"The Breaking Point"
Guest Post by Robert "Stroupinator" Stroup
[Editor's note: the opinions expressed below are strictly those of Robert Stroup, Oregon alum and current graduate student at Lehigh University. The Bloguin Network, The Duck Stops Here and its writing and editorial staff have no knowledge of what he's been drinking or how long it's been since he's had a proper conjugal visit.]
I’ve always been a bit conflicted when it comes to expectations. How good should a team be? How do I know? I’m not the coach, I don’t have the game film and I’m over 2500 miles away from Eugene. But after Michael Tallia’s flowery take on Duck football – which I enjoyed – I felt it necessary to express what I feel are reasonable expectations for this game.
First, for the brutal reality: this is not a game Oregon can win. At least, not yet.
A couple of interesting numbers as to why: in LSU’s last five early out-of-conference major contests, the Tigers have beaten Arizona State, Mississippi State, Washington, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Their combined score in those five games has been 189 to 85. They’re dominating teams – good teams – and making it look easy in big games. So while I appreciate the optimism on this site (and casually enjoy getting the rubbing in my side from everyone) I’m going to step away from it and return once I actually see some development in the lines. And I fully admit, as I’ve not been at practice, others (such as Dale) probably have a better idea as to if that is indeed happening.
However, even if that does happen, take away the ribbon and bow everyone is putting on the Ducks’ present line and you have two and half starters returning ,maximum, in Asper and York. Weems is an unknown; he has been easily injured in the past and is now called to action. It’s entirely possible that he could navigate the upcoming regular season unscathed, but as for now his permanence is far from a sure thing. With only two returning starters, and 57 or 58 total games experience for the front five, the offensive line has yet to gel. Their collective average weight is 297 pounds.
Comparatively speaking, the LSU front five has four starters returning from an 11-2 team last year and an average weight of approximately 312 pounds. Mathematically, the advantage in the trenches, before the game even begins, goes to LSU. And as Chip Kelly says so many times, football is just a numbers game.
Some additional commentary on this first point: what surprises me so much about Oregon under Kelly is how small Oregon has become (as an aside, Ted Miller pontificated about this recently on the Solid Verbal, and I think it bears repeating). In Mike Bellotti’s final years at Oregon, he coached many linemen, such as Geoff Schwartz, Adam Snyder, Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou who went on to become successful in the NFL. Those were guys who were physical and aggressive, and as a result, Oregon (occasionally) really played with an emotional fury. Although their style of play would have been less ideal in Kelly’s offense than in Bellotti’s, their successes speak volumes to the potential for quality linemen at Oregon, which, as of now, is a real question mark for a majority of Duck fans.
This leads me to the second point, which is harder to quantify than it is to qualify. It’s got a lot to do with the abovementioned lack of physicality. And I guess, to a certain extent, it’s got to do with coaching philosophy, too.
In short, under the spotlight, for whatever reason, Oregon seems to play with a Chip on the sidelines but not on the shoulder. This is too bad; given that the competition they’ve lost to (in Ohio State and Auburn) have been decidedly weaker teams schematically and fundamentally, Oregon could have gained something with a little emotion. Not a lot, but just one iota. In the national championship game, Darron Thomas unwisely (albeit humorously) dug for gold on a national television screen. Whereas everyone I was with laughed a bit, all I could think was of Adam Morrison in 2006, lying on the ground, pounding his fists after losing to UCLA. You’ve got to want it, you know? Because of a deep commitment to the plan – perhaps too deep of a commitment – I was never sure if the Oregon squad last year entirely registered their surroundings. It was clear that they cared about winning the game. That much was obvious to anyone. But they knew they had less talent than Auburn on the field, so why did they act like it? Why didn’t they follow the model already provided to them some two years before?
The model I’m referring to is Boise State. Boise throws a hammer down before their games. They live to play one game and one game alone. They don’t let opportunities fly by them like Oregon has, either. You can yell at them, scream at them and downgrade their credentials all you want. They still win. And as I get older and watch Oregon fumble and stumble again under a national spotlight, all I can think is how important it is – and how honest it is – to look into the mirror finally and admit it: Oregon has to suck it up, play a physical game for once in its life, and – damn it – they need to win a game they cannot win. That’s the breaking point. When Boise beat Oklahoma, they then beat Oregon and Virginia Tech as well. They had officially won the game they could not win.
And you know what? For all their incessant bitching, they are proven. Oregon isn’t.
