Even without John Boyett and Carson York, the Ducks have enough talent and experience to compete for a national championship this season. They have the nation's attention with a top 3 ranking and De'Anthony Thomas on the cover of Sports Illustrated. If they keep winning, they'll be invited to Miami, and Thomas to New York.
But right now they have a lot more to overcome than the SI cover jinx. They have the national exposure, but do they have the will, focus and commitment?
If the Ducks play their PAC-12 schedule the way they played Tennessee Tech, Fresno State and Arkansas State, they'll lose at least three games this season, including a very disappointing bowl.
Sure, they racked up three big wins against soft competition. But watch those games closely, and you'll see a litany of self-inflicted wounds and unforced errors, glaring signs of inattention, hot dogging and overconfidence.
photo right: College football's most rock-and-roll team makes the cover of the football version of The Rolling Stone. But the cover that really matters comes in January.
Against the Golden Eagles alone, there were these:
- DAT wanders up to a punt he has no business returning, lets it hit him on the hand, and TT gets a gift possession at the 23.
- Thomas races 49 yards with a swing pass, starts slowboating at the three yard line (was he going to go into a Heisman Pose?) and a Golden Eagle player strips the ball. Luckily it bounces to Jake Fisher in the end zone and the Ducks get a td instead instead of a touchback.
- Marcus Mariota fires an interception throwing to a double-covered receiver. The previous week, he had two fumbles. Duck radio color analyst Mike Jorgensen (himself no stranger to fumbles) says on the air that Mariota was "carrying the ball like a loaf of bread."
- A ball bounces off the back of a Tech player into the arms of Kiko Alonso. He has a convoy of five blockers, but no one blocks the quarterback, who makes a one-on-five tackle.
- Dior Mathis makes a nifty interception, and untouched, steps out at the four yard line.
- On his first pass, backup quarterback Bryan Bennett heaves it fives yards over the head of his receiver. His second is right in the chest--of an opposing linebacker.
- For the game, against an opponent they beat by 49, the Ducks commit three turnovers and 105 yards in penalties, including four late hits and roughing-the-passers
These were enough unforced errors to lose a game against a better opponent. And they are all signs of a team that has been reading its own magazine articles.
That's the real power of the Sports Illustrated Cover jinx. Players start believing their own hype. They soak up the praise and forget the hard work and effort that made it possible.
Like the USC Trojans, for instance. Stanford's physical beatdown and domination of SC should be a wake-up call for the Oregon Ducks.
Chip Kelly doesn't believe in circling games, but you'd better believe the Ducks are circled 9 times in opponents' locker rooms this year. Everybody wants to knock them off. They're tired of the praise, the uniforms and the big reputation. They want a piece of that for themselves. They keep hearing how great Oregon is.
Just this week, Arizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight told the Oregonian's Aaron Fentress, "They are always exciting to watch on TV because of the type of offense they run but their team can be beat," he said. "We just have to play really hard against them."
Every team remaining on Oregon's schedule will play hard against them, and if the Ducks display the same casualness and entitlement they brought to their marshmallow-soft nonconference schedule, they're in for a shock.
Bet that every team on the schedule is devoting at least two practice periods to the rip-and-strip drill. Thomas and Mariota are going to get a steady diet of forearm clubs across the football until they prove they can hold on to it.
If The Black Momba makes two costly, boneheaded errors like those against Arizona, Washington, USC or Stanford, that's the clip they'll play leading up to the Heisman balloting. And Oregon will lose a game they should have won, in an agonizing fashion.
Across the country, Alabama has dominated Michigan and Arkansas this year. In their 52-0 win over the Razorbacks, they allowed just 137 yards of offense, had no turnovers, and committed 7 penalties for 74 yards. In the season opener they held Heisman trophy hopeful Denard Robinson to 27 yards on 10 carries while limiting the Wolverines to 11 first downs in a 49-14 drubbing. The Crimson Tide had only one fumble and 55 yards in penalties.
