De'Anthony Thomas isn't the only Heisman hopeful in Oregon's backfield. Kenjon Barner is making a case of his own.
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: You, like so many others, have become an insatiable Duck fan.
GrumpyJDH: Wow, you just don't quit, do you? I thought we covered this in Vegas. At length. Fine, I'm guilty. I'm insatiable, spoiled, impossible to please...whatever you wanna call it. At this point, I'll take it as a compliment.
PaulSF: I listened to it all weekend. "We need to score more." "We look pedestrian on offense." "How is Fresno scoring so many points on us?" "I thought our D was supposed to be good!" I'm honestly sick of the lofty expectations you, and our fans in general, are placing on the Ducks. We've outscored our first two opponents 85-16 in the first half! The game is in the bag by then. What's wrong with investing a little in our future by getting some young guys valuable minutes? Why can't we be satisfied with a 42-21 win?
GrumpyJDH: I'll tell you why: because our bar should be higher at this point. In this pre-playoff world, style points do matter. Playing second half footsies with the Arkansas States and Fresnos of the world won't sit well with national shot callers. Ergo, it doesn't sit well with me. Our bar shouldn't be our opponents any longer. It should be us. We aren't meeting expectations consistently enough to be an LSU or a Bama. Maybe we aren't in that class but you'll never get me to admit it even if I think it...which I don't.
PaulSF: Let me rephrase what I said. I'm all for lofty expectations; I just think they should be realistic. Oregon turning into a traditional power like LSU or Alabama is going to take time and patience. I absolutely think we can get there and are on our way. But it won't happen overnight. Those programs were built over decades of sustained success. And you sustain success by keeping the talent coming in and subsequently developing that talent. Not a lot of talent gets developed when you leave your starters in longer than necessary. You're missing out on an amazing opportunity to get inexperienced guys valuable time on the field. Not to mention, you're risking injuries that could prevent short-term success. The bottom line is this: If De'Anthony Thomas goes down, our offense loses its most versatile weapon and arguably the most dangerous player in the country. Is it worth that risk just to win by another two touchdowns because that's what the polls and the fans want? That question's rhetorical, by the way.
GrumpyJDH: If it's what the fans want, no. If it's what the polls want? Yes. Like it or not, they determine our ultimate fate. Guess we're gonna hafta agree to disagree on this point. As for DAT...no, it obviously wouldn't be worth it and I think Coach Kelly is being very judicious thus far. So I agree. You happy?
PaulSF: I'm speechless.
GrumpyJDH: Don't get used to it. Anyway, back to Mamba. Despite the limited touches, (1) is DAT a realistic Heisman contender?
PaulSF: Absolutely. He's had 18 offensive touches and scored a TD on 5 of them. For those counting at home, that's 28% or three points better than your high school free throw shooting percentage.
GrumpyJDH: You never got off the bench, let alone to the line. That, by the way, is an insane percentage, but here's an even more insane thought: He could actually keep it up as we proceed into the meat of the schedule. Why? He's only getting the bare minimum touches and this looks to be the long-term plan moving forward (10-15 touches per contest). Ironically, this small sample size is what will ultimately undo his candidacy for the prize. Just too...gimmicky.
PaulSF: Too gimmicky? Nah, that's not the biggest obstacle he'll face. He has to first prove he's the best candidate on his own team. After Kenjon Barner's performance last Saturday, I'm not so sure he is. Barner took over when it mattered and that'll go a long way with voters if he performs in clutch moments and puts up comparable stats. Either way, if the Ducks keep winning, one of those two will represent Oregon in New York in December.
GrumpyJDH: It's a nice problem to have, no doubt, as not many teams can boast of two legit Heisman contenders, let alone two who play the same position! Unfortunately, the Ducks' depth in other areas is soon going to get a strenuous test as John Boyett and Carson York are officially going to miss the rest of the campaign. Ugh. (2) Which of these two stalwarts will Oregon miss the most?
PaulSF: At first, I felt like York was the bigger loss, as an offense is really only as good as its offensive line. But I actually think we've got some depth that will help cushion the blow. On the other hand, Boyett's replacement, Avery Patterson, is a solid fill-in, but we're still talking about the loss of an All-American-caliber safety in a conference chock full of offensive juggernauts. I think we're going to feel Boyett's absence much more significantly over the long haul. Here's what's clear, though: Neither loss is comforting.
GrumpyJDH: You can say that again, Brother. It's never a positive to lose All-Conference and/or All-American players. On the bright side, I agree with your first assessment: There's some experienced depth along the O-line and we'll probably be okay on that side of the ball when the games really start counting (so, after this weekend). Losing Boyett smarts, though. A lot. The dude registered 17 tackles against the Badgers in the Rose Bowl. SEVENTEEN! You don't usually want your safeties posting those kinds of stats but you're sure glad they're capable of doing so when it becomes necessary. Patterson just doesn't bring the same hawkishness to the position. He does have a killer given name, though. (Your niece says hello, by the way.)
