The Oregon Duck fans that were crying fowl when the BCS refused to put the boys from Eugene at #1 seem to have gotten just what they asked for. The Oregon Ducks are atop the BCS standings for the first time in school history and through 8 games appear to be well on their way to their second straight BCS bowl game. However, with an opportunity such as the national championship within their grasp there will be increasing pressure on the Ducks each week as they creep one step closer to Glendale, Arizona. But don’t tell that to Oregon Head Coach Chip Kelly. In one of the best quotes of the season Coach Kelly said “you only feel pressure when you don’t know what you’re doing. We know what we’re doing.” With 4 games remaining in the regular season for Oregon the most important thing for them to do is to avoid watching ESPN, reading the articles, and all of the hype about a possible trip to Oregon’s first national championship game. 3 of the 4 remaining games are against unranked opponents, with #15 Arizona being the only exception, who the Ducks will play the Friday following Thanksgiving at Autzen Stadium. However, each team they have left on their schedule has shown an ability to beat good football teams, and any of them could dash the high hopes of Duck fans. This stretch of games begins this Saturday when #1 Oregon faces off against the Washington Huskies.
Washington came into this season with high aspirations on both team and individual levels. Washington has been moving in the right direction since they brought in Head Coach Steve Sarkisian prior to last season. Washington has not been to a bowl game since 2002, and Husky fans were hoping that they could break that streak this season through the play of preseason Heisman Trophy front-runner senior quarterback Jake Locker. So much for that idea. Since their opening week loss to a disappointing BYU team, the Huskies have not been able to string together any wins to gain momentum in the Pac-10. Locker’s numbers were decreased across the board from his junior season and it was clear that with the lack of talent and protection surrounding him proved that one man could only do so much. Locker has been beaten up this season and will not be playing Saturday due to a broken rib suffered in a double-overtime win against Oregon State. So Jake will just have to take a deep breath, or as deep as he can, while he watches freshman Keith Prince go and face the Ducks defense. Prince may end up being the one that wishes he had a broken rib when all is said and done on Saturday. The Oregon defense has forced 28 turnovers this season, which is best in the nation. The Duck defense, which receives more than its fair share of criticism from fans that refuse to accept that Oregon is an all-around dominant team, has the best pass-defense in the Pac-10 and the 2nd best scoring defense in the conference. This week against a freshman quarterback and sub-par offensive line you would have to think the Ducks are licking their lips (or bills). Look for the Ducks to make a statement of defense this week. Also watch for Prince to periodically ask Jake Locker for advice and maybe a hug or two throughout the game.
The Duck offense? Expect another big week from them this week against a Washington defense that has looked helpless in their last 2 games against Arizona and Stanford, when they allowed a combined 85 points. The Huskies have allowed 30+ points in all but one of their games this season, and don’t look for the Ducks to break that streak. Running back LaMichael James has emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender and quarterback Darron Thomas continues to impress in his first year as a starter. The Ducks possess the most powerful and explosive offense in the nation, averaging 54 points and over 500 yards per game. I’m sure if the Autzen crowd wasn’t so loud you would be able to hear the Duck players giggling like little kids on a sugar-high in a toy store while the defensive opposition gasps for air on the turf. The speed of the Oregon offense is what makes them so dangerous, as 25 of their 51 touchdowns this season have been scored in 5 plays or less. Just think about how amazing that is. Done yet? Oh look at that, while you were thinking the Ducks scored again. Watch for the Ducks to jump on the Huskies early and coast for much of the second half.
For the rest of the season the Ducks will have one goal in mind: Win The Day. The Oregon motto tells the team that they will not be able to win the national championship against Washington on Saturday, or on any day leading up to January 10th. All they need to focus on is the next team on their schedule. Too many times before have teams reached the position the Ducks find themselves in and let it slip through their fingers because they got overconfident. If the Ducks play anywhere close to the level they are capable of over their next 4 games they will be heading to the title game. Chip Kelly has clearly burned it into the minds of his players that they need to go out and play hard, play fast, and finish. If they do that the rankings will sort themselves out. Captain Chip will not allow his team to get trapped and taken down by an inferior opponent this week.
Ducks win 63-9
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.