Joe: It wasn't always convenient, Brother, and we certainly had to channel our inner Neil Page and Del Griffith, respectively, but another successful Mancation is in the books. You have as much fun as I did?
Paul: Of course I did...that is, until the last day, thanks to horrific airport delays in Dayton that extended my Mancation an extra 24 hours. Apparently folks in the birthplace of aviation have forgotten how to fly planes.
Joe: A Duck has trouble flying out of a flyover state responsible for flight? That's ironic on too many levels for me to count. Of course, as an airline employee, I have very little sympathy. Translation: Welcome to my world.
Paul: At least you get a discount. I had to pay full price to get screwed. Speaking of getting screwed, how about last Sunday's BCS release? (1) Is Oregon's drop to No. 4 cause for panic?
Joe: I think it's way too early for panic, Paully. It simply tells us what we should already know: We haven't played anyone yet. Moreover, the computers aren't allowed to take into account how thoroughly we've stroked our heretofore sub-par opponents. If they did, it'd be a completely different story...obviously. We're right where we should be and right where we need to be at this point of the season, I think.
Paul: I was just baiting you. I obviously agree. If Oregon wins out, it will have beaten four top-20 teams in its final five games, including one of them twice (likely USC). That's too much for Kansas State, without a Big-12 title game, to overcome. Oregon controls its destiny; although we should all acknowledge the remaining slate is more or less a minefield.
Joe: It's the Pac-12, so...yeah. The Colorado game should be a glorified scrimmage but the rest of the games are all lose-able if we don't prepare and/or bring the appropriate intensity. Looking ahead, (2) which of those potential mines scares you the most and which the least knowing what we know right now?
Paul: Assuming we'll be playing USC in the Pac-12 title game, I'd say USC a second time in Eugene would be our toughest matchup. As last year proved (see LSU and Alabama), beating the same good team twice in one season is a tall order. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Oregon win its next five. However, if we get the Trojans in the Pac-12 title game, I don't like our chances to beat them twice. As for the least intimidating team remaining (besides Colorado)? That'd be Stanford at home. The Cardinal simply can't compete with our speed. Period.
Joe: If we beat USC once in LA, I'll be a lot less worried about them a second time around. I'll personally be very concerned about the hangover opportunity (after that first showdown) the following week in Berkeley. It's a week after our first big test of the season. It's at a stadium we haven't played well in. It's against a struggling, yet always capable team. The professional gamblers, in other words, will love catching boatloads of points for the home dog. We won't lose, probably, but we may be sweating it later than usual. Here's who won't make us sweat: the Golden Bears' cross-the-bay rivals. Yup, that's me officially agreeing with you.
Paul: Let's move on before it happens again. There are a lot of good matchups this weekend. We've got Mississippi State traveling to Tuscaloosa for an SEC showdown of undefeated teams. Florida is between the hedges at Georgia. Texas Tech is visiting Kansas State and Heisman frontrunner Collin Klein. Finally, Notre Dame is headed to Norman for a top-10 showdown with Oklahoma. (3) Which of these top-25 matchups has the most potential to impact the National Championship race and how do you think each will shake out?
Joe: It's gotta be that Notre Dame-Oklahoma matchup, no? I think the Irish are the only team capable of jumping us in an everybody-wins-out scenario due to a much better strength of schedule profile. Also, they're still Notre Dame and they haven't been this good since your handsome older bro was a freshman strolling the quad in South Bend. You think the BCS and television powers-that-be would like to see them play Bama? Here's why they won't: Oklahoma wins on Saturday. So do Bama, Florida, and K. State. Ironically, the Wildcats' decision to bow out of their home-and-home with us is why they're simultaneously in the BCS discussion and yet not really capable of leapfrogging us.
Paul: First of all, none of those games are relevant to the National Title race unless there's an upset. Oh, and there will be. Oklahoma, Alabama, and Florida will all take care of business, but I'm expecting the ol' letdown special in Little Manhattan. Texas Tech is this year's BCS-buster, and the trend will continue when they shut down the Heisman frontrunner for the second time this year. By the way, Notre Dame is going to get absolutely rolled by the Sooners, and here's why: Oklahoma's defense is as stout as any in the country. Check out the current Football Outsiders S&P+ ratings for defense. According to that very interesting and innovative stat (which jtlight has been espousing for years), the Sooners have the second-best defense in the country behind the Tide. Wanna know who's No. 3? Oregon.
Joe: Well, at least you're in pretty good company with that Tech. Not sure I agree with you two, but.... As for that, S&P+ rating? Go easy on me, Brother. I was an English Lit major and that's a helluva lotta math. Break it down for me. What does it really tell us about a Ducks defense I think we both agree is special (by Oregon standards)?
Paul: Let me put it in layman's terms. The S&P+ is the college football equivalent to baseball's OPS metric. The S, like on-base percentage, measures the efficiency or success of every play. The P, like slugging percentage, is designed to measure each play's explosiveness. Combined, you get a measure of each team's overall per-play performance, broken down by offense, defense and total. As for the +, well, that's where it gets a bit more complicated, but it essentially normalizes S&P to account for strength of schedule. Got it?
Joe: Uhhh...sure. Makes perfect sense. We're basically on a collision course with the Tide and we might just have the defense to legitimately best an SEC powerhouse this time around. That about sum it up?
Paul: More or less.
Joe: So, here's my question: Do we have the offense? No, I'm not trying to be funny or clever. I'm asking in all seriousness. (4) Can Oregon's finesse offense, based on raw speed, truly outfox an SEC defense stocked with future professionals?
Paul: Good question, and I wish I knew the answer. On one hand, we scored more on LSU in last year's opener than any team has since (27 points). On the other hand, Auburn's very average D held us to 19 just nine months prior in the 2010 Natty. I'm not sure what to parse from those two examples, but it's not comforting.
Joe: I guess until I've seen otherwise with my own two eyes, I won't be convinced our style can overcome that kind of a defense with those kinds of athletes...without resorting to some form of chicanery (which Chipper doesn't seem too apt to employ). I will say this, however: No Ducks team has been this potentially explosive or dynamic. Moreover, our defense keeps us in pretty much any game (as discussed above). Let's just say I can't wait for another opportunity. Of course, we're getting way ahead of ourselves here, as usual. (5) What do you expect to see this Saturday aside from an extremely lopsided score?
Paul: I expect to see Colorado's best shot. That might be good enough to beat an FCS school (or Washington State). Might.
Joe: Yeah, they're not very good. Hard to believe this is the same team we squared off against in the Fiesta Bowl about a decade ago. We weren't even favored in that one and now...we're laying 45+ point wood against a team that would struggle to win games in the Mountain West. Seriously struggle. I think we're not very motivated (it's a looky-loo special, after all) and we'll be ready to call off the dogs even sooner than expected. Nevertheless, how's 56-13 sound?
Joe: They're really discreet, I'm sure. HA!
Paul: Yeah, I'm ending this post now.
Joe: Smart move. See you next weekend in Tinsel Town, Brother!