So for the upcoming game against LSU, I implore everyone to forgo any great expectations and, instead, demand accountability from a line that is young, untested and likely to stumble. Demand improvement, at the very least. You can defend the losses and explain them all you want. They remain losses. Every fan should know the importance here: this upcoming game, more than any in Oregon’s history, determines what Oregon is as a program. And it is only a loss as well if you view Boise State, Ohio State and Auburn as trials. They weren’t trials, they were losses, and Oregon still has won a lot of days, but not the day.
May Oregon finally live up to the promise it’s shared with us. May it finally win the game it cannot.
Gentlemen, thank you for a rousing discussion on The Cowboy Classic, SEC dominance, the BCS, ESPN, and the validity and use of statistics. Please remember to follow us on Twitter at @Dale_Newton. and "like" our articles on Facebook by clicking the like button at the end of the article. It helps the blog grow and gain an audience, which helps to prevent Mrs. DSH from kicking me and the computer out of the house.
"in LSU’s last five early out-of-conference major contests, the Tigers have beaten Arizona State, Mississippi State, Washington, North Carolina and Virginia Tech"
Mississippi State is IN the SEC. Come on man. You're better than that.
UNC had 13 of their star players suspended and they took LSU down to the last play on 4th and goal.
Washington was coming off an 0-11 season and you only won by 8. (Oregon beat that team by 24 that year and Oregon's D held them to less points)
Arizona State was a 5 loss team that season and you only won by 4. (Oregon beat that team by 14 that year and Oregon's D held them to less points)
Not strong arguments.
LSU played against two very mediocre teams last year in Florida and Ole Miss (both run spread offenses) which put up a combined 65 points.
LSU has buckets of talent, big, fast, athletic kids at every position. No question in my mind they have more pure football talent than Oregon.
Where they struggle though is their lack of leadership, clearly some of the team leaders like senior QB Jordan Jefferson and 20 other Tigers thought it was fine to break team rules and close down a bar, then beat the crap out of some people in the parking lot. To me this incident speaks volumes about the program...this wasn't a couple of guys, it was almost 1 quarter of the whole team! The senior leaders of LSU should not have taken part in this 2 weeks from playing the number 3 team in the country. Yes Cliff Harris and DT were driving fast down the freeway a few months ago, but I consider that a minor bonehead incident compared to the LSU bar fight. It tells me that many of LSU's players don't respect the coaches and team rules and aren't taking this game as seriously as they should be. Meanwhile, everyone in the Oregon program seems to be on the same page and are drinking Chip's Kool-Aid, hell LMJ and several other players actually sound like Chip in interviews. To me that shows a singular focus not many other programs can muster.
I think the Ducks will be better coached and better prepared for this game than LSU. You mention the current Ducks don't play with the passion of past teams, and I tend to agree, but it's also what helps them be so consistent, emotional teams don't win 12 straight games very often. I'd rather have a colder, more robotic team, than one who rides emotional waves every week. The Ducks could very well be beaten by LSU's athletes, but they will win the scheme, preparation, focus battles, and I think that will be enough to pull them through.
It's almost hard to know where to start with this one...
"in LSU’s last five early out-of-conference major contests, the Tigers have beaten Arizona State, Mississippi State, Washington, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. Their combined score in those five games has been 189 to 85. They’re dominating teams – good teams – and making it look easy in big games"
Hmm...good teams...major games...making it look easy...k, lets have a look:
2005-LSU (SEC Champ that year) beat ASU (4-4/5th in PAC10) by 4pts. ASU hung 560+yds of offense, over 120yds more then LSU, but in the end the 5th best team in the PAC was unable to came up short by 4pts.
2007-LSU (SEC Champ & BCS Title Champ) killed VT (ACC Champ) by 41pts. This is the same year the ACC was 2-6 in bowl games. Their OOC record vs other AQ conferences was similar to thier bowl record.
2004-LSU (5-3/3rd in SEC) beat UW (4-4/7th PAC10) by 8pts. UW hung 478 total yards, out gaining LSU both through the air and on the ground by more then 150yds, but UW was unable to pull the upset. They came up 8 pts short.
2010-LSU (6-2/3rd in SEC) beat NC (4-4/7th in ACC) by 7pts. Anybody want to guess how bad the ACC was last year?
Why you listed Miss St, I have no clue, but since you bring them up...
Miss St did not play a single team from a BCS AQ confrence in their OOC play. Their biggies win was either against a 4-4 UF or a 3-5 Michigan.
I was going to mention the OL size comparison and explain why it irrelevant, but I think somebody beat me two it.
