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Tako Tuesdays: Two Coaches, Both Alike in Dignity


In fairest Autzen, where we lay our scene,
From recent grudge break to new mutiny,
Where zone read runs make D-line jocks unclean.
From forth the fatal playbooks of these foes
A pair of big-play offenses take flight;
Whole misadventured piteous overthrows
intercepted, a defensive delight.
The fearful passage of the Wildcats' O,
And the Ducks' supremacy still alive,
You have our assurance, 'twill not be slow
Until the traffic on Interstate 5.
This game, if you with many beers attend
will not disappoint, and just may transcend.

In the Ken Burns documentary about the history of the college football offense, interspersed amongst the voiceover recordings of John Heisman's love letters to his mistresses, you'd find interviews with Rich Rodriguez and Chip Kelly. Rodriguez, who, as the head coach of NAIA school Glenville State College, developed a new offensive wrinkle that would eventually become the zone read option, built a spread juggernaut at West Virginia, and has now brought his innovative system to the University of Arizona. Chip Kelly built on RichRod's concepts, taking the zone read to the next level by adding the fastest no-huddle offense in the history of the sport and bringing Oregon three straight Pac-12 championships. They're arguably the two most influential coaches on the current state of college offense, and they'll both be on the same field on Saturday for the first time ever. Also on Saturday, Memphis plays Duke. Apples and oranges, really. It's the offensive quality of these two masterminds that makes life great for fans of the Pac-12; it may not be the most NFL-ready brand of football, but it's infinitely more exciting.

Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl, wherefore art thou Rose Bowl?
Deny thy Trojans and refuse thy Ducks;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
And I'll tolerate thy Alamo Bowl
'Tis but my D that is my enemy
It is shaky, and not a certainty
What's a defense? It is not pass, nor run
Nor screen, nor pitch, nor any other part
Belonging to the offense. 'Tis not fun.

Both teams have strong offenses, led by groundbreaking football architects. And yet, Arizona is still a 20+ point underdog. Why? Defense. Chip Kelly and Nick Alliotti have had a few years to build an elite defense, while Rich Rodriguez and Jeff Casteel are working with predominantly Mike Stoops' players, generally not a recommended practice. The Wildcats gave up 636 yards to Oklahoma State, who outgained Arizona by over 100 yards, and still managed to lose by 21. If not for four Cowboys turnovers, including a pick-six in the fourth quarter, we might think much differently about RichRod and crew. Arizona scored 59 points in that game, but if defenses were mazes, Oklahoma State's defense is literally an open field with no walls to navigate. Oregon's defense is the movie Labyrinth: confusing, frightening, outlandishly attired, and really only appreciated by people who spend too much time thinking about it. While the Wildcats show promise, and will only become more dangerous in the coming years as Coach Rodriguez is able to recruit his own guys, they don't have the same class of athlete as Oregon, and don't have the system continuity and efficiency that Coach Kelly has been able to instill. Not yet. Even with the ranking that Arizona has earned through three weeks, this is a game Oregon should win, and win easily.

A conference challenge this game with it brings,
Tennessee Tech will not show its head:
Go hence, we'll have more talk of these Duck things,
Far better and more eloquently said.
For never was a story of more woe,
Than a Shakespeare ripoff, penned by Tako.