Everyone has an arch nemesis. Mine just happens to be my older brother. But our mutual hatred (okay, maybe that's an exaggeration) has led to many an entertaining discussion through the years. And because much of the debate has centered on college sports, it seems only appropriate we take these debates to the blogosphere to settle them once and for all. (I mean, who wouldn't want public affirmation that Big Bro's always wrong and I'm always right?) Here's your weekly ATQ Blogger Debate, affectionately known as Sh*t My Brother Says.
PaulSF: Last week, you insisted on kicking things off. And then we nearly crapped the bed in Berkeley. Not that I'm superstitious or anything, but I think I'll be doing the honors this week.
GrumpyJDH: Yeah, I'm pretty okay with that. Yikes! Appreciate you putting us up, by the way. Just wish the Golden Bears had been slightly more hospitable. Who'd have thought "couch-surf in the Haight" would trump "road game at Memorial Stadium" on the hospitality meter?
PaulSF: Are you that surprised? It's not like Berserkley's been all that good to us the past decade. Saturday's win was our first at Cal since 2001, and the only time we've beaten Tedford in Strawberry Canyon. I wonder if it has anything to do with the condition of that stadium. Next year's renovation really couldn't come soon enough, huh?
GrumpyJDH: Especially if you're a woman, apparently. Newsflash: 6-year-old girls need to use the restroom every once in a while...and their football-crazy fathers don't appreciate having to hike 20 sections over to take them. Seems like the "Crown Jewel" of the UC system could manage something a tad more modern for its gridders, especially a group that plays really inspired ball every once in a while. Speaking of which, (1) did those really inspired Bear defenders just draft the blueprint for future Duck opponents?
PaulSF: Didn't we hear that after the Arizona State game? And at halftime of the Washington game? The pundits seem poised to pounce every time Oregon's warp-speed offense punts a few times, only to eat their words as we unload again a week (or a quarter) later. The explanation for Saturday's offensive struggles is a lot simpler than you think. Want a foolproof defensive strategy for stopping any offense at any level? Control the line of scrimmage. The Bears, who had the 12th-ranked defense in the country before Saturday's impressive performance (they're ranked 10th now), did exactly that. Of course, this might have had something to do with their success too.
GrumpyJDH: Yeah, uh...seriously? How embarrassing. It's not like they needed to resort to such bush tactics, either. The defensive game plan was simple, yet elegant: put your best athletes (Cameron Jordan, Mike Mohamed, and Chris Conte) in space and let them make plays (which they repeatedly did). I'm sure future opponents will mimic the scheme, but I'm not certain to what effect. Consider Coach Kelly skeptical, as well. When asked if Cal had solved the riddle of his so-called "blur" offense, he shot back: "We've got too many weapons and we'll find a way to get something done." Ha! Clearly, the SEC hasn't cornered the market on self-confident ball coaches. Have I mentioned lately how much I love Chip Kelly?
PaulSF: Only about a thousand times. But Kelly's right. Sure, Cal was able to bottle up our offense in a way we certainly aren't used to, but if we'd needed to score to win that game on the final drive, I've no doubt we would have. Championship-caliber teams are opportunistic and do whatever it takes to come out on top. On the final drive, we simply found a way to "get something done." And by "get something done," I mean, "win."
GrumpyJDH: Can't disagree there. That drive was eerily similar to the clock-consuming game-clincher we ground out at the Coliseum a couple weeks ago. Only this time, it was against a defense that had pretty much held us in check for 50 minutes.
PaulSF: Apparently your memory is fading, old man. How about the epic drive to clinch a Rose Bowl berth in last year's Civil War? You know, the one when the Ducks held on to a 4-point lead, converting two huge fourth downs to run out the final six minutes. Does that even ring a bell?
GrumpyJDH: Paul, I can barely remember what I had for lunch most days. I only remember it usually puts me to sleep. Speaking of sleep and our Civil War opponents, what the...? If a wire-to-wire snooze was the Beavs' gameplan against the Cougs, it certainly was effective. Or, (2) have the Cougs, the utterly hapless and completely hopeless Washington State Cougars, finally turned the corner?
PaulSF: If winning your first conference game in two seasons (and only your second since 2007) is considered turning the corner, then yes. Most people seem to be focusing more on Wazzu's big win, though. What about the state of the Beavers right now? Losing to the upstart Cougars might be defensible under certain circumstances, but by 17 and at home aren't those circumstances. Especially for a program that's notorious for getting stronger as the year goes on. The Beavs have now lost three of their last four and are in jeopardy of missing the postseason for only the second time during Mike Riley's second stint as head coach. And with three games remaining against USC, Stanford and the Ducks, it seems pretty unlikely they'll get there.
