BMOC: Saluting Oregon and more
This week’s top 20:
20. Salute to the quack attack
Moments after Oregon running back Kenjon Barner had scored the Ducks’ 61st point against USC on Saturday night, Trojans cornerback Nickell Robey stood exasperated in the end zone, his arms extended, palms facing up in the classic, “What The Hell Just Happened” pose.
The Ducks had 13 actual possessions in the game and scored touchdowns on nine of them. Four of those touchdowns took 1:06 or less. At times, USC’s defense would have had more luck trying to stop traffic on the nearby 110 Freeway than trying to stop Oregon.
Sometimes you see things that make you want to applaud in admiration. What Oregon did to a ranked USC team, at the Coliseum, in front of a 93,607 fans, on national TV, with an undefeated record and BCS dreams at stake, was beyond impressive.
The numbers make no sense. The Ducks averaged almost a first down per play. They had only three incompletions out of 23 pass attempts. They rushed for 426 yards. They were virtually unstoppable, to the point that USC coach Lane Kiffin was booed by the home crowd when he chose to punt early in the fourth quarter.
His team trailed by just 10.
But the crowd knew. So did Kiffin.
He hoped his defense could stop Oregon. But hoping isn’t the same thing as doing. The Ducks drove 12 plays in 4:56 and took at 55-38 lead. And that was that.
Afterward, when the 62-51 victory was official, someone in the postgame interview session asked Oregon coach Chip Kelly if this was his best Ducks team.
“I don’t know,” Kelly said. “Does it matter?”
“People want to know,” the reporter said.
Kelly wanted to know the reporter’s name.
“Steve Greenberg,” the Sporting News writer said.
“Steve Greenberg says it’s our best team,” said Kelly, sort of smiling. “I’m with Steve.”
Kelly’s point has some merit. None of these kinds of proclamations really matter until the end of the season. If the Ducks win a national championship, then it’s his best team. If it doesn’t, then who cares, right?
But we can all agree that it’s a stunningly lethal and beautiful offense to watch. Plus, it isn’t some gimmicky, pass-pass-pass attack. The Ducks, featuring Barner, run the ball until you drop. And if you try to crowd the box, they unleash the hounds on you with redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, who plays as if he’s a ninth-year senior, and the likes of wide receiver Josh Huff and utility back De’Anthony Thomas, who’s faster than Jimmy Johns.
“They don’t care if we run it 100 times,” Kelly said, “or if we throw it 100 times.”
19. Salute to the quack attack — part II
Barner isn’t as fast as Thomas (nobody is), but he has emerged as a stand-alone talent. Thomas is a threat to score from the team bus. And Mariota gives opposing defenses cluster headaches with his passing accuracy and his running ability. Plus, he’s unflappable.
Former Oregon star running back LaMichael James, now on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster as a rookie, was at the Coliseum on Saturday night. He raved about Barner.
“I think that he’s the best player — that’s singular, not plural,” James said. “I think he deserves the Heisman. If they weren’t beating people so bad, he’d probably have 2,000 yards right now.”
Added James: “This is probably the most impressive offense I’ve seen in my life. … I don’t know anybody [who] can stop that.”
He went on to say that the Ducks could score against an NFL defense. And you know? I think he might be right.
But can Oregon win a national title with this offense and this defense?
Answer: yes and yes.
The Ducks wouldn’t score 62 points against, say, Alabama, but they would put the fear of the football gods into Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban and his defensive staff. (As well as the staffs of Kansas State and Notre Dame.)
And the Ducks wouldn’t give up 51 points like they did against USC. Nobody, with the exception of Tennessee, has the quality of receivers that USC has with Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Oregon simply couldn’t match up with the Trojans’ receivers (including freshman Nelson Agholor).
For the moment, don’t worry about what might happen two months from now in Miami and the BCS Championship Game. Oregon might be there, or might not.
Instead, simply enjoy the efficiency of an offense that literally could have scored 100 points a couple of Saturdays ago against Colorado. Enjoy watching it make opposing cornerbacks, such as USC’s Robey, stand alone in an end zone, confounded by how easy the Ducks make it look.
