Brother v. Brother: A Pac-12 Team with a Dominant Defense?

Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images

Two brothers debate the latest topics around college sports and the Oregon Ducks. This week's agenda: Oregon's apparently dominant defense.

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: Apparently Oregon's defense has become more dominant than its offense.

GrumpyJDH: Would that be such a bad thing? Since I'm "that fan," it probably would be. Nevertheless, I don't think it's true. What an effort by a pretty much unsung bunch, huh?

PaulSF: I wouldn't say "unsung." We've been hearing for months this unit might be Aliotti's best ever, or at least his most talent-laden. They just hadn't had a chance to prove it. That is, until they pitched a shutout against Arizona's supposedly high-powered offense last weekend. By the way, any idea who last held a Rich Rodriquez-run offense to a goose egg? That'd be Virginia Tech way back in 2001, his first season at West Virginia, when the Hokies punished the Mountaineers 35-0 in Morgantown.

GrumpyJDH: Before Rich Rod was really Rich Rod, in other words. That's pretty impressive, for sure, though I'd caution reading too much into it. The Wildcats were in the red zone SIX TIMES and came away with zero points. It's a little fluky we actually pitched the shutout, wouldn't you say? Still, a shutout's a shutout and I can't think of a better way to open Pac-12 play...except by being a little more explosive on offense. Speaking of which, (1) did Arizona's defense expose a green offensive line and quarterback somewhat or was it more a case of the Ducks just being too sloppy for their own good?

PaulSF: There's no doubt something seemed completely out of rhythm for Oregon's offense. Fumbles, penalties, missed blocks, miscues...it just didn't look in sync. A part of me wants to chalk it up to great play by Zona's front seven, and I do think they played well. But the more I think about it, the more I think it comes down to a lack of experience. You have to remember: This is a pretty inexperienced offensive line that's only gotten younger since Carson York's season-ending injury. Additionally, we're starting a redshirt freshman at QB and a bunch of inexperienced guys rotating in at WR. Consider all of that, and then factor in this is the first real competition this unit has faced all year. Let's be grateful for the schedule we have this year. I'll admit I was pretty bummed Kansas State cancelled that home-and-home, which would have brought the Wildcats to Eugene a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I'm not so bummed about it anymore.

GrumpyJDH: I hate to admit it, as you know, but I think you're probably right. This is a timing and rhythm-based offense and when there are a lot of new pieces, it takes a while to get everyone moving as a cohesive group. Turnovers, penalties, and missed assignments often result from this lack of cohesion and they can ruin, in very short order, whatever flow you're trying to establish as a unit. I might add that I think several opportunities to develop this cohesiveness were missed in the first three games as the starters were sent to the sidelines way too early. Yes, you need to develop depth but at what cost to the chemistry of your starting units? I know you disagree, so...let's just move along.

PaulSF: Before we move along, I just want to point out a few players benefitted significantly from those garbage minutes in the first three games, namely true freshmen Dwayne Stanford and Bralon Addison, who finished Nos. 1 and 2 in receptions Saturday night. Just sayin'. Anyway, let's get back to the defense, which deserves pretty much all of our attention anyway. (2) Which Oregon defender impressed you most last Saturday night?

GrumpyJDH: Are you trying to worry me by pointing out our leading receivers are true freshman? I digress. There were so many great performances on D, Paully. Obviously, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a monster game. Brian Jackson looked solid patrolling the secondary with him. Isaac Remington looked like a stud in the middle. For my money, though, the most impressive Duck defender was the guy who doesn't necessarily possess the measurables but seemingly always makes the routine plays you need to win games. He's Michael Clay and he's also your Pac-12 defender of the week.

PaulSF: Clay and IEO stole the show, for sure. But don't forget Kiko Alonso, who continued demonstrating why he's a legit NFL talent packaged in a legit NFL body.

GrumpyJDH: Just so long as we can keep him away from microphones, apparently. Speaking of legit NFL prospects, let's chat about our newest "wrinkle" in the backfield, 6-foot-5, 250-pound sophomore, Colt Lyerla. (3) What did you make of the Bryan Bennett/Lyerla "jumbo" package Chip rolled out for the first time last Saturday?

