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Brother v. Brother: Two Thomases and a Whole Lotta Touchdowns

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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.

GrumpyJDH: Apparently, "unfinished business" means "losing to Stanford a fourth consecutive time." So much for SC's reemergence, huh? It lasted about as long as Lane Kiffin's post-game presser.

PaulSF: There's only one thing that could have made watching USC lose more entertaining: a heated exchange between Kiffin and David Shaw directly following. What's YOUR deal? HA!

GrumpyJDH: David Shaw has just a little more class than his predecessor, I guess. Of course, that makes him MUCH less interesting...and less hilarious. Let's break this down, Paully: (1) How did the nation's No. 2 team, a traditional power with 5-star talent everywhere, get skunked again by an egghead school?

PaulSF: It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how the Cardinal upset the Trojans. Despite three returning starters, USC's offensive line got absolutely dominated, allowing Stanford to control the line of scrimmage and harass Barkley for four straight quarters. The Cardinal also, incidentally, exposed USC's lack of depth (thanks, NCAA!) and what is ultimately a pretty lackluster running game (thanks, Penn State!). Something tells me Mr. Barkley wouldn't mind having ol' Matt Kalil back right about now.

GrumpyJDH: That's certainly half the answer, Brother, and very well reasoned, by the way. Here's the other half: USC's front seven couldn't prevent Stepfan Taylor from running downhill on them. He carried the rock a workmanlike 27 times to the tune of 153 yards and a score. For good measure, he added 5 receptions for 60 more yards and another touch. SC failed for the same reason they've failed the last several years: They're still not good enough on defense.

PaulSF: If Taylor can run roughshod on that Trojan defense, certainly Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas can do the same. There's no doubt the nation (and Snoop Dogg Lion) will be watching the latter this weekend thanks to a certain national sports magazine. (2) What do you make of all the attention Black Mamba is getting these days?

GrumpyJDH: What do I make of it? Love it! The hoopla surrounding gridiron heroes, in particular, can get pretty crazy pretty quickly, but...DAT may be the first in a while whose measurables match or even surpass the hype his exploits seem to be generating. Fastest man in football? Gee, ya think? Try most lethal offensive weapon me out here, Paully.

PaulSF: I don't know...Reggie Bush? Devin Hester? Hell, maybe even Deion or Barry Sanders! I'm not nearly as enthusiastic as you are about all the hype, by the way. The SI Jinx is well documented, and I count myself among those who think there might be something to it, even if it's psychosomatic. Regardless, DAT is certainly deserving of the attention. He is absolutely electrifying with the numbers to back it up. And it's not just the numbers, but rather how he accumulates them. Look at this line: 13 rushes for 228 yards and 4 TDs, 11 catches for 154 yards and 3 TDs, and 7 punt returns for 93 yards (no TDs, but he was about an inch away from getting one against Tennessee Tech). Are you kidding me?! That has to be one of the craziest stat lines in college football history. It's so odd, in fact, that SI's Andy Staples created the De'Anthony Thomas Yards-Per-Touch-O-Meter. I'd go a step further and make it the TDs-Per-Touches-O-Meter. (It's just under 23%, by the way.) I guess what I'm trying to say is he's incredible. He's got an unbelievable mix of explosiveness, elusiveness, and instincts, and if he stays healthy and Oregon keeps winning, you're looking at the eventual Heisman Trophy winner and a future college football Hall of Famer.

GrumpyJDH: DAT just scored seven more touchdowns while I was reading that exhaustive (exhausting?) analysis of his accomplishments. Ha! Thanks for that, Tolstoy! All joking aside, yes, he's truly a transcendent talent. In fact, I couldn't resist giving him an oblique shout-out in that other column I author. You know, the one that's not even about college football?

PaulSF: I never took you for the self-promotional type.

GrumpyJDH: It was germane! Anyway, while we're talking crazy numbers...

PaulSF: Is this about to be the most predictable segue in Brother v. Brother history?

GrumpyJDH: How can we not draw the parallel between Thomas and...that other Thomas, prized recruit Thomas Tyner?

PaulSF: It still blows my mind: 644 yards. 10 touchdowns. One player. One game. Holy. Smokes.

GrumpyJDH: I literally thought I read it wrong at first. Then, I asked the next logical question: Why was he in the game long enough to score 10 TOUCHDOWNS? Turns out Aloha needed almost every last one of them. Final score: 84-63! HA! That. Is. Ridonkulous!

