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Der Tag


Today is the day that was supposed to set the terms on which Pac-12 and the SEC would be decided. The SEC has mostly held serve; if LSU wins at home they’ll likely knock Alabama out of the SEC championship game, and (probably) out of national title contention. Not so much in the Pac-12, where USC’s losses to Stanford and Arizona mean that the Ducks will probably host the Pac-12 championship game regardless of today’s outcome.  Still, USC could effectively end the Ducks national championship hopes, so it remains a pretty important day.

Were I a betting man I would probably take the Ducks -8.5, but I wouldn’t give much more than that. Marcus Mariota has played well, but I wouldn’t say at this point that I’d rather have Mariota running the offense against USC than Darron Thomas. Mariota appears to be more talented than Thomas, but holding it together in a critical game against an excellent opponent on the road is a thing, and Thomas had that as part of his skill set. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mariota turns out to be brilliant, but he has demonstrated a tendency to try to force passes into triple coverage, which won’t play against the Trojans.

Then again, the Trojans lost 39-36 to a team that the Ducks beat 49-0, so it’s hard to be bullish on their chances.  Even in the wins they haven’t looked great.  Barkley has demonstrated a surprising tendency to make significant mistakes, and I don’t like his chances against the Oregon secondary.  That said, USC is sufficiently talented to pull it together for a single game and beat anyone in the country, so there remain grounds for concern.

I’ll also say that the Ducks defense has been even better than I expected.  The 2010 defense was deeply underrated, mostly because surprisingly few people could make the connection that even an excellent defense will give up a lot of points in Chip Kelly’s scheme.  But this is really a fabulous defense; shutting out Arizona (which scored 39 against USC), and holding ASU and UW to seven each in the first half are genuine accomplishments.  USC probably has the best offense the Ducks has faced so far (although Arizona is close), but I’d be pretty surprised if they put up the same 38 that they did last year.

As for the other game, Alabama looks really, really good, and LSU has struggled in a couple of victories.  I think that the nine point spread is fair, in that it would leave me sorely tempted to bet on LSU.  I hope that LSU wins, as that’ll make it less likely that the Ducks will get pushed out of the national championship game in favor of one of the other undefeateds. Incidentally, Kansas State was scheduled to play at Autzen this year, before they opted out; coulda been a great game, but serves to demonstrate the disincentives that elite teams have for playing one another in the preseason.

…[EL] Here’s a great story about the nation’s best running backs coach, Oregon’s Gary Campbell. The underrated reason Oregon is so dominant is an amazing assistant coaching staff, especially at the running backs and offensive line. I’ve followed Oregon football for 30 years, almost the exact same amount of time Campbell has been there. I don’t think they’ve ever had a year with a bad running game.

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  • Mudge

    I believe K-State opted out because WVU and TCU joined the Big-12 and were added to the schedule. Something had to give; K-State couldn’t play another out of conference game. WVU cancelled a Florida State series for that reason. Certainly there are disincentives to playiong a top ranked team, but this time there were other reasons. Not sure that implying that K-State was avoiding the game is fair.

  • Robert Farley

    It’s more complicated that just K-State backing out (which is why “opted out” is the preferred phrasing), but K-State could have kept the home-in-home with UO on the schedule.

    • Mudge

      True, but you and I both know that WVU and TCU are home and home series (they lost Missouri home and home) and every team wants 7 home games for the old piggy bank. They had to keep Missouri State and North Texas for that reason and opted, I’ll adopt the opt, to keep Miami and drop UO. I am unaware if there were scheduling reasons for that decision.

  • TT

    I thought SC was a classic trap game for Oregon last year, and turned out to be right (first time for everything). But I don’t think that is at all the case this year. Oregon just looks like a runaway freight train, SC’s defense is not very good, and Barkley has managed to regress somewhat this season. I say Oregon by at least four touchdowns.

    • Richard

      I’m going to be at the game today (although I don’t root for SC or Oregon – this will be the first college football game I’ve attended in over thirty years). Still, I think SC is out for revenge after last week’s loss and think they will win.

  • Anderson

    My Tide-fan colleague is moderately concerned it’s a night game in Death Valley, but I doubt LSU’s offense has improved enough since the championship game. Oregon is contending to be the team that loses to Alabama. Good luck with that!

  • dp

    No one has any faith in our Tigers, which is probably completely justified, both objectively and rationally. But as I sit here, Texas A&M is giving Mississippi State the exact same treatment Alabama gave them, so I’ll cling to the notion that Alabama has yet to play anyone good.

    • Anderson

      As a MS State fan who turned off the tv after the 3d TD, I think you may have a point about that. But that BCS beating is hard to live down.

    • Texas A&M QB and freshman phenom Johnny Manziel was actually an Oregon commit at one point. Basically Chip Kelly discovered him at a camp and offered him when he was a no one with like one offer from North Texas or something. After the Oregon offer others started paying attention and when Texas A&M got on board, Manziel switched. Not surprising since he is from Texas.

      I just want to imagine what the Oregon offense would look like with Manziel running it.