" given that the competition they've lost to (in Ohio State and Auburn) have been decidedly weaker teams schematically and fundamentally, Oregon could have gained something with a little emotion"
BSU is as good as any team in the nation, especially that year!! They are undefeated vs team in AQ conference's in recent memory and they have earned, or at should have, the respect of the nation. C. Kelly, while implementing a new system in his first game ever as head coach, lost to that BSU team. To top it off at the end of the game L. Blou...well, yall remeber!
Despite throwing off one of the best RB's in the nation, despite implementing a new system, and despite it being his first year as head coach, C. Kelly won the PAC10 and went to the rode bowl. They came up 11pts (1 missed FG & 1 Fumble in the end zone) short. They lost to a OSU defence that was hands down one of the best in the nation, T. Prior leading a very good offence, and a HC that was (and still is!) a legend in CFB.
All things considered...it was a very successful season for a 1st year HC.
Next year C. Kelly was forced to throw one of the best QB's Oregon could hope for off the team. That QB later went to one of the worst teams in the SEC and ran the 3rd best rushing offense in that conference. So, with a new QB, A new system, keep in mind it takes a few years to find, recruit, and train for this type of system, C. Kelly took the field against all odds vs. one of the toughest conferences in CFB, and went undefeated. Not only did they go undefeated, they got WAY(!) better and produced on of the most explosive offences ever to take the field in CFB. I wonder how difficult that was with a system that had only been used the year prior and with a new QB? Anyways, they went on to lose a ridiculously tight game to a team not only loaded with talent, but had the 2 of the best players (QB & DL) to ever play in CFB.
Once again..all-in-all...far better then anybody could have ever expected!
Part of me is happy about the off the field controversy. it wouldn't be normal if it did not happen...lol! I could continue beating this post up, but I don't see the point. Bottom line...you moping, but it is a great article for building suspense and anticipation for the average fan. However, if they do lose it will create animosity due to unreasonable expectations. Pick your head up butter cup and put things in perspective!
Appreciate the post. As a longtime Duck fans who grew up during the Suffering, I understand the cynicism.
BUT.... a few points.
1) Not sure why you're comparing LSU's front five with ours. They don't play against each other. Our offensive line plays against their defensive line. Did I read that wrong?
2) You can't dismiss the Stanford/USC/OSewe wins from last year, and SC/Arizona/OSewe in 2009 as "not big games." They were HUGE. I think this team HAS proven it can win the big one. Frankly, the RB and BCS games were a couple of plays short of victory.
3) BSU couldn't close the deal last year against Nevada. Granted, the big win against Oklahoma a few years ago, but last year, when they legitimately had a shot at something really big, they choked. So the comparison there is not what you think it is.
All of that said, I'm cautiously optimistic. Cautiously.
Now those are some relevant statistics. Nice to see someone puncture the Stroupinator bombast with cold, hard facts.
@jasart I like the post, but don't judge the LSU tigers for the bar fight. I see so many fan's making a mountain out of things that they really don't know the details about. I will tell you this, its a good thing my life wasn't put under a microscope at that age!! A bar fight...ehhh...
Looks like Stroupinator waded into this bar brawl surrounded by guys who pack an analytical punch.
Paul, great to have you comment. In football comparisons are tricky. All kinds of pseudo-scientiific analyis gets done starting from faulty premises: comparing one unit to another, confusing the outcomes from one season with a certainty for the future. This is not the Rose Bowl, the National Championship Game or Boise State in 2009. It is a new game in a new season for a program that gets better and better, that is building a tradition based on superior preparation and an intense, fierce tempo. Ducks will be ready for this game, and they'll reward your cautious optimism. Stroupinator will apologize to us both with a cold beaded Mirror Pond, fresh from his ice chest. Thank you in advance, Stroupinator.
@morganducksThanks, glad to hear you're hopeful. That's not a bad thing to be. My take as to your points: (1) if you follow this blog, in my posts, i tend to argue more for offensive line play than anything else. i'm an east coaster, and while i appreciate innovation, i think the Ducks inexplicably miss a couple tenets of fundamental football in their quest to a title. (2) The Stanford game was big, but it was at home. I hardly consider a depleted Trojan squad and a similar Beaver team big games as well. Got to win in the limelight. That's BCS, period. (3) Yeah, the comparison is what I think it is. And the last time I checked, Oregon was 0 for 2 against Boise State. Just saying. Thanks for the comments though. It's time that the suffering ended, I agree (comes down to the line).
Stroupinator, if you lose, I propose you ship the Mirror Ponds FedEx, and Paul and I will enjoy them in the shade of Autzen Stadium prior to the Nevada game. You will also be sentenced to watch O Brother Where Art Thou, a scene from which I quote below:
Ulysses Everett McGill: Pete, the personal rancor reflected in that remark I don't intend to dignify with comment. But I would like to address your general attitude of hopeless negativism. Consider the lilies of the goddamn field or... hell! Take at look at Delmar here as your paradigm of hope.
