Oregon, Oregon State source of pride
In the Blechers with BillyBoth Oregon Pac-12 football programs, the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers, are a combined 6-0 to start the season. To me, that's astonishing.
Guess which team I thought would stumble out of the gate? I'll give you a hint - not the team from Eugene.
With one week of September left, an Oregon State program that has habitually started slowly has knocked off two ranked opponents, Wisconsin and UCLA, and has done it with an ironclad defense against the run.
Will this be the year the heralded young quarterback, sophomore Sean Mannion, along with what seems to be a brick wall for a run defense, brings the Beavers back from the doldrums of the Pac-12 North division and makes them a conference contender?
The answer is sort of. In the division, at least.
After the Beavs shook UCLA 27-20 on Saturday, they passed the entrance exam into the discussion about a possible division title. Before the season, with head coach Mike Riley's job being called into question and what was the nation's longest training camp after the postponement of the Nicholls State "game," most people (except for crazy, irrational fans) had already wrote OSU off.
That was until they bottled up two of the nation's best running backs, Wisconsin's Montee Ball and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin, in consecutive weeks.
As they say, the game isn't played on paper.
The Beavers are more than just a one-trick pony. They are more than just a defense. With Mannion comes a talented receiving corps led by Brandin Cooks and Markus Wheaton, along with - from my estimation - a guy that's just waiting to burst on to the scene in running back Storm Woods.
There's also an offensive line that is exceeding expectations, but how far can the Beavs go with what seems to be overachieving?
Next week against Arizona will be a benchmark, but the tail-end of the season is going to be brutal.
Starting Oct. 27, Oregon State will go to Seattle to play the University of Washington, host Arizona State, go to Stanford and host California before the Civil War, also at Reser Stadium.
They have a tough nonconference opponent, Brigham Young, thrown in between games against Washington State and Utah (ones the Beavs must, and should, win) to help prepare for a stretch run that is as tough as any in the nation.
Oregon State is a three-point underdog to Arizona this week. I don't buy that for a second. I like the Beavers in this one because they've already proven they can win on the road.
If the Beavers end up in the Pac-12 championship game, scheduled for Nov. 30, they will forego the Dec. 1 reschedule with Nicholls State. I think the Beavs will end up playing that game, though.
The Beavs are a bowl team, there's no doubt, just not a BCS bowl team. After last year's 3-9 mark, I think even the Las Vegas Bowl would be acceptable, but I see them as potentially a Holiday Bowl team.
At any rate, I've been impressed with Oregon State. Whether or not they keep it going is yet to be seen.
While the Ducks get torn apart for playing a weak nonconference schedule, which Kansas State would have bolstered had they not backed out of the game two years ago, they are still the best football team around these parts, top to bottom, this year.
Oregon shut out Arizona, 49-0, on Saturday. It was the first time the Ducks' defense put a goose egg on the board against a conference opponent since 2003. I was a senior in high school that fall. It's been awhile, needless to say, since then.
Oregon's offense gets the limelight, glamour and puts fans in the seats, and I think they will continue to put up silly numbers when they have the ball. While it didn't look pretty at times against Arizona, the Ducks had nearly 500 yards of total offense and scored 35 points (the defense scored twice). Both totals usually equate to a win in NCAA Division I football, but the "eye" test wasn't quite as favorable to many people around college football.
Louisiana State's struggle with Auburn, coupled with the spanking the Ducks put on Arizona, was enough to push Oregon to what is, right now, a meaningless No. 2 ranking in the Associated Press poll.
And for the sake of the BCS, which is still in use this season, the Ducks are also No. 2 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, and that will have a hand in deciding who plays in the National Championship game when the time comes. But that time isn't now.
Saturday was the first time Oregon was tested against a team that actually had a plan to play with them. Arkansas State, although a bowl team last year, didn't expect to hang with them. Neither did Fresno State nor Tennessee Tech (in fact, the only reason Tech played the Ducks is because Montana State talked them into it so they wouldn't have to).
Arizona, however, had all intentions of trying to stick with Oregon's light-speed offense and did - sometimes. With players like De'Anthony Thomas and Colt Lyerla, Oregon just overwhelmed Arizona's defense. Conversely, Oregon's defense overwhelmed Arizona's offense to an even larger degree, despite the Wildcats'atrocious red-zone play.
The first two games in October, with Washington at home and in Tempe against Arizona State, will be interesting and will be a good gauge as to where the Ducks are at improvement-wise.
The trip to the Coliseum in Los Angeles, to take on Matt Barkley and the USC Trojans on Nov. 3, is going to be one for the ages if USC coach Lane Kiffin can get it together on offense.
Oregon always plays bad when it travels to Berkeley, so even though the Bears aren't the team they once were, Nov. 10 should be of lukewarm interest to the rest of the Pac-12.
So what does all this mean?
As far as end of season results, not much. There is still plenty of football to be played. But as a football fan in Oregon, it's refreshing to see both teams playing well, and I'm going to enjoy watching undefeated teams for as long as I can.