PaulSF: Absolutely absurd. Oh, and if you thought he was the second coming of Black Mamba, think again. Tyner's a 6-foot, 215-pound bullet. He combines DAT-like speed with Jonathan Stewart-esque size. In other words, he's Onterrio Smith minus the Whizzinator.

GrumpyJDH: You're seriously gonna pass on an opportunity to point out Tyner did all that to (gulp) my alma mater?

PaulSF: Honestly? It was just too easy. Also, I know Lakeridge coach Tom Smythe isn't exactly known for defense, but 84?! That's ridiculous.

GrumpyJDH: Isn't known for it or doesn't care about it? Because both are probably true. Anyway, I think what we're seeing, Paully, is an obvious return to prominence of the running game in high school and college. Ironically, it's happening just as the NFL is becoming more pass-happy than ever before. Who can we thank for this rushing game resurgence? Lots of folks, obviously, but one name stands out...and he'll literally be standing on the opposite sideline at Autzen this Saturday night.

PaulSF: As The Oregonian's Aaron Fentress points out, many of today's more successful iterations of the spread can be traced back to Rich Rodriguez's days as an offensive coordinator. Even Chip Kelly is considered a distant disciple of Rich Rod. But this scheme really didn't reach a fever pitch until he implemented it at West Virginia, and it has since taken the college football world by storm. (3) How has this particular brand of the spread evolved since his days in Morgantown?

GrumpyJDH: Not a whole lot, though Rich Rod's own brand clearly has (check out how much Arizona's been throwing the pigskin around). The bread and butter play of the scheme, the zone read option out of the shotgun formation, is still there and largely unchanged. Rodriguez literally invented this play so it's going to be fascinating to watch his Wildcats match their version with Chipper's Ducks. One thing that has changed in Kelly's version, at least, is the type of player running it and the pace with which it's run. Rodriguez' no-huddle, zone read scheme was fast. Chip's version, utilizing sub-5'10", sub-190 pound, sub 4.4 40-yard dash greyhounds, is faster. Throw in a feverish offensive pace and you've got Rich Rod's power running game with a lot more speed and a lot more urgency.

PaulSF: In other words, we can expect a lot of points on Saturday.

GrumpyJDH: Yeah, I think that's fair to say, huh? I'll put it to you, Brother: (4) What should the over/under be for Saturday night's game?

PaulSF: The book has it at 77 ½, but I think they'll combine for at least 85. In the past four years, these two teams have combined to score an average of 87, including 100 in 2008. I can't imagine that average coming down on Saturday, especially with the addition of Rich Rod to Zona's sideline.

GrumpyJDH: I agree with you totally and, for once, I'd have a hard time taking the under on a greatly inflated total. Never seen a book go over 80 but it should have for this one. A football game will be taking place, sure, but a track meet is absolutely going to break out. Only crazy turnovers and/or penalties keep this one under the number.

PaulSF: Then it's settled. Both teams are all but guaranteed to score a combined 75+ points. Which leads us to our next question, directed at defensive coordinators Nick Aliotti and Jeff Casteel: (5) What would you say...ya do here?

GrumpyJDH: Duck? (Rimshot!) If you're the Ducks, you save your more exotic blitz packages for later in the game. I don't think Arizona's O-line is going to match up well with Dion Jordan. They'll be especially flummoxed to face Jordan and a host of blitzing linebackers and defensive backs when crunch time comes around. Casteel should probably just hop in a time machine, recruit some faster players, condition the crap out of them, and find religion. They simply aren't stopping our offensive machine with the talent they have on hand.

PaulSF: I'm guessing by the 4th quarter, we'll be running downhill. Remember all those second-half concerns from the first three weeks of the season? Those will be a distant memory come Sunday morning.

GrumpyJDH: So what's your prediction?

PaulSF: Let me first point out I was off by a mere two points last week. Just sayin'. Anyway, Ducks 62, Wildcats 35.

GrumpyJDH: I'm gonna go with Ducks 58, Wildcats 31 after a somewhat tighter opening stanza. By the way, where you gonna be watching?

PaulSF: Really? You're going to make me answer that in public?

GrumpyJDH: Waiting...

PaulSF: Fine. I admit it. I'll be without a connection to anything at a wedding in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Can't wait to get 106 text messages from you revealing the result on Sunday morning when I return to civilization.

GrumpyJDH: Duck fan fail. Best friend brother fail. Pretty much every kind of fail but boyfriend fail. In other words, I'm actually kinda proud of you, Paully. I'll carry the mantle this week!