Will Bryan Bennett win the starting quarterback job out of camp, or will the gig go to redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota?
Everyone has an arch 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.
PaulSF: Oh hai brother! Any guess on when we last publicly aired our familial laundry?
GrumpyJDH: Is this a trick question? Pretty sure we got into it during our most recent Catan session. Or maybe you're asking when we last talked about our favorite subject, Ducks football, in a public forum. I don't know. A year?
PaulSF: Try a year and a half. Our last post was wholly dedicated to the 2011 National Championship. That's how long it's been. Seems that soul-crushing Natty loss might have induced the worst case of writer's block since The Sports Guy left the Hype Machine to write for Kimmel.
GrumpyJDH: Ouch. Have we become fair-weather bloggers? Or maybe we're just really lazy.
GrumpyJDH: Yeah, might be time to retire that last one. Ick. (1) What's your take on the whole debacle in (Not-So-)Happy Valley?
PaulSF: I think I forfeited my right to have an opinion regarding Penn State as I actually thought JoePa was the victim of a witch-hunt at first. Turns out I could not have been more wrong. Bottom line: This issue goes far deeper than what happened in State College. As the axiom goes, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not sure there's a better example in sports than what's happened at Penn State.
GrumpyJDH: Just goes to show what happens when a community loses its collective perspective. Those kids deserved better. As for the football program, I think it absolutely got what it deserved. Oh, and it just ceased being relevant forever. Speaking of corruption, albeit on a much smaller and much less creepy scale, remember that time the NCAA investigated the Ducks regarding the allegedly improper use of street agent Willie Lyles? Talk about a story that just kinda disappeared. That is, until Twitter caught fire last week with rumors of heavy sanctions. (2) Where do you think this case is headed, if anywhere? More importantly, when is it gonna get there?
PaulSF: Well, those rumors certainly didn't put me at ease. But it sounds like the local ESPN "reporter" was passing off message board fodder as fact. Isn't that our job? Anyway, I'll reserve judgment until the actual decision is handed down, which could happen during the upcoming season. I'm just wondering what's taking so damned long.
GrumpyJDH: Not that anyone asked me, but I think it would be exceedingly unfair of the NCAA to make an in-season announcement of penalties. If you get bad news after the season, you can at least recalibrate expectations and regain some momentum heading into the following campaign. Plus, these particular findings were announced in late FEBRUARY. C'mon, guys! Granted, the NCAA clearly isn't in black-and-white territory here. This case is all about the gray and it appears our boys, if they're guilty of anything, exploited some serious gaps in the NCAA rulebook. Maybe a murky case like this just takes more time to resolve.
PaulSF: Maybe. But whatever the resolution, let's hope it's on the less severe end of things. Anyway, this is depressing. Can we talk about football now?
GrumpyJDH: I thought you'd never ask, Little Bro! Let's get right to the offseason's hottest debate. (3) Who do you like in the Ducks' QB derby? I nabbed Marcus Mariota in the middle rounds of my college fantasy draft, so...you can probably tell whom I'm leaning toward.
PaulSF: I like them both...a lot. Mariota's got a better wing, but I still like Bryan Bennett in the ground game. A lack of experience at receiver and questionable depth at running back could force Chip to go with the better runner to round out the ground game. That's not to say Mariota can't run (see: Spring Game 2012), but Bennett's still got the quicker first step and is more dangerous on foot. Is it possible Chip goes to a two-headed QB? I mean, the Jets are making headlines for the move (and I mean literally every headline). Who's to say Chip isn't leaning toward something similar?
GrumpyJDH: Me. I could see it if they were starkly contrasting talents like Sanchez and Tebow, but both QBs bring similar skills to the position and almost identical bodies (one inch and three pounds separate them). Typically, the choice to platoon is a tactical one, so you can confuse defenses with vastly different looks. The Ducks have just one look and nothing I've seen in Chip's three seasons makes me think they're working on another. It's winner-take-all, Brother, and though both guys fit the system, I think Mariota has more upside and an athletic arrogance under center we haven't seen since Dennis Dixon.
PaulSF: Regardless, whomever Chip goes with will be the right choice.
GrumpyJDH: In Chipper we trust.
PaulSF: Amen, Brother. Anyway, let's talk about that ground game and the dynamic duo of Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas. As excited as I am about these two, I have one burning question: Can they adequately replace LaMike? Based on talent alone, there's no doubt. But few realize how much of a workhorse James actually was. In the past two seasons, he averaged 270 carries per year. In fact, only two running backs in the country averaged more carries per game in that span (Bobby Rainey of Western Kentucky and Lance Dunbar from North Texas). Barner, on the other hand, has never carried the ball more than 152 times in a season. Something (or someone) has to give. Between Barner, DAT, Bennett or Mariota and a stable of inexperienced backups, (4) do the Ducks have enough backfield depth to carry the load in James' stead?