Of course, I shouldn't pile on. The basketball season is right around the corner, after all, and I don't want to be your typical Beaver fan who picks and chooses. "How many national baseball championships does Oregon have?" But maybe we won't need to. We're 3-0! Six more wins and the Ducks will beat your projection. (3) Is the Oregon hoops squad going to be better than we thought?
GrumpyJDH: If by better, you mean likely to hit the over on Big Bro's win total projection...yeah, I think they might be. Joevan Catron is clearly a gifted scorer (even if you have a better vertical leap), and they've got some solid role players (local products E.J. Singler and Garrett Sim), the backbone of any contending team. That said, I'd still argue we'll be lucky to win more than a handful of Pac-10 games. There's little depth and no size whatsoever. That's a bad combination in college hoops. I'm taking these three come-from-behind wins against atrocious competition (at home, no less) with a grain of salt.
PaulSF: That's probably fair. One thing has become strikingly clear in their first three games: The days of draining threes are long gone. The Ducks shot an abysmal 18.2% and 26.1% from beyond the arc against Denver and UC Santa Barbara, respectively. Compare that to Ernie Kent's teams that shot 37.6% since 2001, and it appears things are going to be a little different under new coach Dana Altman. Maybe Altman should consult Oregon women's hoops coach and well-renowned run-and-gun architect Paul Westhead. Speaking of, (4) why aren't people comparing Chip Kelly and Westhead? Their respective philosophies are strikingly similar; score points in bunches, and quickly.
GrumpyJDH: You mean people besides me, right? I dropped a somewhat oblique Westhead reference several weeks back, but you didn't bite. I'd say the time is definitely ripe for a national columnist (read: someone smarter-sounding than me or you) to dive into the parallels, especially considering they both coach at our fine institution. The philosophies are strikingly similar, as you mention: well-conditioned athletes + frenetic tempo + seemingly rope-a-dope defense = wins. The trick is (as Kelly himself pointed out over a year ago)...you really do play defense. Plenty of it. And if the national pundits aren't buying yet, it's time for them to read this. By the way, if you ever have a chance to catch a classic replay of Loyola-Marymount's win over Michigan in the 1990 tourney, drop what you're doing and watch it. I still consider it the apotheosis of run-and-gun basketball 20 years later.
PaulSF: I was 8 in 1990. How old were you?
GrumpyJDH: No comment.
PaulSF: I've actually never seen a single Oregon women's basketball game, but I will definitely be watching them this year, and that's absolutely because of Coach Westhead. Speaking of coaches, the college football coaching carousel has begun, and former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti is in the middle of the discussion. (5) Do you think he's serious about taking this Colorado job (or another job for that matter)? The more I think about it, the less I like the idea of him coaching anywhere other than Oregon, especially if he grows back the 'stache.
GrumpyJDH: Nevertheless, he's made it very clear he wants back on the sidelines. I just think he'd be making a big mistake by settling for the Colorado job. They lack elite facilities and, as Ted Miller pointed out in a recent mailbag, a commitment to becoming an elite program in general. Not sure I'd wanna take over what could very well be the Pac-12's worst program come 2011. And no, I haven't forgotten they still play football in Pullman. A better fit would be Arizona State if, as some have predicted, the Sun Devils cut bait with Dennis Erickson.
PaulSF: ASU would most certainly be worse. I think Bellotti will ultimately take another year off. But who knows? If the right offer came along, he'd probably take it.
Anyway, since there's no Ducks game this weekend, let's make predictions on the three Pac-10 games (one of which is tonight).
GrumpyJDH: I'm gonna drink the Jake Locker Kool-Aid one last time and assume he gets it done against a supremely unpredictable UCLA crew. Cal suffers an Oregon hangover and gets nipped by a great Stanford team. SC trucks the reeling Beavs in Corvallis...even if it rains. In other words, Dawgs -2, Cal +7, and SC -3.
PaulSF: Sound logic, and I'm with you on Stanford and the Trojans. However, I spit out that Kool-Aid months ago. UCLA rolls tonight.
Another week, another successful debate...which I won...again. Can't wait for the fat jokes next week before Turkey Day.