PaulSF: I love it for two reasons. First, it gives us a much needed change-of-pace back we haven't had since LeGarrette Blount. Second, it keeps backup QB Bryan Bennett uniquely involved in the offense. Obviously, one benefit to the latter is that he's less likely to transfer, so we hold on to Mariota's insurance policy. But I also think we need to remember just how talented Bennett really is. He could no doubt start for just about every Pac-12 team save for USC and maybe UW, and it's hard to keep a guy like that on the sideline, no matter who you are.

GrumpyJDH: Lyerla was certainly a revelation in the backfield, wasn't he? That's primarily because he didn't look like a tight end pretending to be a running back. He just looked like a running back...a really, really big one. This stands to reason since he actually was one at Hillsboro HS. He ran with power. He made cuts. He exploded through holes. He leveled would-be tacklers. How do you prepare for that? I guess Tim Tebow, stretched a couple inches, would bear the closest resemblance. However, I think Lyerla is a better athlete and will probably go down as one of the most versatile, most unusual talents Kelly has ever employed. As for Bennett, couldn't agree more. The Ducks really did need to keep him engaged as, unfortunately, history suggests we'll need him at some point. That combo is just pure genius and I want to see more of it.

PaulSF: Lyerla reminds me of Toby Gerhart (who still gives me nightmares...think they could have used him against U-Dub?). He's deceptively quick for his size and bringing him down requires a gang tackle. He also has one quality Gerhart lacked: He's a great receiver. Yikes!

GrumpyJDH: Yikes is right. Clearly, the Ducks can dent a defense in a whole bunch of ways and...Chipper keeps inventing more. It's definitely fun to watch. You know, provided you live on the Left Coast and aren't sound asleep by the time Rece, Mayday, and Sweet Lou run us through the halftime highlights.

PaulSF: Did I just catch you nodding off, ol' man? I can't tell if you're for or against the recent string of night games, by the way. But knowing you, I'll guess against.

GrumpyJDH: Was it the sarcastic tone again? I should work on that (shaking head). Of course I'm against it! I don't live in Eugene. I don't appreciate getting home at one in the morning (three if I bring your sister along). I don't like how cold it's going to be in about...oh, now. I'm a big, fat baby and I want my daytime Ducks back!

PaulSF: Living remotely (in San Francisco, in my case) certainly minimizes the affect a game's start time has, so I can't really comment from that perspective. I will say that some of the more memorable Oregon games of the past decade or so (for better or worse) have been played under the lights. But given athletic director Rob Mullens' recent email to season ticket holders, it's clearly a more complex issue. (4) What are the pluses and minuses of a schedule full of night games?

GrumpyJDH: I'll start with the only plus. As a team, you get used to the later time slot whereas your opponents may find it unusual and difficult to adjust to. Advantage Ducks since we're probably the game o' the week the rest of the way. Now, for the other big negative. Nobody east of the Rockies is watching at that time of night. I mean nobody. Yes, it's cool to get the ESPN stage all to ourselves, but...who cares if there's no audience awake to watch us perform? I'd love to think national sportswriters and coaches from around the country are dedicated and staying up late to see what Chipper's cooked up, but the reality is that isn't happening. More likely, they're firing up the Internet the next day, scanning the boxscore, and basing their voting decisions on only what can be gleaned from such limited sources. By the way, that was probably to our benefit last week as the score looked far more impressive than the performance. Ironically, I'm glad nobody DID see the game! How messed up is that?

PaulSF: I bet Stanford fans are hoping nobody watched last night's game. Ouch. (5) How does UW's upset of Stanford last night affect the big picture for both the Ducks and the Pac-12?

GrumpyJDH: It's hard to tell at this point, obviously, but I'm not sure it does. The reality is this: Stanford probably wasn't gonna run the table prior to the November meeting. Neither will anyone else outside of USC, most likely. Thus, that showdown with the (theoretical) one-loss Trojans on Nov. 3rd still looms as the Ducks' primary acid test. We smoke those guys in the Coliseum and beat everyone else we're supposed to beat (so, everyone) and we can probably book a date with Bama for all the marbles. Doesn't get much simpler.

PaulSF: Sure doesn't. But first, we need to worry about Wazzu tonight. Actually, we don't need to worry about the Cougs at all. We need to worry about hucking fusky fans coming out to CenturyLink to root against the Ducks. Regardless, let's get a prediction.

GrumpyJDH: Very few Dawg fans (they're really lame, actually) and a whole bunch more Duck fans than Wazzu fans. Oregon 62, Wazzu 17.

PaulSF: Oregon 65, Wazzu 21. Done and done.

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