While the Ducks and their fans are busy congratulating themselves on a 3-0 record versus a Pillsbury Doughboy schedule, the Tide is dominating a Top 25 schedule with discipline and ferocity.
Oregon isn't even close to ready for that kind of competition. Right now, their record and their ranking is as airbrushed as a magazine cover.
Yeah OK you mean you need to play a lot harder than 49-0, Yes let me clarify something If the Duck's are PISSED about what happened when they should of Won their 1st Championship ever in Beating a Over matched Notre Lame, well then I believe the Top Player's will get this Team focused like 2010 Team and I will be sorry for Arizona and the rest of the League, cause there's NO WAY we lose to anyone in the PAC this year If indeed they are focused on the Task at hand. One thing's for sure when we Play Stanford in Palo Alto, there will be NO DISTRACTION's about their Coach going to the NFL like last year's Game, So what should happen is a superior Talented Duck Team should get that Win back from Stanford, but it wont be 17 to 14 this Time, more like 50 plus to 20 if they are focused for the NATTY this Year. Championship here we come. That's funny anyone can be beat on any given day if indeed the opponent is playing great, but against a more Talented Team the only way anyone in the league will beat the Duck's this year is if their not focused, but that isn't happening this Year.
Here is how I see it. Plain and simple they got bored and lost focus. The nice thing is that the mistakes were obvious, simple, and correctable. I remember DAT dropping 2 fumbles against LSU which eventually cost the Ducks any shot at the title game. But he corrected his mistakes and played great the rest of the way. I expect a much more focused team now that league play is starting. Also we will see the top players in the game deep into the 4th quarter instead of being pulled early. For this week at least expect the train to roll as Ducks defense exerts itself in the 2nd half leading the team to victory. 52-31
ps dale,, what is up with this bloguin site,, and the giant advertising thing over everysite, that makes all the sites utterly unreadable??? The giant microphone thing,, without links or even readable itself,, what is up with that company? they seem to be incompetent and unconscious, overbearing idiots form what i can see...know what i mean??
I frankly find some problem with saying the opponents, inadequate though they are, did not give their best effort. They surely did the best they could. The Ducks, on the other hand, are another story. Talent, in the proper configuration, wins out... usually. Let's hope the Ducks find their focus this week.
Dale- got a bounce back on your e-mail the last couple of times I tried to reach out to you. If you want to take part in our Heisman voting again this year then hit me up via e-mail- collegefootballzealot at gmail dot com
Yep Dale, I too, noted all of those terrible errors. Despite crushing an over matched opponent, the Ducks looked sloppy and mistake prone. I was yelling at my TV way too many times... I know it sounds like nitpicking to many, but silly errors like the Alonso non-touchdown? (How do you have a convoy of blockers that can't block ONE guy?) And DAT cruising to the end zone and giving up the ball? Fortunately that's not his norm and I think he'll learn from it. Those late hit penalties? There's a difference between aggression and stupidity. And the list goes on...
This team has so much talent, but has demonstrated that they are beatable by a team that puts up a great 60 minute effort. I hope we're not becoming anything like the Trojans and believing the hype. Go Ducks.
@WRTPDX If they adjust and ramp up their attention as you suggest, they have a good chance of winning this week and in the weeks to come. But it's tough to turn it on like that. Arizona has some impressive offensive weapons in Kadeem Carey, Matt Scott, Dan Buckner and Austin Hill. The Duck defense has to find another level.
@nyduck Not sure about the advertising thing, nyd. I'm just grateful they host me, although I wish they'd update the schedule. Kind of a kick to have national companies advertising on my little blog. Sometimes even my employer advertises here, which tickles me. Thanks for the feedback--I'll pass it along.
@morganducks MD, I'm sorry if I implied any of the early opponents didn't give their best effort. I agree with you, they tried VERY hard, and for four quarters. It was the Ducks who mailed it in for the second halves. The talent and depth differential was so great that it masked the fact that Oregon didn't really play very well in these games, in terms of their execution and discipline.
Thanks for contributing. I always appreciate your observations.
