Monday, October 1, 2012
Will Ducks record style points vs. Huskies?
By Ted Miller
Be prepared. Oregon coach Chip Kelly won't talk big picture this week. He won't talk about national perception or the beauty contest that college football is. A reporter will note to him that Oregon has beaten Washington eight consecutive times by at least 17 points, and he'll shrug.
(I bet inside he'll go, "Sweeeeet!" but outside, he'll shrug).
And he'll be right. Oregon has done a pretty good job under Kelly -- to the tune of 39-6 over three-plus seasons -- focusing on the present moment rather than looking ahead or back.
A convincing win over Washington could go a long way in helping Chip Kelly and Oregon earn a spot in the BCS title game.
While it's perfectly reasonable for civilians to wring their hands over how a victory looked, as Oregon fans have over the first-half sloppiness against Washington State, Kelly's Ducks have a pretty simple formula ahead of them. If they win all of their games -- pretty or not -- the odds are extremely high they will play for the national championship. Again.
So, let's note in advance that the Ducks don't really need style points against Washington on Saturday in Autzen Stadium. They don't need to ring up a ninth consecutive blowout over that team in purple whom Ducks fans regard with such loving warmth. They don't need to match the domination of LSU's 41-3 beatdown of the Huskies a couple of weeks ago in Baton Rouge.
But it certainly wouldn't hurt.
A dominant win would further cement the national perception of the Ducks as the nation's No. 2 team behind Alabama. Perception, as you know in this, our penultimate year yoked by the BCS system, matters. A tight game going into the fourth quarter might cause some voters to reconsider Florida State, LSU, Georgia or a Big 12 front-runner.
In the event of there being three or more unbeaten teams at season's end, then perception takes over. And don't forget those fickle computers.
The Ducks are 24-point favorites. So the expectation has been set high for an impressive win. Falling short of expectations could have short-term consequences that, potentially, could resonate negatively throughout the regular season.
Of course, the Huskies aren't looking to be a doormat that Oregon can decorate with footprints. They're nationally ranked and feeling pretty rejuvenated after beating then-No. 8 Stanford, a game for which few -- yes, both of your humble Pac-12 bloggers -- expected them to be terribly competitive.
You might recall Oregon's worst offensive performance under Kelly was his first game as the Ducks' head coach, in 2009 at Boise State. In a 19-8 defeat best remembered for LeGarrette Blount's meltdown, the Ducks gained just 152 total yards and six first downs and were 1-for-10 on third-down plays. Suffice it to say, it provided no hints of the offensive pyrotechnics that were ahead for the program.
The Broncos' defensive coordinator on Sept. 3, 2009? That would be Justin Wilcox, who is now running the Huskies' defense.
That has Washington fans crossing their fingers that they can slow the Ducks' offense enough to give QB Keith Price and company a puncher's chance.
Kelly will shrug about Wilcox, too. He'll graciously praise him as a defensive coach. He'll claim the Boise State game holds no sway over his present thinking. He'll talk only about what he and the Ducks can control: their preparation, their attitude and their effort. Hey, it's not personal -- it's business.
But here's a little secret: Kelly is not a robot. He hasn't completely cleansed himself of the emotions -- personalized emotions -- that attach themselves to competitive people. Just as he's well aware that his fans relish the recent domination of Washington probably as much as three consecutive Pac-12 titles, he's also well aware that scoring 50 on Saturday against Wilcox would feel pretty good.
I suspect he'd like to score 50 more than he typically would. (Editor's note: As some of you have noted, he did get 48 against Wilcox when the Ducks visited Tennessee in 2010).
At the very least, doing so would eliminate an annoying angle a reporter can ask him about or write about.