We're going to try this after every game. I'm posting this a bit later in the week than I wanted to, but here goes.
1. Despite two blowout wins to begin the season, game in which Oregon put their opponents away early, many fans have complained about the negatives, most notably that second halves have been lackluster despite a rotating cast of reserves and fairly vanilla playcalling schemes. Fans are concerned that a lack of four quarter dominance leaves doubt as to whether Oregon is a true national title contender. Are these fair concerns, or are they a sign of a fanbase that has become spoiled, entitled, and jaded?
Dave: This is a question that I have been wrestling with on and off since writing the recap lasI don't think it's been particularly exciting to watch, but it's certainly not concerning. I think scoring 85 points in two consecutive first halves, and immediately having the mojo that, in the past, has taken a few drives to get gong, are what Duck fans should be focusing on. Neither Arkansas State nor Fresno State is a cupcake by any stretch; both those teams will finish in the top half of their respective conferences this year. So worrying about why we can't score at will, when we're up by 30, rotating offensive linemen, and the other defense knows what's coming, is only gonna unnecessarily gray some hair and empty some beer bottles. ht. It sounds really bad as a fan to say you're not satisfied after a wire-to-wire 17 point win. Yet, I didn't really feel satisfied after that win. Some of it is definitely a sign of spoilage, as we've seen what this team can do when its clicking. However, expecting everything to click in second halves of blowouts when, smartly, a lot of the creativity has been taken out of the schemes, is an unfair expectation. And I think most fans know this, yet there is a cognitive dissonance between knowing that on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday and your emotions as you're watching the game on Saturday. I also think its a symptom of preseason expectations. All offseason, everyone has been told that the season consists of a two game season with the contests against USC. When you buy into that, the expectation becomes morbid domination in the other games. Fact is, college football rarely works that way.
Takimoto: I don't think it's been particularly exciting to watch, but it's certainly not concerning. I think scoring 85 points in two consecutive first halves, and immediately having the mojo that, in the past, has taken a few drives to get gong, are what Duck fans should be focusing on. Neither Arkansas State nor Fresno State is a cupcake by any stretch; both those teams will finish in the top half of their respective conferences this year. So worrying about why we can't score at will, when we're up by 30, rotating offensive linemen, and the other defense knows what's coming, is only gonna unnecessarily gray some hair and empty some beer bottles.
dvieira: The interesting part for me is just how many people looked at our non-conference schedule before the season and pointed to three cupcakes. So far, we've done exactly what we should do to teams we are double-digit favorites over... beat them soundly in the first half and use the rest of the game to work on situational football, getting experience for backups where appropriate, etc. What people tend to forget is that overall, this is a very young team and many players need to grow into their roles. The first three games are affording us the time to do that. I admit, I was one of the people calling out our defense, especially after Arkansas State. "Elite defenses don't give up that many points" I would say. The problem is that I'd already crowned the defense "Elite" without them even stepping on the field.
This team needs to grow together and gain that experience together as a unit and these are the games to do that in. As much as I want to see us live up to that preseason hype and step on the throats of our opponent, I'm slowly coming to the realization that the team is somewhat playing down to their competition but also the coaching staff is calling plays to see "who steps up" in game situations in order to gain that much needed experience for the rest of the season. Great, you gave up a few points. You can do that now and get away with it, getting experience and film to study. Better now than against Pac-12 opponents.
jtlight: I think it's pretty clear that the expectations of the fanbase have changed considerably. It's no longer OK just to have games never be in doubt and dominant for large stretches. It seems like most want complete and total domination. Unfortunately, that's just not realistic. We have an incredibly young team with a true freshman QB. What we saw to start the Arkansas State game was not normal. We should expect mistakes, but we won't ever see growth without these mistakes. But even though expectations have risen considerably, this type of reaction isn't all that new. I remember back in 2007 people were overreacting to the performance to start the season against Houston, questioning both sides of the ball. Even last year after Arizona many were questioning the defense after giving up a lot of points and yards to the Wildcats.
I choose not to dwell on the negatives, because I don't find that particularly useful or fun. There is room for improvement, and that's great, but there is little reason for actual concern at this point outside of the injury situation. At this point, Oregon is loaded with talent with a very favorable schedule that will benefit their youth. If improvement isn't seen by week 6, then fans can start to worry. But at this point, Oregon is solidly with USC, Bama, and LSU as one of the top teams in the country and a lackluster quarter or two in a game that is basically over won't change that.
nds500: I agree with what everyone has said and would just point out that the hallmark of Chip Kelly's teams has been that they are strongest in the second half due to wearing opponents down with their speed. They haven't had to rely on that strategy yet as they have been blowing away opponents in the first half. With so many young players the first two games of the season have truly been about working out some of the kinks and getting lots of new guys playing time. The season is a marathon, you don't want to peak too early.
Rusty_Ryan11: I was not frustrated with the performance against Arkansas State, but the second half of Fresno State was worrisome. There appeared to be lack of focus. There were drives halted by penalties and missed blocks by older players who shouldn't make mistakes. Oregon is going to get off kilter everyone once in a while, but having your first six possessions of the second half as the #4 team in the country shouldn't go punt, punt, fumble, fumble, punt, fumble. Am I getting incredibly worried about the mistakes? Not really, but I'd rather not see that much futility in 16 minutes of play. I think a portion of the fan base has unrealistically raised expectations. Marcus Mariota almost did himself in by playing too perfectly in the first game. Oregon was a team with a fan base that was just dedicated fans, with the general population picking a side whenever the Rose Bowl came around. The fan base grew as fast as Oregon accelerated through the rankings, which was almost too fast. I think much more people have only been following closely since Chip Kelly got to Oregon and they didn't go through seasons where Oregon lost four or five games and got blown out. Maybe fans feel more entitled and are spoiled, but I guess I'm the one coming off jaded.