GrumpyJDH: Guess we'll find out, huh? Kenjon certainly has the build to handle that type of burden but the same cannot be said of Mamba. He probably needs to be limited to 10 carries a game. Frankly, I'd feel more comfortable if he received no more than 15 touches per tilt. I mean, the dude averaged more than a first down (12 yards) every time he got his hands on it last year, so...yeah, I think we could live with that.
PaulSF: Let's just hope DAT found the weight room this summer. The most exciting running back to watch since Reggie Bush coughed it up far too many times to warrant a bulk of carries. He fumbled it 6 times last year (5 of them lost) on a total of 140 touches. Not good. And that's exactly what worries me. The Ducks rushed 629 times each of the past two seasons. If he only carries the ball 120 times this season and Barner notches about 250 attempts, who's going to carry it the other 250? How is this not a concern?
GrumpyJDH: I'm not saying it isn't, Paully, but we're talking about the Ducks. Don't running backs grow on trees around here? Incoming frosh, Byron Marshall, is looking good in camp and is clearly in line to see some work. Newcomer Bralon Addison is apparently turning heads a la DAT last year, so he's bound to get a few touches as well. Finally...hey, didn't the QB used to be a running threat in this offense? Either Bennett or Mariota is almost guaranteed to surpass the 75-ish carries Darron Thomas averaged in his two seasons as the head man. After all, Masoli averaged nearly 125 per year.
GrumpyJDH: You mean like me?
PaulSF: Right. Anyway, it's irrelevant. The Ducks will win the North regardless. (5) How do you see the Pac-12 picture shaping up?
GrumpyJDH: The North is obviously ours to lose. Stanford takes a pretty large step back minus Andrew Luck under center. Cal is still Cal (read: just good enough to earn a lame bowl berth). Wazzu is gonna be exciting to watch but give up boatloads of points. Oregon State is garbage. That leaves the resurgent Dawgs. The addition of former Duck, Justin Wilcox, at defensive coordinator is slightly discomfiting but the talent is just not there yet on that side of the ball. Next year's game in Seattle, however, could be the very first in a decade U-Scrub will have a reasonable chance of winning. As for the Pac-12 South? Even Lane Kiffin can't screw that up.
PaulSF: It's undoubtedly a two-horse conference race. In the North, the Ducks not only have the most talent, but also the weakest schedule. In the South, there just isn't enough talent to challenge the Trojans. I think they'll drop a game they shouldn't due to a lack of depth (thanks, NCAA!), but the odds are strongly in favor of a USC-Oregon Pac-12 Championship come December. Let's hope it gets played in Eugene, eh?
GrumpyJDH: Maybe we're getting ahead of ourselves a bit? After all, there's a regular season clash o' the titans in early November we need to worry about first...and a whole bunch of landmines to side-step along the way. If they weren't before, our boys are definitely the hunted at this point. (6) What's your prediction for Duck victories this season?
PaulSF: Including the Pac-12 Championship and a subsequent bowl? 13. I think we dump the regular season game in LA, but win the conference title game en route to our second national title game appearance in three seasons, where we'll upset the SEC and No. 1 Alabama for our first Natty in school history. All of this constitutes that "unfinished business" Chip alluded to.
PaulSF: I like to think of it as arrogance.
GrumpyJDH: Oh, I'm plenty arrogant too, Brother, and even (occasionally) optimistic. Nevertheless, I think a one-loss Pac-12 team not named USC will never play for a title. That's just the way it goes out here on the Left Coast. I think we probably drop an epic battle in LA, redeem ourselves in early December, and play in the Rose Bowl. Again. I also think we play Michigan, for what that's worth.
PaulSF: You're dreaming...but you've always been a sucker for ath-uh-letic QBs. The Wolverines may get by their in-state rivals and win the Legends division, but there's no way they get past 'Sconny in the Big Ten title game. That is, unless they can somehow get Montee Ball "involved" in another off-field altercation.
GrumpyJDH: Agree to disagree?
PaulSF: It's what we do best. I can't wait to debate Game 1 with you next week.
GrumpyJDH: What's there to debate? You already said we're going 13-1, and I don't think that loss is coming against Arkansas State.
PaulSF: You're impossible.
GrumpyJDH: I disagree.