PaulSF: I'm not convinced a grown man would consider it "killer" to share a first name with my 7-year-old niece. (Hi, Avery.) Speaking of grown men, the SEC mostly took care of business, including two big wins from incumbents Georgia and Florida, both of who went on the road to "welcome" the conference's newest members (Missouri and Texas A&M, respectively). (3) What else did we learn this weekend about the national picture?
GrumpyJDH: First of all, I'm not sure my daughter would consider it "killer" her uncle doesn't know how old she is. Try 8, dummy. As for what we learned this weekend? That's pretty easy. The SEC still rules the roost. No question about it. A&M and then Missouri found out that "contender" in the Big 12 translates as "also ran" in the SEC. It would be one thing if they had succumbed on the road in Gainesville and Athens. Instead, they dropped those games in front of their home folks with nothing short of complete respect riding on the outcome. Speaking of respect, Washington earned precisely zip in Baton Rouge on Saturday...to the surprise of pretty much nobody.
PaulSF: I'd normally be shocked to hear you stump for the SEC, but since you've done it three weeks in a row, I'm starting to get used to it. You apparently forgot about Arkansas, by the way, who pulled a Turd Ferguson against Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night and, in a few hours, singlehandedly destroyed the conference's storied history (or at least that's how I'm interpreting the epic upset).
GrumpyJDH: Yeah, nice try. Even the mighty fall occasionally and Arkansas isn't close to the biggest fish the Warhawks have netted. Why doesn't anyone remember this monumental upset? I'm not an SEC honk, by the way. I'm just realistic about the FBS pecking order. Speaking of which, it's fair to say the Pac-12 just moved up said pecking order this past weekend. (4) Which of the many stellar Pac-12 performances were you most impressed by?
PaulSF: There's no doubt the most shocking upset came at the hands of our frenemy up the freeway. But I don't think I'd describe my reaction as "impressed." I'm Pac-12 to the core, so I don't typically find a 10-7 score interesting unless there are 12 minutes left in the first quarter. Easily the most impressive win was UCLA's over Nebraska. That's not to take anything away from the 'Zona schools, both of which did the conference a solid (unlike our newcomers, Colorado and Utah), but UCLA looks like a legitimate challenger, even for USC. I think it's safe to say Ducks fans should be rooting for the Bruins at this point, and for two good reasons: One, we (very likely) won't play them this year, so we have nothing to fear, and two, the better Jim Mora does with the talent he's inherited, the worse "Slick" Rick Neuheisel looks. That's the ultimate win-win for Ducks fans.
GrumpyJDH: Surely you're not forgetting Mora was an actual Husky, right? I mean, he's certainly less loathsome than Neuweasel, but...let's not get carried away with that rooting for Jim Mora stuff. For my money, Arizona's win over Oklahoma State was more impressive, anyway. They didn't just beat the Cowpokes. They clobbered them. Rich Rod & his Wildcats now have my complete and undivided attention. Here's hoping the Ducks are absolutely looking past Tennessee Tech to that Sept. 22 Pac-12 opener.
PaulSF: Pop quiz: Where is Tennessee Tech located? And no Googling.
GrumpyJDH: I'm a fountain of FBS knowledge, as you know, but I draw the line at FCS schools. Let's see...total stab here...Tennessee?
PaulSF: Ha! Close enough. It's in Cookeville, by the way, which is approximately 100 miles from...anywhere else. Here's another Tennessee Tech fact: It's the alma mater of Jack Daniel's longtime master distiller, Jimmy Bedford. So they've got that going for them...which is nice.
GrumpyJDH: Cookeville is also the hometown of current Tech coach, Watson Brown, who just so happens to be the brother of Texas head man, Mack Brown. Did. Not. Know that. Apparently, the elder Brown is a more creative offensive mind, as well, employing an offense he calls "the fastest 60 minutes in football." Guess we'll just see about that, won't we?
PaulSF: It's probably more like "the fastest 60 minutes of football...in Cookeville." Regardless, I don't think anyone's worried about them, which probably makes it difficult for coaches to keep guys focused. (5) How do you prepare for a team with far less talent?
GrumpyJDH: It's difficult. You played patsies in high school and it's just harder to get excited for that type of game, right? WTD literally needs to mean something different since the W is a lead-pipe lock. For those backups you love so much, for instance, it's their last big chance to shine. Win some PT might be a more apt slogan. By the way, we're more talented at all but one position. Just thought I'd point that out. Da'Rick Rogers, late of the Tennessee Volunteers, will be the best receiver on the field Saturday. He'll also help the Golden Eagles score some points, so...before you ask, here's my prediction: Oregon 66, Tennessee Tech 21.
PaulSF: I, too, think we'll break 60 for the first time this year. However, 21 seems a little high, even with Rogers in the lineup. Ducks 65, Golden Eagles 14.
GrumpyJDH: Enjoy watching the game, Brother. Hope those goofballs at R Bar figured out how to pipe in the Pac-12 Network.
PaulSF: Damn you, DIRECTV!