The Pac-12 beat writers picked USC to win the conference football championship. The USA Today National Poll has Oregon fifth, USC third, and the always popular LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma filling in the rest.
The pollsters are correct. Matt Barkley is the great senior QB of USC. Oregon still has to choose from two young, practically untested guys for their QB position before the September 1st opener against Arkansas State. The regular season matchup between Oregon and USC is in L.A. The Trojans should be ranked higher. It's conventional wisdom.
Conventional wisdom also reminds us that between USC and Oregon, last year Barkley and the Trojans played a near perfect first half in Eugene and escaped with a three point win over the Ducks. Now USC has the QB, the home field, a talented team, and they just got a good RB from imploded Penn State. Of course you pick them ahead of Oregon.
The problem is, at the start of the 2009 season, conventional wisdom didn't have Oregon going to the Rose Bowl. Conventional wisdom most certainly did not have Oregon earning a spot in the National Championship for 2010. And last year, conventional wisdom couldn't see Oregon beating Andrew Luck at Stanford and going on to win the Rose Bowl.
Those who follow and love Oregon know that -- play-by-play, game-by-game, season-by-season -- when you try to figure out the Ducks, it's best to throw conventional wisdom out the window. The Ducks are rewriting the book on how to practice and play football. And the cover of this book is Kelly Green.
Over the past three seasons, Coach Kelly has been urging his team to go faster, faster, faster. This season he's adding a new wrinkle.
He wants them to go faster STILL.
Kelly knows the other teams have their eyes on Oregon. The Ducks are the new measuring tape with which the others compare themselves.
Witness the words to come out of Pac-12's Media Day in July as at least one coach begins to match the tempo and style of the Ducks. Talking about new Arizona coach Rich Rodriquez . . .
Linebacker Jake Fischer said of Arizona's new offense that "every practice felt like we were going against Oregon'' in the spring.
ASU running back Cameron Marshall talked about his spring practice experience under new coach Todd Graham's system that sounds similar to Oregon players' accounts in Eugene:
"It's fast. It's a lot faster than anything we have experienced before at Arizona State, at least for me personally. It was alot more organized, every period was. We had guys doing something; we didn't have any downtime. Everything was explosive. It was a lot of competition in practice throughout the whole practice, and a lot of situational stuff."
It is with pride that Kelly calls his team the fastest and hardest practicing in the country, It is his mission not to allow anyone else to catch up. He won't allow any "We've arrived." mentality in his camp to dull the team's edge.
As for those rankings, let USC have the target on their backs. Let Oregon be the underdog going into The Coliseum November 3rd. All the pressure will be on Barkley and Co. to play that perfect game again, this time in front of their home crowd. It's a two-sided coin. After USC won in Eugene last year, they have Oregon coming to them this year. The bad news for USC: After escaping with a win in Eugene last year, Oregon will be coming for them this year. For the Ducks, it's an error to be rectified.
And what of those young, practically untested quarterbacks? Who should start, Bryan Bennett or Marcus Mariota? Which bomber should the Air Force use, the B-1 or the B-2? Which superhero do you call to fight an army, Ironman or the Hulk? Which car should you use to get across the country fast, the Mustang Shelby Cobra or the Corvette ZR1?
|Bennett or Mariota? Cobra or Corvette?|
Below are links to the Oregonian's grading of each position. Surprisingly, the best grades were given on the defensive side. The D. backs are talented and deeper than ever. The D. line is bigger and deeper than ever. And the linebackers, while not as deep as the other positions, have starters with tremendous speed and talent.
Put them all together, and it's another Oregon football team setting the standard for the Pac-12.
Wide Receivers/Tight ends