Would love to participate in the Heisman voting at cfz. Thanks for the opportunity. I'll shoot you an email. Great race this year. Favorite has to be Geno Smith, but Thomas is definitely in the hunt if he continues to produce those amazing highlights, eliminates his fumbles and the Ducks keep winning. Definitely one of the most dynamic and exciting players in college football, ever.
@goducks58 GD--talent will allow to crush the cupcakes, but the trouble is, intensity, focus and discipline aren't something you can just turn on. They are habits. Ducks have been in cruise control for three weeks, with everyone (including Sports Illustrated and the AP poll) telling them how great they are. Arizona has already knocked off Oklahoma State. Hopefully the coaches have done a good job of reinforcing the teachable moments, and egos don't take over as the team begins conference play.
I would like nothing better than to be completely wrong about their preparation and readiness.
Thank you for your many great contributions to DSH. I appreciate it very much.
well stated dale,, i agree with you both as well... the ducks are 3 yes, and fairly so, at this point, but as yous said and evryone knows, thay have not yet been tested by any significant opponent. And they are not close nor is any other team to either alabama or lsu at this point. They have only the unproven but real potential, and you and all the other knowledgeable football viewers are correct in seeing and saying that this duck team can never hope to beat the ala or lsu caliber team if they are not playing with maximum discipline, and not truning the ball over, or committing mental ad unforced errors and penalties. That is the potential achilles heel of this ducks team. Unlike injuries, which are beyond their control, the stupid mental stuff, lack of focus, and mental meltdowns are fully in their control. IF they can really eliminate that stuff as much as is possible, then they could win a national title, playing close to their best. In watching kelly teams evelove over the last years, i think that too is an area that we should expect to see consistent improvement game to game. So I am optimistic that the coaches and the team leaders will have their affect. DAT should really focus himself in that regard, since in the pros he will not get any slack or tolerance at all on that aspect. And if they think he has bad habits or needs to learn the importance of ball security then he wont get as many early oppotunities or chances on the field, and until and assuming he does develop that habit he could bust becuase of it. He should seriously be thinking about the importance of improving himself in that mental part otf the game area. I recall the LSU game where he flashed both the jeckyll and the hyde, now as a seasoned guy, he needs to step it up to make himself just that much better than he already is. The young guys like mariota and others are unseasond and untested mostly, there is no substiute for experience. I will end by adding that all of this subject is a primary reason that i think their schedule this year is as perfect as they could have asked for- it gives them the best route to grow step by step and still be able to make and overcome and learn from their mistakes. Thanks for saying it.
@Dale Newton Thanks Dale. I added you to the mailing list. I enjoyed reading your comments last year and look forward to the same this season.
@Dale Newton @goducks58 Yeah, I hope you're wrong too. I have to say though, that the first halves with the first string tended to look a lot better than the second halves with the second and third string in. I think we sufficiently dominated and performed reasonably well in the first halves. And I think you might be being a little hard on these guys. And Fresno State was not a marshmallow. Just ask Colorado.
So our first year, redshirt freshman quarterback had a couple fumbles and threw a pick into double coverage? Yeah, and? I think you might be expecting a little too much out of a very young QB. He's shown signs of greatness, but let's not forget that it's his first year and mistakes are going to be made. Alonso and Mathis both get interceptions and you're criticizing the fact that they didn't take them back for a touchdown? DAT was showboating? I'm not sure I saw that, though I agree he kind of let his guard down at the end of the run.
I don't think we've seen anything yet, certainly not full 60 minutes from our starters. I have a good feeling that this is going to be another special year of Ducks football. Kelly has never let the hype get to his team and I don't see it happening this year either.
Can we compete with Alabama? Who knows? But I have a feeling that all of us are going to get a chance to find out.
@nyduck Nyd, thank you. This team is good and has loads of talent, but they have some growing to do. We'll see how well they recognize that, and what kind of attitude and experience they develop in the coming weeks. Right now they are way behind the 2010 team in the leadership and maturity department.