by Steve Tannen, special to DuckTerritory. Tannen is the host of Crunchtime and SportsTalk, which airs weekdays from 3-6 p.m. on 95.3 "The Score" Radio in Eugene. He can be found on Twitter @Sportstalk953.
Legendary rock promoter Bill Graham once said of the Grateful Dead, "They're not the best at what they do, they're the only ones who do what they do!" For me that's the 2012 Duck footballers. Who does what they do? Colt Lyerla and Bryan Bennett combine for a tandem touchdown versus Arizona. A few weeks later, Bennett -- the backup quarterback -- finds trouble then finds the starting quarterback, Marcus Mariota, for a score versus Arizona State. They've put the game out of reach in the middle of the second quarter twice! Oregon's superstar skill players on both sides of the ball act as their special teams demons. They haven't broken the mold, it's been disintigrated! Help me out here. Prior to this year, I'd never seen the refs jump in after a touchdown and call for a review of the play before. With the Ducks it's happened twice because the knucklehead officials can't keep up with their pace. Again, who does this?
I know some have expressed frustration over the BCS rankings. Take a moment. Breathe. Now get over it. Here's my theory. A majority would favor the Ducks over Florida or Kansas State but you can not vote on hypotheticals. Any responsible media member must base their analysis on what has transpired to date. Oregon has played an incredible cupcake of a schedule. The four conference teams they've taken out are either awful or clawing their way towards mediocrity. Kansas State's victory over Oklahoma is the dealbreaker in that comparison. The Gators have a trio of more impressive victories. It doesn't matter. The SEC situation will sort itself out and the Wildcats have some difficult tests remaining. Oregon just needs to win their games. Plain and simple. You might notice too that I'm ignoring Notre Dame. From my chair they have no chance of running the table with that offense. You can hold me to this if you desire.
I wish I'd kept records over the decade and a half plus of doing my SportsTalk show. I'm talking names, numbers and addresses. I'd be at the door of many of you with a subpoena. The only acceptable act would be either a written or audio apology for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. You know who you are. The ignorant claims he kept the gig because of his friendship with Mike Bellotti. The calls for his head even during championship caliber seasons. I hope you feel embarassed. And since we're calling out a pocket of fans, those who cried for Bennett over Darron Thomas last year must also be scolded. Anyway, Nick has created something special. This "D" is not only deep, talented and skilled, but sharp. Exhibit A: 3rd and 2 for ASU on their own 25. Boseko Lokombo makes a perfect read of Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly, covers the outside flat, and picks it off. Exhibit B: Sun Devils on the ropes. 3rd and 9, trailing 29-7 early in the second quarter. The Oregon defense has flooded the right side of the Arizona State offense. Michael Clay, who returned from injury, rushes near the line from middle linebacker, barks out signals, they adjust and shift into various gaps, Kelly has nothing and throws incomplete. Exhibit C: 3rd and 9, Kelly is rolling out but is spied by Dion Jordan. Rather than just rush upfield after the passer, Jordan hangs, covers the short route, and forces a scramble well short of the first down. These are examples of great coaching, patience and football smarts. We must also acknowledge the value of having Clay back out there. With John Boyett already done for the season, no one is more critical than Michael. He's the leader and triggerman of that unit. Speaking of Duck safeties, how about Avery Patterson with an interception for a third consecutive game? The first two were pick sixes, so the interception he took all the way down to the Sun Devil 1 yard line rates as a pick 5.9 right?? This defense also seems to take an extraordinary amount of pride in locking things down in their red zone. I'm not big on national rankings because numbers can be deceptive. They lead America in red zone defense, allowing scores just 52% of the time. The 21st best team in the country, meaning a better ratio than 98 of the 119 Division I/FBS teams allows points just over 70% of the time. That is off the charts! It defines rising to the occasion.
The offense ain't half bad either. Of the backs who play in BCS leagues, I think Kenjon Barner takes a back seat to no one and that includes Montee Ball of Wisconsin. Ball has about 100 more yards, but also 64 more carries. I still say he has a shot to get an invite to New York City for the Heisman ceremony. As the spotlight begins to shine on those in the national championship picture, opportunity will knock if he continues to produce. Playing with LaMichael James and the spectacular De'Anthony Thomas, it's easy to forget how special Barner is and the fact he's a flat out burner as well.
Quick thought on Marcus Mariota. He's terrific. The touch throw to Bralon Addison for the second touchdown of the game was another example of his seemingly endless repertoire. I feel the next step in his progress and evolution as an elite college quarterback is developing an affection for the football. I've mentioned this before, but when the Ducks have posession they have an advantage because of their top notch firepower. He's getting there but must perfect the art of living to play another down.
So with a sacrifical Buffalo headed for Eugene, we will soon be talking about a trip to Troy that has been a focal point of many since the schedule was released. Assuming Southern Cal doesn't slip up in Tucson, it will be the most substantial proving ground of the year that even those annoying BCS computers can't ignore.
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