18. Heisman Trophy race
Seated in the front row at Best Buy Theater:
• Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein — Got dinged in the Oklahoma State game, but still had 300-plus yards of offense before he left midway through the third quarter.
• Oregon’s Barner — Let’s put it this way: the Ducks passed for 304 yards against USC. Pretty good, right? Barner had more rushing yards than that (321).
• Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller — 299 yards of total offense, three TDs and his Buckeyes are undefeated. Works for me.
Keep a coat and tie handy:
• USC quarterback Matt Barkley — If only he could play defense too.
• Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o — Not the finest effort for the Irish’s D. Te’o finished with seven tackles, a half sack and a pass breakup.
• Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron — Doesn’t put up huge numbers, but he helped put up a huge win at LSU.
• Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater — There’s a reason why Louisville is off to its best start in school history. Teddy Ballgame, who threw five TDs against Temple, is that reason.
• Texas AM quarterback Johnny Manziel — The legend of Johnny Football grows. Just think if he helps the Aggies upset Bama this week.
• Oregon’s Mariota — Manziel and Mariota were actually both Ducks commits before Manziel changed his mind and went to AM. Mariota makes all things possible for Kelly’s offense. Hard to believe he didn’t start for his Honolulu-area high school until his senior season.
17. Perfection alert
Harry Callahan said a man’s got to know his limitations, and I know mine. I know better than to try to fix a sink, remove rodents from a crawl space, or try to make Nick Saban laugh by telling jokes in Portugese.
I also know to leave the math stuff to ESPN’s “College GameDay” numbers cruncher Chris Fallica. Fallica is the only kid I know who wanted a slide rule for Christmas.
Anyway, he has once again calculated the chances of Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame and Kansas State to enter the bowl season with unbeaten records.
Alabama — 67.4 percent.
Notre Dame — 66.8 percent (Fallica’s algorithms must not have seen the Irish play Pitt on Saturday).
Kansas State — 55.0 percent (Is that with or without Collin Klein?).
Oregon — 30.0 percent (Wait? What? Thirty percent? Not higher? No, the formula is nervous about the Ducks’ regular-season-ending game at Oregon State.)
And the chance of all four teams entering the bowls unbeaten is now 7.4 percent, up from 2.9 percent a week ago.
Is it possible that West Virginia, which won its first five games, could miss out on a bowl? (The Mountaineers need another win and still have to travel to Oklahoma State, play Oklahoma and go to Iowa State. They might have to sweat it out until the season-ending home game against Kansas.)
Is Tennessee wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson an FBS one-and-done? (He transferred to UT from a juco.)
Will USC become the first program since Notre Dame in 1967 to go from AP preseason No. 1 to unranked? (But in ND’s defense, the AP poll back then ranked only the top 10 teams. The Irish were No. 5, lost, dropped out of the AP poll, but were back at No. 1 a couple of games later.)
What are the chances of Texas AM and Texas playing in the Cotton Bowl?
Why can’t Michigan State win a close Big Ten game? (The Spartans are 0-4 in the league, all losses by four points or less.)
Shouldn’t Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch get a little more national attention? (BMOC is here to help, especially now that Lynch has stretched his NCAA-record streak of 100-yard rushing games by a QB to eight.)
If Missouri could do it all over again, would it stay or leave the Big 12? (The Tigers are 1-5 in the SEC, 4-5 overall.)
What’s a better job: Kentucky or Boston College?
Does Gene Chizik’s future at Auburn depend on the results of his next three games (Georgia, Alabama AM and at Alabama), or has his fate already been decided?
Anyone out there have Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee, Washington State, Purdue and Illinois a combined 0-34 in conference play after the first week of November?
15. Quote of the week
“Woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
— LSU fullback J.C. Copeland (to the Baton Rouge Advocate) on the Tigers’ missed opportunities in the 21-17 loss to No. 1 Alabama.
14. Quote of the week — runners-up
“That last drive was something I’ll never forget.”
— The usually stoic Nick Saban to reporters after Alabama drove 72 yards in 43 seconds to score the game-winning touchdown against LSU.
“I told the team I am very proud of him for how he handled the situation.”