@stroupenator@morganducks I understand you're trying to be realistic as you may see it but come on. LSU should have lost to a Tennessee team Oregon KILLED. The ducks were explosive on defense and offense in that game and DT showed he was poised to make the big throws with a big SEC opponent in his face, yeah that same SEC opponent that held LSU to what should have been 10 points. Do you really think LSU will put more points on the board than the ducks? An offense that had a not so great qb and a first year starting tailback even though he is very good. Oregon is established in the run game and will give LSU a heavy dose of it. Once the passing game comes together it won't matter how our defense does because our offense will just outscore LSU period.
The SEC dominance is both real and manufactured. You can't deny their achievements, but there is also a self-fulfilling prophecy and some competitive inequities at work. Then too they have the advantages of climate, demographics, tradition, rabid fanbases and huge stadiums. But there's no doubt, the ESPN guys are seduced by all those 8-4 records and lovely southern belles. Hard to blame them about the southern belles.
@Dale Newton and there is no way ESPN and other mainstream media don't recognize this! That leaves the question...why not publicly recognize it? Instead they refer to Oregon's defense as a "fraud" and accredit thier success to a "down confrence" despite having the best OOC record vs. all the other AQ conferences. Is it good ole boy mentality, or is it them marketing the teams that are playing on thier station in order to drive up ratings? If that is the case look for ESPN to build hype around PAC12 football in order to build hype because of the TV contract they signed with the PAC12.
The nine-game conference schedule suppresses perception, guaranteeing conference teams nine extra losses during the year. A 5-7 record in the PAC-12 is 6-6 and bowl eligible everywhere else, 7-5 is 8-4 etc. Those extra patsy wins teams enjoy elsewhere ratchet up the perception of the entire conference. "We had eight teams go to bowl! We beat seven ranked teams." Well yeah, because everybody starts out 4-0 or 3-1. Meanwhile the PAC-12 is scheduling out of conference games against Nebraska, LSU, Wisconsin. On the road.
@stroupenator@Dale Newton I really feel that the vast majority of PAC12 fans don't have a clue as to how good this confrence really is. Top to bottom it is the most ballenced confrence in CFB over the last decade. They prove it year after year on the field, but because they don't schedule in a way that help thier rankings they don't get recognized for it.
TermStroupinator Stout it is, but I don't think you'll collect.
@stroupenator Two fan bases known for thier home game experience and ability to tailgate, one has the best beer in CFB, the other has the best tailgating food in CFB, and they are meeting in a place known for BBQ (anything)! Two of the most entertaining coaches, two top five teams loaded with talent and controversy, two conferences that view themselves as the best, and two great, great story lines...This truly has to be the best OOC game ever to be played in CFB and I could not be more happy that the team I use to watch get killed in an empty stadium with my step-dad is one of those teams!! god bless food, CFB, and my Oregon Ducks!!
Owe ya...if you have time, god bless the LSU Tigers for not shying away from a game like this to...if you have time...
okay dale, but when i win, i prefer you send some of your best TermiStroupinator Stout. No other draft, I find, tells it quite like it is.
@morganducks@Dale Newton Controlling the line scrimmage is for an offensive lineman to do, in my opinion. Defense is about breaking that control down. So typically, I will look at offensive lines over defensive lines to determine stronger teams in certain games. Individual match-ups are also insightful, but not as telling of a factor, I find.
@Dale Newton Sadly, I am only attending four games this year: LSU, ASU, Wash, and OSU. Living in Seattle has its disadvantages.
Although I LOVES me some Mirror Pond.
Anyway, @stroupenator , I still don't see how you can make a comparison between UO's O-Line and LSU's O-Line. They do not play against each other. A more apt comparison is our O-Line against their D-Line. Unless I read that wrong.
That's a mature and intelligent way to look at it. We'll know in seven days who is drinking and who is thirsty.
I believe Oregon has a very good chance to beat LSU. The Ducks are bigger and stronger than last year, they have that experience to draw on, and Les Miles' Tigers aren't as good as Auburn was the end of last year. Auburn had college football's best player on each side of the ball. They were the team of destiny in 2010, but there's no reason why Oregon can't fill that role in 2011.
Not to mention the SEC West might have been the greatest division the SEC has ever seen and Auburn beat all of them. LSU and Alabama were both national championship contenders all season, and Arkansas and Miss St (a team in the SEC btw) had incredible seasons as well.
