Otto Greule Jr - Getty Images
Two brothers debate the latest topics around college sports and the Ducks. This week's agenda: Oregon's arch rivals.
Everyone has a nemesis. Mine just happens to be my older brother. But our incessant bickering has led to many an entertaining discussion through the years. And because much of these debates have centered on college sports, it seems only appropriate we take them to the blogosphere to settle them once and for all. Here's your weekly fraternal debate affectionately known as Brother v. Brother.
GrumpyJDH: Another week, another second-half burial. We'll certainly take it, Brother, but I can't help but be concerned by the first-half struggles. Just seems like we're flirting with potential disaster. Gonna go out on a limb here and assume you disagree?
PaulSF: Me? Disagree? No way! Listen, it's not that I don't have some concerns, but they're minor. I get it: Our offensive line looks out of sync, Mariota's been inconsistent, and we really don't have a standout wide receiver (unless you're counting De'Anthony Thomas). On the bright side, we still don't play anyone until Nov. 3, which will end up giving us more than half a season to fine-tune, well, everything. Assuming you don't trust Chip Kelly's team to run the table between now and that circled date with USC, (1) who's realistically capable of beating us?
GrumpyJDH: Uh, anyone? Not even slightly joking. Yes, I think we're still in for a special—and maybe very special—season. And yes, I think we absolutely will be undefeated going into that game at the Coliseum. Nevertheless, it's a brave new world in college football, Paully. The days of guaranteed Ws went the way of unlimited scholarships. Parity is the new normal and there isn't a team left on the Ducks' schedule, other than Colorado, incapable of giving them some trouble. If we don't iron things out, somebody's gonna get us...somebody other than USC.
PaulSF: But here's why I think we walk through our next three unscathed: our defense. In any other season, I'd be worried because in the past, an Oregon season only went so far as its offense could take it. But that's no longer the case. I doubt anyone scores more than 30 on us this year, outside of maybe USC. And when was the last time a Chip Kelly-run offense didn't score at least 30? Try the season-opening loss to LSU last year, when the Ducks fell just short with 27. (By the way, no team besides Oregon has scored more than 22 on LSU since...including Alabama twice.) So yeah, I'm still not worried. If we play like we did in the first half last Saturday for an entire game, I might worry. Might.
GrumpyJDH: I think this is where the age difference between us really shows. I grew up watching modern Ducks 1.0 (aka, the Rich Brooks Era) and was a super senior in Eugene when that era reached its apotheosis. Though it ended on a high note, it left lots of scars and a deep-seated doubt I still can't completely shake. You, on the other hand, hit the scene during Ducks 2.0 (the Bellotti years) so you're used to success. Now, of course, there are kids (literally) who know nothing but Ducks 3.0 (Chipper) and they, naturally, think we've always been a top-5 team. I hope that never changes...but I've been around long enough to know it probably will. By the way, the best part of that Brooks-led Rose Bowl squad was Nick Aliotti's Gang Green, lending credence to your faith in a stalwart D winning the day until the O can catch up.
PaulSF: Did you really just pull an Old Man River on me? "Back in my day..." HA! That's absolutely priceless. Speaking of Old Man River, tell me Pop didn't really claim he was a Beaver fan last weekend. Even if he did, he's apparently not alone. Which begs the question: (2) Is Oregon State legit?
GrumpyJDH: In a word? Probably. Riley's boys were really green last year and took their lumps. The experience they gained seems to have proven invaluable, however. And, yes, I realize this is basically the same argument you've been making about our own relatively youthful squad. I don't think any team in the country can boast of three better victories to start the season than the Beavs. If they're 5-0 in a couple weeks after securing a win in Provo against a rugged BYU group, look out. It'll be great for the state, which, in Pop's defense, is what he most likely meant by that ridiculous comment.
PaulSF: Meanwhile, I'm not drinking the Beaver Juice, and here's why: OSU's success in the early going is really a result of having four returning starters on the offensive line. As we've have discussed many times before, experience on the O-line is crucial, especially during the first half of the season. My guess is that advantage will diminish over the course of the season, and the Beavs will eventually come back down to Earth and find themselves in the middle of the Pac. Are they a bowl team? Probably. But are they contending for the North title? Absolutely not. Enjoy your resurgence for now, Beavs. It'll make the Ducks' fifth-straight Civil War beat-down on Nov. 24 that much sweeter. Speaking of rivalry winning streaks, Happy I Hate Washington Week!
GrumpyJDH: Hey, remember that time Husky fans stormed the field after they beat Stanford? Stormed the field. Stanford. Wow. Unfortunately, the Dawgs may have caused (requires ESPN Insider subscription) us some collateral damage with that upset. (3) Do you buy that a Stanford loss (on the heels of a win over SC) significantly impacts the Ducks' title hopes?