— Maryland coach Randy Edsall (to the Baltimore Sun) on freshman Shawn Petty, who has gone from scout team linebacker to starting quarterback after the Terps lost four QBs to injuries (three in the past two weeks). Petty, who played quarterback in high school, had only one completion in the first half against Georgia Tech (a 1-yarder), but finished 9-of-18 for 115 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception in the loss.
13. Flop of the week
— USC’s defense.
In the past two weeks, the Trojans have been gashed for 101 points. They ranked 77th nationally in passing defense, 65th in total defense, 61st in rushing defense and 49th in scoring defense.
A 40-0 loss against Vandy at home sealed Joker Phillips’ job fate.
— Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs have been outscored 76-20 in their two losses against the big boys: Alabama and Texas AM. It probably isn’t going to get better this week at LSU.
— North Carolina State.
I admit, I did a doubletake when I saw Virginia had beaten the Wolfpack in Raleigh, 33-6.
A week after its upset of USC, the Wildcats lay a dozen eggs against UCLA (they trailed 42-3 at halftime).
And the flopper is … USC’s defense.
12. Coach of the week
— TCU’s Gary Patterson.
His team forced the game into overtime with a 94-yard TD pass in the last 90 seconds of regulation. And then, after scoring in the second overtime, Patterson went for the two-point conversion on the road, instead of the game-tying extra point. That, my friends, is one gutsy football call.
— Michigan’s Brady Hoke.
No Denard Robinson, no problem. The Wolverines go on the road to Minnesooooota, win 35-13, and bring back the Little Brown Jug.
— Army’s Rich Ellerson.
The Black Knights were a touchdown-plus dog to Air Force — a program that has dominated Army over the years (32-13-1 in the series, winners of 14 of the past 15 games, had won seven in a row at Army). So what happens? The Black Knights pull off the upset, eliminating the Zoomies from retaining the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy.
— UCLA’s Jim Mora.
Look who has the Bruins atop the South Division of the Pac-12 standings, ahead of USC.
— San Diego State’s Rocky Long.
The Aztecs knocked Boise State out of the BCS standings and any hopes of a BCS bowl appearance. It was SDSU’s fifth win in a row.
— Indiana’s Kevin Wilson.
Look who has the Hoosiers in the running for the Leaders Division title, such as it is, in the Big Ten.
And the winner is … Patterson.
11. Player of the week
— USC’s Barkley.
Barkley was 35-of-54 for 484 yards and 5 TDs and threw several pinpoint passes that took your breath away. Yes, he had two interceptions and the Trojans lost, but he also helped USC put up 51 points.
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— Alabama’s McCarron.
Remember that “game manager” description of McCarron? That’s long gone. And if it wasn’t, it is now after his game-winning drive at LSU in the waning minutes. I’m not sure a short toss on a screen pass qualifies as a Heisman moment, but it definitely qualifies as a season-defining moment for Bama.
— Oregon’s Mariota.
He missed only 3 of 23 attempts, threw for 304 yards and 4 TDs, rushed for 96 yards (more than 100, not counting the sack yardage) and had no interceptions. Even Kiffin was impressed that a redshirt freshman, facing a ranked team on the road and in front of a full house at the Coliseum, could play so flawlessly.
— Oregon’s Barner.
No opposing running back in the proud history of USC football has ever run for more yards (321), scored more points (30) and had more touchdowns (5) than Barner did against the Trojans.
— Kansas State cornerback Allen Chapman.
In the Wildcats’ win against Oklahoma State, Chapman had three interceptions, returned one for a touchdown and added five tackles and two pass breakups.
— Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson.
He starts. He gets pulled. He returns. He accounts for 164 of ND’s 223 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. He scores on the QB sneak that gives the Irish the heart-stopping win.
— Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato.
The nation’s leader in completions and passing yards was 34-of-44 for 341 yards and 4 TDs in the win against Memphis.
And the winner is … Barner.
10. Tough love
Washington State coach Mike Leach suspended star wide receiver Marquess Wilson from the team after Wilson reportedly ditched a two-hour, Sunday night conditioning session after just 20 minutes. Or as the school put it in a Monday statement: a violation of team rules.
