EUGENE, OR - OCTOBER 29: Wide receiver Lavasier Tuinei #80 of the Oregon Ducks dives into the end zone for a touchdown in the second quarter of the game against the Washington State Cougars at Autzen Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon won the game 43-28. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Who are these Oregon Ducks?
They're still mighty explosive, and they can still turn it up on the third quarter as they always do, but the Ducks have yet to turn in a complete effort this season against conference foes. Arizona, Cal, Colorado were all blowouts, but the Ducks faded in the second half against the Wildcats before putting that one away, struggled for a half against the Golden Bears before rocking touchdown after touchdown in the second half, and ... well, the Colorado win was normal enough.
Ask any Oregon Ducks fan, and they'll tell you this team has performed a little bit worse this year compared to last year (although it'd be hard to replicate Pac-12 perfection).
As expected, the losses from last year have been difficult to replace. The young wide receivers on the outside have been hard-pressed trying to replace Jeff Maehl, the offensive line has been totally inconsistent, and the defense tends to give up a lot (The Washington State Lobsterfest had 462 yards of total offense last week). They've had overwhelming victories every other quarter or half, but game? Nothing complete yet.
Oregon has only beaten one Pac-12 team over .500. Hell, they've only beaten one Pac-12 team that's won more than one conference game--four of their five wins are against conference cellar dwellers. This is not a resume dressed to impress. Oregon has a lot more proving to do to show they can beat the best of the West.
Chip Kelly has done his best with the playmakers he has to try and make sure the team keeps rolling along, but now come the games where he shows how much he can get out of his team and how much they have to really go at it. At Washington, at Stanford, home to USC.
The first test comes against their fierce rivals to the north; The Huskies feature a potent offense that can wheel and deal with the Ducks, the Trojans have finally started upgrading their defensive personality, and the Cardinal are on the short-list for discussion of "best team in the country.". These next three games will be the toughest in-conference stretch for Kelly in his tenure, and they are a much more vulnerable squad on this go-around than the previous two.
And for the first time in eons, Oregon will have a worthy offensive counterpart on the other side. Up to this point, Oregon has yet to face an offense that can string together the points to compete with them an offensive track meet. That all changes this Saturday when they face Keith Price and the arch-rival Washington Huskies, an offense that's proven they can spread the field and utilize their talented personnel in multiple ways in Steve Sarkisian's system.
Add in the mufti-dimensional ability of Price to spread the field and you have a potential recipe for beating Oregon's offense: Keeping them off the field to establish their own thing. Ball control will be key to stopping Oregon, because the easiest way to stop an offense as potent as this one is to keep them on the bench, waiting for the next opportunity.
If that doesn't happen, we could be in for a track meet, and Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, De'Anthony Thomas and everyone else better be prepared to run over Nick Holt's defense (which is totally going to happen). But it doesn't bode well for future matchups against Stanford and USC, who do have equally potent offenses to try and keep Oregon down.
Oregon heads into November uncertain of their destiny. We'll know very soon if they're mighty once more.