2. While there was more creativity in the second game than the first, the playcalling schemes on both sides of the ball were still very vanilla. One school of thought is that you beat an opponent while giving up as little on film as possible. The other thought is that you get your entire playbook going so that everything is tested and going smoothly for conference play. Is Chip Kelly making the right decision by going vanilla?
jtlight: I think he's making the right decision. One key aspect of Kelly's offenses are that they are surprisingly simple. Kelly is able to adapt and change the offenses with only slight tweaks. He has done that over and over, and the additions are simply added during game week practices. At this point, there would be little reason to think he doesn't know exactly what he's doing, and won't be prepared when the Ducks get into conference play.
PaulSF: Does any true Duck fan honestly doubt Chip Kelly? He's always one or two steps ahead of everyone. I'm absolutely positive the relatively uninspired playcalling so far has been a combination of both strategy and convenience. We've been afforded the opportunity to get younger players experience while not revealing too much on film. With a brand new quarterback and a handful of new offensive linemen, mastering the timing and blocking schemes on our bread-and-butter plays is essential. With such an easy schedule, we're able to run the same plays over and over so Mariota and the line can master the timing and blocking schemes in a game-speed scenario without worrying too much about losing the game. This will absolutely pay dividends as the season progresses. I think we should all feel fortunate we get the chance to break in our inexperienced players with a light non-conference and early conference slate.
Takimoto: Chip Kelly structures practices with competitions and live action built in, which allows the team to get reps on the more exotic plays without giving it up to the competition. If they have time to practice a solid dozen different two-point conversion wrinkles enough to run them in games without fail, then I think they're going to be okay when it comes to debuting new material in big situations. It doesn't make for the most interesting game early in the season, but we've won two in a row by a bunch, so let's not get greedy.
Dave: In conversation, I've heard passing references to 2007 with regard to the injuries faced so far this season. There is certainly no worry about the bottom falling out--this team has much more talent and depth then that season. The losses hurt, they are two of the most experienced players on the team. But better these happen now then during conference play, and they have a game to get adjusted to life without those two. Its possible that not having one of these guys costs Oregon a game, but that's unlikely and there is nothing that can be done about it anyway. The key is that the rash of major injuries end now, before they really start having a negative effect on overall team depth.
PaulSF: My initial thought was that the York injury was going to hurt much more than Boyett's. But after watching Arizona and Arizona State last weekend, I think Boyett's absence could be felt significantly. Avery Patterson is certainly a capable back-up, but it's hard to replace All-American-caliber talent. Against some of these revamped Pac-12 offenses, we'll need as much help in the secondary as we can get. We shouldn't have much trouble coping with York's loss with guys like Johnstone and Long, who have both looked pretty capable so far. But when it comes to replacing Boyett, I'm not nearly as sure.
Takimoto: For this week, the Panic Meter, with anthrocite being the lowest and grellow being the highest, is at Panic Level Kelly Green. Both York and Boyett were senior leaders, and emotional catalysts for their respective units. Their presence in the locker room won't change, but the Ducks will miss them on the field, Boyett in particular. And bad things come in threes, so if it isn't Josh Huff, then who?
The full Panic Meter, btw:
Anthrocite - everybody is healthy
Black - one or two guys are nicked up, no starters
Steel - nobody's out for good, but there are lingering issues
Carbon Fiber - multiple role players are banged up
Dark Green - one major contributor
Kelly Green - more than one major contributor
Throwback Yellow - starting quarterback or starting running back out
Lightning Yellow - starting QB AND starting RB out
Volt - starting a walk-on at any position, or more than three season ending knee injuries
Grellow - Your starting quarterback, Cody Kempt!
Rusty_Ryan11: I would say I'm at dark green. The loss of Boyett is most worrisome but the defend has been simplified under Chip Kelly as hC and the backups have had plenty of reps, but the position still remains a question mark. In terms of level of play so far I'm not worried. I will be worried if we squeak out a win against Arizona and don't win comfortably. With only 8 total quarters of play it's too small a sample size to get a read worthy of being concerned.
jtlight: Boyett's loss is definitely one that is going to be hardest to predict. Free safety was probably the least deep position on the entire team. Luckily, Patterson has been practicing there during fall camp. Still, we lose the glue for the whole secondary, and have two inexperienced players in the middle of the secondary.
Along the offensive line, losing York is a big loss, but at least we have a lot of depth and talent at the position.
nds500: Injuries happen to every team and the best ones absorb them and move on. Unlike 2007 we aren't down to our 4th or 5th string quarterback. York and Boyett are both key losses, especially Boyett as he was a big game player and the general of a young secondary. But Patterson has experience and the coaches think highly of him. I think panic is very premature, but I understand the concern, especially given how offensively potent the Pac-12 suddenly looks. I think there will be some drop off from Boyett to Patterson but I'm hopeful that it won't be huge and that someone else elevates their play as a result of his absence.