Whatever happened, Wilson is gone for now. So is Washington State’s chances of a non-losing season, thanks to 49-6 loss at Utah that dropped the Cougars’ record to 2-7 overall, 0-6 in the Pac-12.
Afterward, Leach once again called out his team, questioning its heart and resolve. He was particularly pointed in his comments about Washington State’s offensive line, which has given up 16 sacks in the past two games.
“A part of it’s effort, and some of it borders on cowardice,” said Leach, as reported by the Spokesman-Review. “Our five couldn’t whip their two. Sometimes they brought two. Our five couldn’t whip two. If five of our guys went in an alley and got in a fight with two of theirs, we would have gotten massacred. That’s just ridiculously inexcusable. It was one of the most heartless efforts I’ve ever seen, and our D-line wasn’t any better.”
And to prove some sort of point, Leach had his starting offensive and defensive linemen report to the postgame media interviews.
Leach also said Utah “could have beaten us by 100 today.” And an AP report quoted Leach as saying of the Washington State effort: “That could have been a zombie convention out there.”
Seventeen players have left the program since Leach’s arrival (turnover isn’t that unusual when a new coach comes in). But Leach has made it clear that he expects more players to leave the program at season’s end.
9. Tweet of the week
“Would you please give @KBDuece4 the Heisman already? If he don’t win it was staged he’s the best player I the country right now!”
Yes, the BMOC is a little Pac-12 heavy this week. But lots of stuff going on out there.
USC’s Kiffin was taking some heat after the loss to Arizona a week earlier, and now he’s taking more after the historic loss to Oregon.
I’m not buying most of the criticism. The guy knows how to call a game and craft an offense. That’s not the main problem.
The problem is that USC’s defense has crumbled against the spread attacks of Arizona’s Rich Rodriguez and Oregon’s Kelly. And the guy in charge of USC’s defense is none other than the coach’s dad, the legendary Monte Kiffin.
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel quoted Monte after the Oregon loss.
On Oregon’s ability to score and gain yards: “It’s mind boggling. I’ve never heard of that many yards.”
On USC inability to stop spread offenses: “We have to reevaluate the whole thing. I totally agree with that.”
Monte Kiffin told Thamel he’s not concerned about his job and that he takes full responsibility for the Trojans’ defensive struggles.
But here’s a question: If this were any other defensive coordinator, would Lane Kiffin keep him, demote him or fire him? Just asking.
7. Best decision of the week
The booting of LSU cheerleader/pregame radio host Bobby Hebert from the Tiger Stadium press box by LSU sports information department officials.
Hebert was warned three separate times about his homer behavior in the press box before campus police asked him to leave.
There’s no cheering allowed in the press box, though I’m guessing plenty of other media members considered breaking the rule when Hebert was ejected.
6. The picks
I don’t care if Virginia Tech is playing against a Blacksburg Childrens’ Choir, I’m not picking the Hokies anymore. I don’t care if West Virginia has a bye; I’m taking the bye.
I’m a huge Frank Beamer guy, but this isn’t the Hokies’ year. You know it isn’t their year when even the Hokies’ special teams — Beamer’s pride and joy — is screwing up (Va. Tech had a punt blocked, missed a field goal and an extra point, and gave up an 81-yard punt return in the loss at Miami). I took my chances on the Hokies on the road (now 0-5) and paid the price.
As for West Virginia, I somehow forgot that the Mountaineers still don’t play defense.
On my other two misses — Minnesota over Michigan (had a hunch Denard Robinson wouldn’t play), Texas Tech over Texas — I do what all good losers should do: tip their ballcap in the direction of the Wolverines and the Longhorns.
This week’s choices:
Florida State over Virginia Tech, Tennessee over Missouri, South Carolina over Arkansas, Louisville over Syracuse, Texas over Iowa State, Michigan over Northwestern, Iowa over Purdue, Georgia Tech over North Carolina, Alabama over Texas AM, Oklahoma over Baylor, USC over Arizona State, Oklahoma State over West Virginia, Kansas State over TCU, Georgia over Auburn, LSU over Mississippi State, Washington over Utah, Fresno State over Nevada.
