As a blog staff, we generally aren't lazy people. We all have careers, even jtlight, and we work really hard to progress and maintain them. We're incredibly passionate about Duck sports, so much so that we update and moderate this blog daily, for almost nothing*. Last weekend, Utah's gigantic derpapalooza against Colorado gave us what we'd been dreaming about since September: one last Weasel Stomping Day. The Viking helmets were on. The mayonnaise was spread. The stompin' boots were laced up. Then UCLA had to go and stomp their own Weasel first. And man, did that take the fun out of the whole holiday. There is nothing less satisfying in this world than stomping a pre-stomped Weasel. It's like mashing an already-popped piece of bubble wrap, hoping there's one more unsullied morsel of happiness left. But there isn't. Instead, you're left with tactile disappointment, bound for a landfill. Yup.
*cash for beer; an imitation gold necklace, per person, per month; a $15 gift certificate to the Olive Garden; and the right to lick Spencer Hall's keyboard once a year, in the hopes that we can capture some of his blog voodoo with our taste buds.
Oregon is the better offensive team. Oregon is the better defensive team. Oregon has better special teams. Oregon has better coaches; more aptly, Oregon has employed coaches. Oregon is playing on its home field, and will have approximately 101% of the fans attending the game rooting for them. UCLA has zero road wins against FBS opponents, their lone win away from the Rose Bowl coming against Oregon State. UCLA has already applied for, and received, a waiver to play in a bowl game with the 6-7 record they will get by losing to the Ducks. In short, Oregon is good at football, and UCLA expects to lose so strongly that they didn't bother to wait five days to fire their coach. Now can you see why nobody could bring themselves to write a How We Go or How We Stop this week?
While a barely-impeded path to the Rose Bowl is fantastic for the Ducks, this has caused massive staff-wide blogger's block here at ATQ. Brains were stormed, and they were found to be cold and empty. We held an emergency ATQ think tank, and got nothing accomplished. jtlight took his pants off, wept for an hour, and put them back on, backwards. Matt Daddy, unaware of his actions after unwittingly eating an entire psychadelic mushroom quiche, built a Tanzanian-style mud hut next to the Millrace and took up residence. ntrebon went out for donuts, and never came back, sending an email thirty-six hours later that he'd "had enough of this crap". dvieira built an exact replica of Autzen Stadium out of marshmallows, dry linguini noodles, and Velveeta cheese; he then ate it. Chesterfield, The ATQ Twitter Gorilla, ate a banana and tore a phone book in half, though he does that every day. And still, the question was unsolved: how do we cover this game in a way that isn't boring as hell, or a retread of something a writer with more Twitter followers put together?
Now don't let my words lead you to believe that Chip Kelly and the Oregon team will be overlooking this game. A third consecutive Pac-5/6 title (I always simplify my fractions) is at stake, the winningest senior class in Oregon history gets one more chance to play under the Autzen lights, and the Rose Bowl is sixty strong minutes away. The Ducks will be ready. But that doesn't mean I'm pumped to talk about and analyze this game. So instead of one coherent stream of consciousness, instead it's.... a gameday hodgepodge of information!
Some players to watch tonight...
Oregon RB LaMichael James - how's the elbow? how's the other elbow? Will he return punts? 106 yards to pass Marcus Allen and move into 3rd all-time on the Pac-10 rushing list. Does he get there?
UCLA RB Johnathan Franklin - The Bruin's #1 RB needs 88 yards to reach 1000 for the second straight season. Franklin has been a relative bright spot for UCLA since rushing for over 500 yards as a freshman in 2009, and is averaging over 6 ypc this season. Shutting down the Bruin offense starts with neutralizing Franklin and forcing Kevin "4 TDs against Colorado, 4 TDs against everybody else" Prince to throw the ball toward a hungry Duck secondary.
Oregon LB Michael Clay - Yes Michael. You were snubbed from the All Pac-12 team. And it was those guys over there who snubbed you. Go knock the crap out of all of them.
Chance that Darron Thomas plays in the fourth quarter - 10%
Chance that Anthony Wallace does something that makes people think Spencer Paysinger put his old jersey on and snuck back onto the field - 15%
Chance that Rick Neuheisel burns Brett Hundley's redshirt, just to be a dick - 4%
Chance that Will Murphy catches a pass - 40%
Chance that De'Anthony Thomas makes a UCLA player look stupid - 89%
Chance that Oregon scores 50 (something the Ducks have only done four times this year, btw) - 58%
Chance that Kevin Prince throws a pick-six - 22%
Chance that pick-six will be to Cliff Harris - 0%
An Letter to an Underappreciated Duck
Dear Boseko Lokombo,
We all freaked out on Monday when the All Pac-12 teams came out, and Michael Clay wasn't on it. But there was no fanfare when the Bo Train went through the station. And that just ain't right. The Oregon defense and special teams has scored four touchdowns this season; you scored three of them, ranking you seventh on the team. You have run the ball in the endzone more times this year than Darron Thomas or Josh Huff. Oh, and thanks so much for only being a sophomore.
The most depressing thing about this game is the way Rick Neuheisel is going out. Sure, he took a mediocre Bruins program and made it even more mediocre, but firing a guy when he has a team, no matter how they got there, one win from the Rose Bowl says one thing: UCLA's higher-ups are committed to losing this game. They could have issued, publicly or not, a "win or you're out" ultimatum; they could have stayed quiet, waited for the likely outcome, then made their move. But it's clear that Daniel G. Guerrero and Co. are scared by this thought: that, if UCLA were to pull the stunner, they'd have to keep Neuheisel around another year. They want him out so bad, they won't take the chance. And that's got to be embarrassing, for the Weasel, for the University, and for the players who want to make the most of their shot, and instead are stuck on a team backed by an athletic department who has no desire to succeed, and a coach who has no reason to give a shit. It's a pretty tacky way to treat your student-athletes. Here's hoping the next Bruin head coach is a relevant hire; a good UCLA team is a good thing for the Pac-12.
The least depressing thing about this game is De'Anthony Thomas, and the fact that we have AT LEAST two more years of him on our football team.
Weighing Oregon's potential Rose Bowl opponents
Oregon-Wisconsin has more potential to be a classic.
Michigan State has the better run defense.
Sparty's best chance is to drag Oregon into a Big Ten-style game; Wisconsin has the offensive weapons to hang in a shootout.
Michigan State has the more dynamic receiver (BJ Cunningham); Wisconsin's heavy rushing attack allows for more high-reward plays in the passing game.
Michigan State's offense is comparable, stat-wise, to washington's, though MSU protects the QB better and turns it over less.
Both teams are well set up to control the ball and limit Oregon's offensive possessions, but Wisconsin's offense scores 14 more points per game.
The guy that like watching Duck wins wants to play Michigan State; The guy who likes watching great football games wants to play Wisconsin.
A Final Farewell
Happy trails, Mr. Weaselman. Take some time off, putter around the house and bother Mrs. Neuheisel until she starts asking if you'll coach again. And if you do decide to sunscreen that bald spot again, make it be at Boise State or Notre Dame. Nobody needs their program wrapped around a telephone pole and set on fire more than those two.
Don’t forget to show support for your favorite coach by voting him as the 2011 Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year at www.coachoftheyear.com