BCS may frown on Ducks
Even a perfect record may not earn UO respect in formula rankings
Oregon plays Arizona State on Saturday, but excuse the Ducks for looking ahead Ñ to Monday.
The first Bowl Championship Series rankings come out Monday, and don't expect coach Mike Bellotti, his players and the team's vociferous fans to be pleased with their place in the first poll. It may not be in the top 10 Ñ one mock BCS poll had them 14th Ñ even though the Ducks probably will be 7-0 and ranked No. 6 or higher in both the media and coaches' polls.
Sound familiar? It should. The Ducks deserved to be in the national championship game last January, but the computer element of the BCS formula said the country's No. 2 team hadn't played enough quality opponents or beaten opponents badly enough.
Margin of victory has been eliminated from the BCS formula, but the computer probably will spit out what Duck followers already know: Oregon hasn't beaten anybody, except UCLA, which fell out of the AP and USA Today/ESPN polls Sunday.
Still, the 31-30 win at UCLA 'says we're legit,' linebacker David Moretti says. 'We knew we hadn't played a good team. We're not stupid. We knew the teams we had played were lighter in the butt.'
The combined record of the four other NCAA Division I teams that Oregon played: 10-16. And Mississippi State, Fresno State, Idaho and Arizona have not beaten ranked teams, which would have helped Oregon in the computer rankings. MSU plays Tennessee on Nov. 6, and the Ducks can always hope that Arizona pulls an upset in the Pacific-10 Conference.
Now is when the fact that Michigan pulled out of its scheduled home game against Oregon really stings.
Last year, one by one, the teams ranked higher than Oregon dropped until the Ducks reached No. 2 in polls conducted by humans. The Ducks know someone above them will lose Ñ Miami plays Virginia Tech on Dec. 7 Ñ and fellow unbeatens Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia all face at least one ranked team and play intense rivalry games in November.
Sure, the Ducks can make it to the national championship game, but nothing short of running the table in the Pac-10 will do. And they better hope that USC, Washington State and Washington stay ranked until Oregon faces them.
• Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti deals in reality, not fantasy.
The reality: Oregon has a 5-9 cornerback (Steven Moore) and a 5-8 cornerback (Aaron Gipson), and Pac-10 teams will try to exploit them all year.
Arizona's Bobby Wade had 12 catches for 151 yards; UCLA's Tab Perry and Craig Bragg combined for 16 catches, 356 yards and four long-yardage touchdowns.
Aliotti must play zone and/or double coverage on such wide receivers, which can be done because the Oregon defensive line controls the line of scrimmage and, combined with tackling machines Kevin Mitchell and David Moretti, the Ducks contain the run and pressure quarterbacks without much help from the safety.
The fantasy: Oregon has 6-foot-3 All-Americans at each corner, or someone packing the talent of, say, Deion Sanders.
'We have what we have, and there's no cavalry coming in,' Aliotti says. 'Who are we going to put out there, Seth McEwen?'
McEwen, a defensive end, stands 6-5.
Still, the Ducks look at all four UCLA big plays as correctable situations: Perry got behind Moore, a defensive back's no-no. And Bragg got behind Gipson on a receiver's trick pass, caught and ran for a score after safety Rasuli Webster slipped, and leaped for a Cory Paus pass after the quarterback had been chased out of the pocket.
'Explosion plays,' Bellotti says. 'Take them out, and we'd be singing their praises.'
Moretti called them lucky plays, and three Paus floaters were picked off.
'Seemed like he was throwing Hail Marys three flights up,' Moretti says. 'Throw it up and whoever catches it, catches it.'
• Check out these special teams plays: Keenan Howry's punt return for a touchdown; Haloti Ngata's blocked extra point; a stop on UCLA's fourth-down fake field goal; a kickoff return for a TD (called back because of a penalty); Jared Siegel's school-record 59-yard field goal; and Oregon's defense forcing the UCLA kicker to miss the potential game-winning field goal.
The special teams were the best, hands down, of Oregon's three phases of the game Saturday.
• Quarterback Jason Fife completed 14 of 18 passes for 202 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Not bad for his first big road game, dispelling the notion that inexperienced QBs always struggle.
'He grew in my mind,' Bellotti says. 'With Jason, pressure is not a factor. Never been a concern of mine. It's just getting him enough repetitions É for him to have a comfort zone. I have great confidence in what he'll be able to do.'