PaulSF: I wouldn't say significantly, but it seemingly puts a lot more pressure on Oregon to beat USC...twice. It's the ol' transitive property of college football at work here. The Dawgs got absolutely crushed by LSU in Baton Rouge, and since UW beat Stanford who beat USC, LSU must therefore be better than USC. Logical? No. But the BCS is inherently political, and when it comes to politics, Southerners don't really deal in logic.
GrumpyJDH: Nor, apparently, do pollsters when it comes to Southern football. Five of the current top 10 teams—and four of the top six—hail from the SEC, a ratio that's held pretty steady since the preseason. Yes, the SEC is the gold standard, but...seriously? Bama's for real, obviously, and so, most likely, is LSU. I have my doubts, however, about South Carolina, Florida, and (especially) Georgia. I called the Bulldogs the most overrated team prior to the season and it appears I'm not the only one (requires ESPN Insider subscription) who thinks that. Bottom line? There's only one BCS slot up for grabs (maybe) and the Ducks aren't getting it unless, at the very least, they run the table.
PaulSF: I'll give the SEC credit where it's due: The fans down there are dedicated. No, but seriously. HA! Anyway, that's enough SEC talk. Let's shift gears and check in on postseason superlatives. (4) Who's the frontrunner for the Heisman right now, and who else should be in the conversation?
GrumpyJDH: Uh, you watched that Baylor-West Virginia game, right? I'll grant that Baylor's defense is college football's equivalent of the Washington Generals, but...eight touchdowns? 656 yards? 45 of 51??? There are QBs at this level who couldn't hit 45 out of 51 receivers in a seven-on-seven drill. That's impressive, gaudy, impressively gaudy, whatever you wanna call it. He's your frontrunner and I'm not sure who else is close.
PaulSF: Apparently Geno Smith is such an obvious choice you didn't think it was necessary to mention him by name.
GrumpyJDH: HA! Yeah. Him.
PaulSF: There's still a lot of football left to be played, but if Smith keeps putting up Madden-esque numbers, it won't even matter if West Virginia drops half its remaining games. In the meantime, we'll learn a lot more over the next three weekends when WVU travels to No. 11 Texas and Texas Tech, then hosts Kansas State, who boasts a decent Heisman prospect of its own in Collin Klein. By the way, Texas Tech is currently leading the country in both pass defense and pass efficiency defense. Yes, I said defense. Apparently there's been a priority shift in Lubbock since Mike Leach's departure.
GrumpyJDH: Slightly, yes. Just goes to show how much a coach can change the face of a program...and in a hurry. Speaking of which, it's probably time to talk Dawgs, no? Sarkisian has certainly righted that potential shipwreck in Seattle in pretty short order. Moreover, the addition of former Duck, Justin Wilcox, as defensive coordinator has further hastened U-Dub's return to relevancy. (5) What type of challenge do the hated Huskies offer this Saturday night?
PaulSF: Not so fast, my friend. The Huskies have certainly improved, especially defensively, but I'm not at all convinced they're a top-half Pac-12 team, even after the Stanford upset. Sark has done a decent job putting the program back on the right track, but rebuilding projects take time. However, it is a rivalry game, so I guess anything's possible. I think the Huskies hang around for a half, and maybe even the better part of three quarters. But the Ducks are better conditioned, deeper, and more talented at virtually every position, so it's going to take a lot of Oregon mistakes to prevent the Ducks from running away (literally) with a win.
GrumpyJDH: Yeah, I'm gonna agree with you there. If we turn the ball over a bunch and commit a bunch of penalties, it could be interesting...but not forever. The gas pedal will be mashed at some point and I sincerely doubt the Dawgs can keep up. They possess some very talented skill players (Keith Price, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Kasen Williams, primarily) but they're below average along the lines and I suspect that will show as the game wears on. In fact, I think the biggest mismatch of the evening will be the Ducks defensive line against Washington's patchwork front five. Expect a lot of hurried throws by Price in the second half and probably some critical mistakes as we pull away. I'm gonna say 48-24.
PaulSF: I, too, think we'll win by more than 20. We've rattled off eight straight against the Dawgs winning by an average of 24 points during that span. My gut tells me the annual grudge match will be closer in coming years, so I think this might be our last chance to truly huck the fuskies for a while. Ducks 60, Puppies 21.
GrumpyJDH: No matter what the future of this rivalry holds, we've certainly lived through the best part of it, over 3,000 days of pure, unadulterated Ducks domination. Your niece was brand new the last time the Huskies got us and now she's practically wearing deodorant. Time flies when you're having fun, eh?
PaulSF: It certainly does, Big Bro. And in this case, the more fun we have, the opposite is true for the Husky faithful. That inverse relationship is precisely what has made this rivalry so enjoyable for Ducks fans the past eight years. Here's to Year Nine.
GrumpyJDH: Amen, Brother. And GO DUCKS!