Oregon Football: Five Reasons BCS Title Is Within Reach
We are six weeks into the college football season, and two precious spots in the BCS title game are still up for grabs.
While the Alabama Crimson Tide have separated themselves in the minds of voters, the Oregon Ducks, along with several other teams, remain hot on the Tide's tail.
This past Saturday, Oregon walloped its northwest rivals, the Washington Huskies, in a performance that solidified the Ducks' No. 2 spot in the polls.
Oregon continued its path of destruction, which has so far left six different opponents wondering where it all went wrong.
The hyper-speed offense put up points in blinding fashion, while the defense continued to force turnovers, taking away any hope the Huskies had of keeping this one close.
With a 6-0 record heading into the bye week, the dream of Chip Kelly holding up a crystal football in January is becoming more realistic for Oregon fans.
Here are five reasons why this Oregon team is set up to finally win it all.
1. The Schedule
The Ducks' remaining schedule isn't filled with cupcakes. But it isn't filled with landmines at every stop, either. This is good for several reasons—chief among them is balance.
Some might argue that having an easy schedule is the way to go (unless you overlook a team—I'm looking at you, Florida State). But strength of schedule is important, and the Ducks likely need a few more quality victories to earn their place in Miami on Jan. 7.
They'll have a chance to do just that when they visit the USC Trojans on Nov. 3 and head to Corvallis to face the Oregon State Beavers on Nov. 24. Those two games alone would be probably be enough to prove to voters that Oregon is deserving of a spot in the top two.
However, the rest of the schedule doesn't pose many serious threats to the Ducks' unblemished record. While conference games on the road are often tricky, Oregon has been up to the challenge in recent seasons. The Ducks haven't lost a road game against a conference foe since 2009.
With a balanced schedule remaining, going undefeated would most likely put the Ducks in the BCS title game.
2. A Strong Defense
The Ducks' defense has been overshadowed by the team's point-a-minute offense over the past several seasons. But you don't make your way to three straight BCS games without having talent on both sides of the ball. And this season, the Ducks might have their best defense ever.
The hype began in August, but fans grumbled as the team gave up 34 points to the Arkansas State Red Wolves and 25 to the Fresno State Bulldogs.
However, the Ducks opened conference play by shutting out a high-powered Arizona Wildcats offense, with the defense scoring twice.
The next week, against Washington State, the defensive line came up with three straight sacks near the end of the first half as the Cougars were threatening to take the lead. A pick-six by Avery Patterson then put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Oregon doesn't have the suffocating defense that Alabama showcases each Saturday, but the Ducks' D is opportunistic and makes opponents work for every yard. It rarely give up big plays and has held conference opponents to just over 15 points a game thus far.
The Ducks' defense is a major reason why this may be Oregon's year.
3. Current No. 2 Ranking
Coming from the back of the pack is one way to make the BCS title game, but it isn't ideal. The Oregon Ducks are currently sitting in the No. 2 spot, with the initial BCS standings to be released this Sunday.
The top two teams in the final BCS rankings will play in the championship game on January 7, 2013.
If Oregon continues to win, it's unlikely that a team will pass them from behind and stay ahead.
The South Carolina Gamecocks have back-to-back road games against the LSU Tigers and Florida Gators, and with wins in both games, they could certainly pass up the Ducks.
But that would leave just Alabama and South Carolina in front of Oregon, and they would be on a crash course to meet in the SEC championship game should they continue to win.
If either team loses before season's end, the Ducks would be right there to take their place. There isn't a scenario in which both could stay ahead of Oregon, unless the Ducks slip up.
Teams ranked No. 6 through No. 10 are likely going to need some help to work their way into the top two, but Oregon controls its own destiny in 2012.
If the Ducks keep winning, they'll find themselves playing for the title.
4. Chip Kelly and Innovation
The secret behind Oregon's success hasn't been a secret for quite some time. After a loss in his first game as the Ducks' head coach, Chip Kelly has piled up 40 wins in just three-and-a-half seasons.
His motto—win the day—hasn't changed since he arrived, but his formula for success on the field has. He isn't afraid to try new things if he thinks it will help Oregon's chances of winning.
First, it was the tempo of the game, which the Ducks' have taken to speeds unseen before in the history of the game. Then it was his willingness to go for it on fourth down several times throughout each game.
And most recently, it was putting tight end Colt Lyerla at running back. Do you think teams are prepared to stop De'Anthony Thomas on one play and the 6'5", 240-pound Lyerla the next?
With this type of innovative thinking, Chip Kelly has become one of the most successful coaches in college football in just three short years. It's also this attitude—the one that throws tradition out the window—that could lead the Ducks to their first national championship victory.
5. Variety of Offensive Weapons
Most good teams have a couple key players they count on to put up big numbers on offense. Trent Richardson led Alabama's rushing attack last year. Cam Newton did everything for the Auburn Tigers in 2010.
The 2012 Ducks, on the other hand, have a variety of weapons contributing to their success so far.
The formula of having one or two main weapons isn't a bad thing, but Oregon's ability to spread it around is what separates them from the competition.
Everyone knows about De'Anthony Thomas, the lightning fast running back who is a threat to score each time he touches the ball. Kenjon Barner receives the majority of the touches and is averaging over six yards a carry.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is also a threat to run the ball. And when they feel like it, the Ducks can bring in backup QB Bryan Bennett and put tight end Colt Lyerla alongside him. Both run the ball well.
In the passing game, Mariota has spread it around to wideouts Keanon Lowe, Dwayne Stanford, Daryle Hawkins, Braylon Addison, Josh Huff and Eric Dungy, among others. No player on the team has caught more than 20 passes, but seven different players have more than 10 receptions.
Without being able to key in one one guy, defenses have a hard time defending the variety of weapons on Oregon's offense. And when it's run at top speed, well, you can understand why defensive coordinators get headaches when preparing for the Ducks.