With all the success of Oregon's record-breaking offense in recent years, there is one feat it had never accomplished until now. Led by quarterback Marcus Mariota, the Ducks have scored at least 55 points in a school-record five straight games.
Since Chip Kelly arrived in Eugene prior to the 2007 season, the Ducks have been among the top offenses in the country each year. Guys like Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Stewart, Jeremiah Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Jeremiah Masoli, Ed Dickson, Jeff Maehl, David Paulson, Darron Thomas, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner have led the way for the high-flying Oregon offense during that span.
Much has been made about how teams have failed to slow down the Oregon onslaught since the Ducks took the college football world by storm in 2007. They are 64-14 since then. That's just one of the many reasons the Ducks have earned a spot among the nation's elite.
The offensive numbers the Ducks posted during that span have also helped take Oregon football to the next level. The streak of four-straight BCS appearances is the only accomplishment that gives the Ducks more cache in the world of college football than their offensive prowess.
The video below features offensive gurus Chip Kelly and Urban Meyer discussing the Oregon offense on ESPN during the 2011 season. The two offensive gurus break down what Oregon does on offense and how it works so well. It's not as complex as one might think. Kelly does a great job of explaining the basic principles of the offense, which Mark Helfrich has seamlessly adapted to as Oregon's head coach.
Oregon's rivals had been hoping that the Ducks were headed for a fall with the threat of NCAA sanctions and Kelly's departure to the NFL hanging over the program. But things haven't quite worked out the way their foes were hoping they would.
This article from Oregonlive.com details the slap on the wrist Oregon received from the NCAA. With the NCAA issue behind them, the continued dominance on the field serves as proof that Oregon football is more than Chip Kelly. The Ducks have become a juggernaut that is here to stay.
Through the first five games of the season, the Ducks seem to have moved past both of those issues by looking as good as they ever have.
The Ducks are off to such a special start due in large part to the arsenal of weapons they have at every position. Despite losing workhorse running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in the last two NFL drafts, the Oregon rushing attack is even better in 2013.
What makes this edition even better than the Oregon teams from the Kelly era is its versatility across the board. Five games into the Mark Helfrich era, the Ducks are rushing for more yards than they ever did under Kelly.
Despite not needing to open up the passing game due to lopsided scores, the Ducks are passing for their second-highest average in yards per game since 2007. If they need to pass the ball more, they have just the man for the job.
A case can be made for quarterback Marcus Mariota as the best player in the country. The 6'4" sophomore is among the favorites for the 2013 Heisman Trophy due to his production in the passing game and on the ground.
Running back De'Anthony Thomas is also considered to be among the best players in the nation. If not the best, he is likely the most exciting.
Thomas had proven he could carry the load as the primary running back before suffering an ankle injury on the opening kickoff against Cal. In two games with Thomas on the sideline, sophomore RB Byron Marshall has filled in with back-to-back games of 100 or more rushing yards. Freshman RB Thomas Tyner has also helped to fill the void by rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the past two contests.
TE Colt Lyerla might have been the biggest "freak" in all of college football before leaving the program over the weekend. Filling the void for Lyerla at tight end is freshman John Mundt, who exploded on the scene against Tennessee, with five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns in his first college start.
With all the talent on the roster, the biggest improvement has come from the wide receiving corps. Senior Josh Huff has been an established star, but Bralon Addison's emergence has given the Ducks a formidable duo out wide. Neither player has the reputation as a dominant wideout, but both have the ability to produce big numbers when given the opportunity to make a play.
Huff and Addison can do everything from blocking downfield to springing big plays in the run game. They both can take a short pass and turn it into a big play or catch the deep ball down the sideline. Having a pair of big-play threats on the outside is the one thing the Ducks have not had during their dominant run. Adding that element to their high-powered offense makes them nearly unstoppable.
Since Dennis Dixon burst on the scene in 2007, the Ducks have benefited from a run of outstanding quarterback play. After Dixon came Jeremiah Masoli, who was unique in style but a success nonetheless. In 2009, Masoli helped the Ducks to a Pac-10 Championship and their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1994 season. Masoli made his share of big plays, but his passing skills left a lot to be desired.
Darron Thomas took over for Oregon in 2010 and led the Ducks to their first appearance in the BCS National Championship Game. The following season, he helped guide the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl win in 95 years, a victory over Russell Wilson and Wisconsin.
Despite his long delivery, Thomas was much more of a passing quarterback than Masoli. Thomas could run when called upon, but not at the level of Dixon or Masoli.
In two seasons as the starter, he compiled a record of 23-3. Despite all of his success, Thomas couldn't match the athleticism or overall skills of Mariota, who was in his redshirt freshman year in 2011. With Mariota waiting in the wings, Thomas left the program after his junior season in an attempt to make it onto an NFL roster.
After beating out Bryan Bennett for the starting job prior to the 2012 season, Mariota took the reigns of the Oregon offense and has proven to be the most well-rounded Oregon quarterback since Dixon developed into a star in his final year in the Oregon program.
Mariota has the poise, the arm, the speed and the decision-making to match any of his predecessors. He is the complete package and looks as if he is well on his way to setting the bar as the prototype quarterback for Oregon's offensive system.
In 18 career starts, Mariota has compiled a 17-1 record and some gaudy statistics to go along with his impressive winning percentage.
Oregon's opponents have to try to keep up with an offense that averages 77.2 plays per game. That alone causes a lot of stress on the defense, so when the spread-option scheme forces opponents to guard against the run before anything else, it leaves Mariota with a number of options.
Through five games, the Ducks are averaging a whopping 335 yards per game. Stopping the run is almost always the first priority in football. Against the Ducks, slowing down the run game has proven to be the best way for a team to beat them.
The primary goal for the Oregon offense is to make everything difficult on its opponents. The Ducks' conditioning is legendary, and if they don't substitute, the opponent isn't allowed to run fresh legs out on the field.
It recent years it was sometimes possible to make the Ducks one-dimensional and minimize their effectiveness. That was before Mariota was handed the keys to the offense. His versatility causes fits for any team that tries to focus on the Oregon tailbacks. By choosing to go after the tailback instead of the quarterback, Mariota can keep the ball, avoid defenders and make something happen.
If the defense gets too aggressive and tries to check both Mariota and the tailback, Mariota has the ability to pick apart the defense with quick passes to any number of dangerous weapons.
If a defense chooses to sit back instead of trying to pressure the backfield, the Ducks will wear them out with a relentless rushing attack.
The only proven way to beat the Ducks is to have a defensive front that is disruptive enough at the line of scrimmage that it throws off the timing and continuity of the Oregon offense. Even then, the Ducks have proven to be a tough out.
Their four losses since the beginning of the 2010 season have come against Auburn (2010), LSU and USC (2011) and Stanford (2012). Three came by a field goal and one was in overtime.
Stanford's win over the Ducks in 2012 was a perfect example of how to hold down the Ducks. Don't expect that to happen to the Oregon offense again this season. In 2010 and 2011, Stanford was formidable up front, and the Ducks blasted the Cardinal by a combined score of 105-61. Stanford's biggest disadvantage against the Ducks is its comparative lack of speed.
The 2013 Ducks have more speed than ever and more weapons they can use to spread the field. Washington will provide a big test for the Ducks this weekend, but it doesn't look like anyone can slow down this Oregon team.
A BCS National Championship matchup with Alabama would be the ultimate test and the game everyone wants to see. The way the Ducks are rolling this season, a Nick Saban -oached team with six weeks to prepare, might be the only thing that can put an end to the runaway train that is Oregon's offense.
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