(Last week’s record: 11-4. Overall: 123-40)
5. Why Vegas sends a limo for me
It’s getting late in the season. I’m dying on the upset picks (took the Cuse over Cincinnati — a lot of good that did me). Time to make miracles happen.
This week I thought hard about:
Indiana over Wisconsin (I actually can’t believe I just typed those words); Penn State over Nebraska (and on the road, too); Oregon State over Stanford (my buddy and Tree alum Ivan Maisel isn’t going to be happy with me).
Went with: What the heck, I’m taking all three.
(Last week’s record: 0-1. Overall: 3-7.)
Stanford starting quarterback Kevin Hogan … Cincinnati starting quarterback George Winn. Oregon State starting quarterback Cody Vaz. Quarterback changes (Stanford, Cincinnati and Oregon State each won their games Saturday). Indiana (two consecutive Big Ten wins, plus the Hoosiers control their own destiny in what amounts to a two-team Leaders Division, what with Ohio State and Penn State ineligible for postseason play and Purdue and Illinois a combined 0-10 in Big Ten play). Gary Patterson’s OT nerve. Texas’ win streak (since promising to “get things fixed,” after a humiliating loss to Oklahoma, the Longhorns have won three in a row). UCLA ahead of cross-town rival USC in the Pac-12 South standings. Oregon’s Barner and Mariota. Nebraska. Army (beat the Zoomies — Air Force — for the first time in seven years and ended a 13-game service academy losing streak). UCLA coach Jim Mora (class move calling timeout after Johnathan Franklin broke the school’s all-time rushing record, which gave the Rose Bowl crowd plenty of time to express its appreciation for the respected running back). Weird stats. Notre Dame has won its five home games this season by a touchdown or less. On the road, ND’s average margin of victory is 28 points. Georgia’s offense (win against Ole Miss marked the fifth time this season that the Bulldogs have gained 500 or more yards). ESPN’s research department. Quarterback Taylor Martinez (Martinez, not the legendary Tommie Frazier or Heisman winner Eric Crouch, is now Nebraska’s career leader in most yards offense).
Former Stanford starting quarterback Josh Nunes. Former Cincinnati starting quarterback Munchie Legaux. Former Oregon State starting quarterback Sean Mannion. USC’s defense. Alabama’s mind-boggling stat of trailing only 15 seconds all season. Alabama’s invincibility (LSU’s 435 total yards was the most the Tide has given up since 2007). Duke (since becoming bowl eligible, the Blue Devils have lost their past two games by a combined 104-27 and are now 0-47 vs. AP poll-ranked teams since 1994). LSU’s home winning streak (done at 22). Texas Tech (after wins against West Virginia and at TCU, the Red Raiders have lost their past two games by a combined 86-46). Florida’s offense. Washington State coach Mike Leach’s career streak of never having a losing season. The Cougars are 2-7 overall and winless in the Pac-12. Virginia Tech (2-3 in the ACC, 4-5 overall, losers of four of its last five). Iowa (same semi-stunning records, different conference). Kentucky’s Joker Phillips. Soon, Boston College’s Frank Spaziani. Arkansas linebacker Terrell Williams (arrested for DWI, suspended indefinitely by the school). Mississippi State (7-0 to start the season, but 0-2 and outscored, 76-20 in the losses). Texas’ losing streak against AP-ranked opponents (the win at Texas Tech ends an 0-9 run). Boise State and the BCS standings (for the first time since Oct. 21, 2007, the Broncos are BCS no-shows). Maryland middle linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield (yes, another torn ACL sidelines yet another Terps player, this time the team’s leading tackler). Cal coach Jeff Tedford, if things don’t get better fast. Lots of empty seats these days.
2. If there were a playoff
(And there will be in two more years …)
Shoulder Pad Bracket:
Alabama vs. Notre Dame.
I’d take this over any Super Bowl matchup you can think of this year. (With the exception of the Denver Broncos vs. the New York Giants — The Manning Bowl.)
Chin Strap Bracket:
Oregon vs. Kansas State.
Wonder what the point spread would be for this one? My guess: More than you think.
1. The BMOC Top 10
No. 10: Louisville (9-0)
Next: at Syracuse.