      • Johnny Football is truly amazing, but the offense is also loaded with talent. Alabama has not played anyone. Tonight’s game is their first test, at least on offense.

  • spencer

    Then again, the Trojans lost 39-36 to a team that the Ducks beat 49-0, so it’s hard to be bullish on their chances.

    This is an example of what my friend calls the Transitive Property of College Football, and my back-of-the-envelope (warning: envelope not included) estimate is that it fails to hold up about as often as it pans out.

    • Anderson

      Yah, SC beats GA, LSU beats SC, FL beats LSU, GA beats FL. Ain’t no math to it. After that FL-GA game, neither should’ve been in the top 10.

      • Eric

        Not just that, but SC crushed Georgia, while SC was rolled up with ease by Florida. The Florida-LSU and LSU-SC games were pretty close.

    • Robert Farley

      There are obviously better and worse ways to use common opponents; in this case the Ducks won at Autzen, while the Trojans were on the road, etc. But as a piece of evidence (rather than the entirety of the evidence), it’s relevant to look at how teams have played against common opponents.

  • MikeJake

    I don’t expect Bama to lose, but if LSU pulls the upset, I don’t think it will be fatal to Bama’s NC hopes, because just like last year they’ll get the benefit of artificially high rankings for the mediocre SEC teams. Miss. St. is the prime example this year. They’ve beaten exactly nobody and yet are still ranked 15th, even after getting manhandled just last week (and they’re getting blown out right now at home by TAMU). SCar is looking increasingly suspect, despite a dominant win over Georgia, after getting beaten handily by LSU and Florida and barely getting by a lousy Tennessee, yet they’re still 8th in the BCS. And speaking of Georgia, they needed six Florida turnovers to eke out a win, the only respectable win they’ve had this year, and are ranked 6th.

    Compare the computer rankings of the SEC pretenders to a team like Florida State, who also has only one respectable win (against Clemson), yet are ranked 9th in the BCS, behind SCar and Georgia, and whom the computer rankings don’t seem to like very much. It’s all because of the SEC’s rep, cultivated by years of cocky rednecks barking about how dominant “their” conference is, even though they’re still only producing two or three real contenders every year, just like any other conference. That rep gives their top teams a baked-in advantage, as they’re getting “extra” credit for wins over the pretenders in their conference.

    • Anderson

      100% right on the skewed BCS. Neither SC nor FL is really a top 10 team.

      • Eric

        Totally agree. It’s a top heavy conference right now.

        • Anderson

          As a card-carrying liberal, I say the Feds should break up the Tide and redistribute its players.

      • MikeJake

        I think Florida is legit.

        LSU I’m not so sure about. I suspect tonight’s game will confirm my impression of them. Good D, crappy O.

        • Eric

          Like Florida, actually.

          • mpowell

            Yup. But actually pretty good either way. When you have a team with a good D and an inconsistent O, really the only thing to say is that they’re as good as their O plays in the 3 or 4 games a season where it matters.

    • MacGyver

      I’ve been a particular college football degenerate this season, and while I’m a lifelong SEC fan, I think this is the year Oregon beats Alabama in the championship. Alabama has a good defense, but not an excellent one. Their offense is down to their third and fourth string RBs, which will be an issue if another injury occurs. Meanwhile, Oregon’s defense is not only great this year, but elite in terms of statistics and the “eye” test. The offense is every bit as formidable as it’s ever been, and I don’t think a RS freshmen QB in the championship game will be overwhelmed by Alabama’s defense. The offensive weapons he has will decrease the pressure on him.

    • KLG

      Actually, that was 6 forced turnovers by the Giant Water Lizards ;-). ‘Twas an ugly game, but the right team won.

      Still, as someone who has been paying attention to college football for 45 years, more or less, what has Oregon done to get so good? My theory is that it’s the uniforms.

  • VeeLow

    if LSU wins at home they’ll likely knock Alabama out of the SEC championship game, and (probably) out of national title contention end up playing a rematch with Alabama for the national title, because, you know, SEC!

    • Eric

      Possibly, but that would really depend on Oregon, K-State, and Notre Dame all losing a game before the end of the season.

  • Desert Rat

    I expect the Ducks will shred USC today. Having watched them trash my Sun Devils a couple weeks ago, I’m firmly convinced there’s nobody else in the Pac 12 that can hope to keep pace.

    • Eric

      Particularly a team low on depth like USC.

  • Just please god no Notre Dame in the championship game please god no

  • pepper

    sec 5 schools have won 8 bcs championships big12 2 acc 2 pac 12 vacated sec bashing is stupid bcs will always suck

    • Anderson

      Learned your grammar in the SEC too, eh?

  • JoshA

    Well, SC topped their score from last year, anyway.

    If SC had gotten the call on the onsides kick, that would have made things somewhat interesting.

  • pepper

    If the SEC is top heavy the PAC 12 is defence helium.

  • Kudos on the post title. Is having lots of good players way up in the Northwest an example of distant blockade vs. the SEC, and can you discuss the concept of the SEC as a “conference in being”?

    • MikeJake

      “Conference in being” is a great description of the SEC.

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