Throughout their climb to the upper echelon of the college football world, the Oregon Ducks have done very little wrong on the field. The one thing that could keep them from reaching the mountaintop is their propensity for racking up penalties and the yardage that comes with them.
Maybe it is a result of their aggressive, high-flying style, or maybe success has gone to their head. When you watch them play and see a roster loaded with athletic players, it becomes fairly obvious it is the former as opposed to the latter.
The uniforms, the big plays and the exciting all-around play make the penalties easy to overlook. While Oregon fans may choose to look past the flags, a closer look shows the flags could stand in the way of the Ducks overtaking an SEC foe for the final BCS National Championship.
The numbers can be a little misleading, however. In the Ducks' four losses since the start of the 2010 season, the penalties have only hurt the Ducks in the loss to LSU to open the 2011 season. In that game, which the Ducks lost 40-27, not only did the Ducks lose the turnover battle 4-1, but they also racked up 12 penalties to the Tigers' five.
To date, the Ducks haven't been hurt by penalties in any their losses outside of the LSU game, but overall, the numbers have gotten worse since the start of the 2011 season. This trend could jump up and bite them, as the rest of the Pac-12 looks to be making strides that could lessen the Ducks' dominance.
When you compare Oregon to Alabama, things couldn't be more different almost any way you slice it. One thing that really sticks out is the number of penalties per game since start of the 2011 season. Whether or not the penalty differential has played a part in the Ducks' failure to reach the BCS title game the past two seasons is debatable. What isn't up for debate is the fact that Alabama doesn't hurt themselves nearly as much as the Ducks do.
Here is a breakdown of the numbers since the start of the 2011 season for both Oregon and Alabama.
The following data was gathered by TeamRankings.com
|Penalties/Game||2011 (Rank)||2012 (Rank)||2013 (Rank)|
|Alabama||3.8 (3)||4.1 (8)||4 (25)|
|Oregon||7.0 (103)||7.6 (112)||11 (124)|
|Penalties YPG||2011 (Rank)||2012 (Rank)||2013 (Rank)|
|Alabama||33.5 (3)||34.3 (7)||25 (22)|
|Oregon||62.6 (103)||68.2 (113)||119 (124)|
After ranking 112th in the country in penalties per game in 2012, the Ducks are off to another rough start that shows a lack of focus and discipline across the board. Some calls could go either way, and some are just uncalled for.
Take last week's game against Virginia for example. Oregon linebacker Boseko Lokombo came roaring off the edge and laid out Cavaliers quarterback David Watford as he released the ball. The replay showed no contact above the shoulders, but Lokombo and the Ducks were assessed a 15-yard personal foul penalty for the hit.
The usually subdued De'Anthony Thomas, who does nothing but give the referee the ball and wait for an Oregon lineman to hoist him up like a small child after every score, got into a jawing match with a Virginia defender after a long gain. The Cavaliers player was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, to which Thomas clapped excessively and nodded in agreement.
As a result, Thomas was also given an unsportsmanlike penalty that wiped out the extra 15 yards the Ducks would have been awarded. When the Ducks find themselves in the inevitable close game later this season, little mental errors and lapses in judgment like that could cost the Ducks in a big way.
So far things have worked out in the long run, and the Ducks have failed to capitalize on opportunities that ultimately cost them a chance at a BCS title shot. They will have to keep their cool as the Pac-12 schedule gets underway in order to maximize their opportunity to reach the final BCS championship game.