I’m becoming a big Bridgewater fan (career-high five TDs against Temple), but still have a few nagging doubts about the Ville. It isn’t anything personal, but I still wonder how good the Cardinals really are. Their schedule is as soft as a foam We’re No. 1 finger, but that isn’t the players’ fault. They’ve done their part.
No. 9: Florida (8-1)
Next: Louisiana Lafayette.
Done with their SEC schedule, the Gators kill time with Louisiana Lafayette and Jacksonville State until the season-ender at Florida State. The offense could use some TLC, though. Florida just beat Mizzou, but it was the second victory this season that the Gators failed to score in the first half of the game.
No. 8: Clemson (8-1)
Maryland is starting a fifth-string quarterback who, until about a week or so ago, was a linebacker. So, yeah, I like Clemson’s chances in this one. Meanwhile, Tigers QB Tajh Boyd has thrown 10 touchdown passes in his past two games and Clemson’s offense is channeling its inner Oregon (the 718 total yards in Saturday’s win against Duke was the second highest total in school history).
No. 7: Florida State (8-1)
Next: Thursday at Virginia Tech.
Just what the struggling Hokies were hoping for on a short week: a rested, motivated Florida State team. The Seminoles won’t admit it, but they’ve got to be glancing ahead to the Nov. 24 game against Florida.
No. 6: Georgia (8-1)
Next: at Auburn.
The only thing separating the Hairy Dawgs from an SEC Championship berth is Auburn. On a scale of 1 to 10, the chance of Auburn (winless in the SEC) beating Georgia is, oh, negative-3. There’s a better chance that UGA linebacker Jarvis Jones will get a buzz cut. The Bulldogs are playing their best football of the season. Too bad they can’t get a mulligan on the Oct. 6 no-show loss at South Carolina.
No. 5: Ohio State(10-0)
Next: at Wisconsin, Nov. 17.
It’s always nice to play Illinois, which is sort of the Big Ten’s version of Colorado. But now it’s back to actual varsity football for the Buckeyes, which means a trip to Madtown a week from Saturday. In the meantime, a much-needed bye week for Ohio State. And congrats on becoming the first FBS team this season to reach double-digit wins.
No. 4: Notre Dame (9-0)
Next: at Boston College.
Yes, I know you won at Oklahoma a week earlier and that there was likely to be some sort of post-Sooners letdown. But here’s the deal, Domers: You can’t be 16.5-point favorites at home against Pitt, trail 20-6 in the fourth quarter, commit killer turnovers, need a missed Pitt field goal and three overtimes to win and stay at No. 2 in the rankings. It just doesn’t work that way. Great comeback. Wonderful win. But these weekly rankings are part beauty contest, and the Irish tripped down the runway. By the way, the last time ND started 9-0 was 1993 (Golson hadn’t celebrated his first birthday yet). That was the same year that Boston College ended their undefeated season with a last-second field goal.
No. 3: Kansas State (9-0)
Next: at Texas Christian.
I still don’t feel great about having the Wildcats at No. 3, especially after K-State beat a ranked Oklahoma State team, 44-30. The ranking has nothing to do with Klein suffering an injury against the Cowboys. K-State has done everything it’s supposed to do (this is only the third 9-0 start for a Wildcats team in school history — all under Bill Snyder). It’s just that the team now at No. 2 has done more.
No. 2: Oregon (9-0)
Next: at California.
The Ducks gave up 51 points to USC — and still won by 11! They have three legitimate Heisman candidates in Barner, Mariota and Thomas. And if you think playing on the road bothers them, forget it. Oregon has won 13 consecutive road games, longest in the FBS. And they’ve scored 42 or more points in 12 consecutive games, the longest streak in FBS history.
No. 1: Alabama (9-0)
Next: Texas AM.
The Mad Hatter last week. Johnny Football this week. But at least the Tide get Manziel in the Land of Houndstooth. At least now Bama knows it can come from behind. It’s fourth-quarter comeback against LSU was the Tide’s first since September 2010. That’s what happens when you rarely trail.
(Five on the fringe: South Carolina, Oklahoma, LSU, Texas AM, Oregon State.)
Gene Wojciechowski | email
Columnist / College Football reporter