"May it finally win the game it cannot."....may you one day win the argument you cannot win.
Anyways, Auburn was the better team last year. Went through the much harder schedule and had the first round picks to show for it. Oregon was a better coached team but was outmuscled and outgunned. I was at the game and it hurt so bad walking out after but everyone knew which team was the better team. Our offensive line fought hard but got destroyed. Oregon's O line got bigger this season but I'm not more confident against LSU than Auburn because I think our O line is bigger, I'm more confident because I think LSU is a worse and less complete team than Auburn. It'll be very interesting to see where Oregon's offense is in 3 years with this year's solid crop of oline in our recruiting class. If we could play fast and physical we would actually be unbeatable. Geaux DUCKS
Auburn would have trashed Stanford. Same reason why USC almost beat them, despite being undisciplined and out of sync, and why Oregon blitzed by them in the 2nd half: Stanford was as well as coached as any team in the country but they didn't the athletes to play with Oregon and would have been lit up by Auburn. Darron Thomas ran for 117 yards against Stanford. Can you imagine what Cam Newton would have done to them?
The SEC in '07 was worse than last year. Not even close.
LSU big wins in the SEC that year:
a 12 pt win against a 6-6 South carolina team
a 4 pt win over a 9-4 florida team
a 6 pt win over a 9-4 auburn team
a 7 pt win over a 7-6 alabama team
a 17 pt win over a 1-11 ole miss team
a 7 pt win in the SEC championshipgame over a 10-4 tennessee game
with losses to:
an 8-5 Kentucky team
an 8-5 Arkansas team
Anyways, I pull myself away from this argument. Research things you say; especially if Dale was nice enough to let you write a piece on his site.
@pdx4life@mtallia@morganducks You just gave me an idea for something I will write later (about Auburn). As an aside, I never considered them the best team last year - ever - although they were good on the lines (in a one game setting, you can do a lot of things even as a lesser team). Again, you're entitled to your opinion, and I respect that.
@pdx4life@stroupenator@mtallia@morganducks The 2007 LSU team, as I've said before, was absolutely better than Auburn from last year. Ask any SEC fan, the league was as weak as it ever has been last year. As far as teams that were better than Auburn last year, Stanford instantly comes to mind. And so does Oregon. There's not a doubt in my mind Oregon was a better overall team than Auburn, who they lost to. It's why the game was as close as it was.
this is ridiculous. this argument is awful. this isn't the NFL where teams are about the same year in and year out. they lost 3 games against teams which were better than them at the time they played. Each game has a stronger team and lesser team. amazingly, Oregon has only been the lesser team 4 times in 2 years. the 09 team wasn't a dominant team. it was inexperienced and barely won the pac-10 (easily could've lost to Arizona and Oregon state). Ohio state was a bigger and more gifted team. auburn was the best team in the country. they were beat and ended with a loss just like every other team (other than au and tcu). why is losing to a team in the last seconds, which would have beaten any team in college football, seen as a negative? Lsu lost by more to that same auburn team. stroupenator, you just wrote an article that was poorly researched and full of regurgitated and unoriginal arguments.
@stroupenator@morganducks Our defense accounted for more TD's than Jordan Jefferson did. A qb like him won't win this game, he's going to turn the ball over a lot. He's inconsistent, has an attitude, and really doesnt have a great arm. He lost tolliver and LSU lost their starting rb. Oregon may have lost some key contributors but we kept our leading rusher and heisman candidate as well as a qb who should have been up for the heisman last year and will be this year. The most important parts of an offense are coming back and the offensive line has been doing well in camp. They are bigger and more talented arguably than last years unit, a ducks unit that 9 times out of 10 will out run you. Three bad games don't define you, especially a game which Oregon played terrible in against Auburn. We still almost won that game playing terribly. Ohio State beat us too but if you went to that game we were damn close to closing that one out too, except a costly fumble. Boise State beat us in a low scoring outing on both ends. Again, Oregon played terribly and still had a shot to win that game. We couldn't even handle snaps or hold onto the football that game! Oregon may have lost those big games but each one of them came down to crucial plays/drives that determined the game. The ducks will finish and finish strong against LSU.
@mtallia@morganducks So this is a great offense? Oregon vs. Boise: 8 points. Oregon vs. Ohio State: 17 points. Oregon vs. Auburn: 19 points. LSU has two national titles. They are considerably better than all of the three teams Oregon lost to. And for the rushing attack? 34 yards against Auburn on the ground. Yes, I think LSU will put up more points on the board than Oregon.