running Oregon’s system, throwing for 4,454 yards and 42 TD’s, with only 4 interceptions.
Many will tell you that the Oregon’s system makes their parts perform better than they actually are, evident when those parts head to the NFL and don’t dominant like they did in Eugene.
Personally, I agree with some of this thought, although there is no doubt that Mariota can flat out ball, as his young NFL career has started off better than expected.
Don’t get me wrong now, Oregon has talent, loads of it still. They may be 2-2, but with Colorado, Washington, Washington State and Arizona State on the horizon, they can find their footing before having to take on Cal, Stanford and USC in consecutive weeks.
You could blame the slow start on the quarterbacks, both Vernon Adams and Jeff Lockie haven’t quite been as productive as Ducks fans would’ve liked. Lockie has virtually clocked no playing time in his collegiate career until this season, and Adams looks to be still figuring out the speed of PAC-12 football compared to the FCS.
Yet, it doesn’t all fall on the guys taking the snaps, Oregon’s D’ has been mediocre to be kind. They aren’t creating turnovers like last season (when they led the country in turnover margin last season) and the secondary was not only picked a part by Michigan State and Utah, but Georgia Southern and Eastern Washington dropped a few too many points on them, too.
All the statistics aren’t as sexy as they used to be, but when you lose Mariota, five defensive starters (and first-round pick DL Arik Armstead) you’re going to take a step back, especially when Oregon relies on taking average-recruiting classes and making
Then there is the simpler route that we can’t base off of statistics as much. Maybe College Football has simply caught up to high-flying Ducks.
When Chip Kelly arrived in ’08 as the offensive coordinator before becoming the head coach a season later, outside of a few marque victories here and there, the Ducks were just an average team running a fluky offense in gaudy uniforms.
A Fiesta Bowl, two Rose Bowl’s, four PAC-12 titles since ’09 and two trips to the title game, Oregon flew by College Football in leaps and bounds. Their offensive schemes with the read option at the core were nearly unstoppable and innovative. The uniforms were received makeover after makeover, and ultimately became a major recruiting selling point.
When you thought about fast, you thought Oregon. Speed became an intimidation factor when you traveled to Autzen stadium, already one of the loudest in the nation. They made Oregon Football sexy in every facet, showing the rest of college football that the product on the field better be as fined tuned off of it.
Well, the spread isn’t a just a fad, contrary to what many thought at first. TCU and Baylor haven’t added their own niches to the offense, and even Ohio State and major SEC schools have adopted the offense as their own. It’s practically everywhere today.
Remember how insane those chrome helmets Oregon played in the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin were? Everyone has those now, too. The Ducks aren’t alone when it comes to switching up their uniform every week, plenty of schools, even the more traditional ones, have dabbled in that as well.
Again, all of this doesn’t mean that Oregon’s season is over, nor is it a doomsday scenario for the program. Eventually every dominant team must take a step back. Ask Alabama about Ole Miss.
Last week was a wake-up call for Oregon football. We’re used to seeing 62-20 in favor of the Ducks, at least for the better part of the last six years. A team that prides itself on innovation and being a step ahead of everyone else in College Football is now on a level playing field with the rest, or maybe even a step behind, at least for this season.
The Ducks are still equipped with an embarrassment of riches as far as offensive weapons are concerned. Royce Freeman is the best running back in the PAC-12, and even with the loss of WR Byron Marshall, their receiving core is deep.
Although it might not be in Oregon’s DNA “to get back to the basics,” simplifying things by pounding the ground game might make a world of a difference for a team searching for an identity moving forward.
Who would have thought that of all teams, the un-ranked Oregon Ducks are the one’s still searching for an identity with Week 5 arriving.
Only in College Football.
Game Week Watch ’em and Pick ’em
Missouri 17 South Carolina 27
Note: Starting QB Maty Mauk was suspended earlier this week for disciplinary reasons, paving the way for true freshman (and potential star) Drew Lock to start. Seriously, we will take anything at this point.
#23 West Virginia 28 @ #15 Oklahoma 41
#19 Wisconsin 21 Iowa 17
#13 Alabama 24 @ #8 Georgia 21
#3 Ole Miss 31 @ #25 Florida 24
Note: I was tempted to pick this as an upset for the week, I’m putting it on full upset alert. Florida at the Swamp seems to be getting some of its old swagger back, not to mention the last time Ole Miss showed up in Gainesville, this happened:
#21 Mississippi 28 @ #14 Texas A&M 31
Arizona 34 @ #18 Stanford 27
#6 Notre Dame 23 @ #12 Clemson 30
Note: I’ve been wrong every time I’ve gone against the Irish this season. You’re welcome ND fans.