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Readers submitted outstanding questions for the first Pac-12 Blog Q&A. The most provocative alludes to the growing debate of Pac-12 vs. SEC, particularly Oregon vs. Alabama.
On with the questions.
Nothing needs to be said about the Oregon offense that hasn't been already, but its defense is vastly underrated. Saturday is its first opportunity to really showcase how good it is because Washington is the first real offensive threat on the schedule.
Still, there's so much Oregon does well on the defensive side and has for sometime under coordinator Nick Aliotti.
The Ducks were No. 1 in turnover margin a season ago, and this year are second only to Houston.
Oregon gets consistent pressure up front from defensive ends DeForest Buckner (1.5 sacks), Tony Washington (four sacks), linebacker Boseko Lokombo (five quarterback hurries) and tackle Ricky Havili-Heimuli.
With Terrance Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in the secondary, the Ducks are particularly adept at turning that pressure into takeaways.
After giving up 42 points and 628 yards to Texas A&M, Alabama responded well to questions about its defense by shutting out Ole Miss. A Kirby Smart-coordinated defense, along with the talent Nick Saban constantly has cycling through the program, is never going to struggle for long.
Offensive line play is the more valid concern. Alabama is rushing 33.2 times per game and passing 29.2.
Last year, the difference was 40.7 to 23.4.
A.J. McCarron is a fine quarterback, but Alabama has been at its best as a running team during this era of dominance. The Tide is better suited to pass protection, as ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough examined.
UCLA certainly drew the short end of the scheduling straw by drawing both Stanford and Oregon on the road and in consecutive weeks.
A split is probably UCLA's best-case scenario. The Bruins match up very well with Stanford. They proved that in last year's Pac-12 Championship, coming within a final possession of the win and the Rose Bowl.
UCLA is like Washington in several ways—athletic defense and a savvy quarterback leading a balanced and explosive hurry-up offense. The similarities bode well for pairing the Bruins up against Stanford.
So long as they eliminate big plays, the Bruins can secure their first win over Stanford since 2008.
The matchup with Oregon is more of a question mark.
UCLA gave up 43 points to Arizona State and 49 points to Baylor last season. Both offenses operate in similar fashion to Oregon, the difference being Oregon has truly mastered the hurry-up style.
The Bruin linebacker corps is one of the most athletic and all-around best in the nation, but Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota will test the UCLA secondary.
Washington proved itself as a legitimate Top 20 team against Stanford. Its win over the Cardinal in 2012 came with a lot of yeah, buts.
"Yeah, but it was at home."
"Yeah, but Josh Nunes was playing quarterback."
This season, the roles were reversed.
"Yeah, but Washington outgained Stanford by more than 200 yards."
"Yeah, but Keith Price's pass in the fourth quarter was intercepted at the Stanford five-yard line off a tip up front."
"Yeah, but Kevin Smith's fourth-down reception was overturned, and that would have put Washington near field goal range to force overtime."
Washington moved the ball both with the pass and the run on Stanford's outstanding defense. Bear in mind, this was a team that held Oregon to 14 points last season.
The defense's efforts to limit Kevin Hogan were also noteworthy. Justin Wilcox really deserves Broyles Award consideration, the honor given to the nation's top assistant coach.
The Huskies may not beat Oregon Saturday, but they'll challenge the Ducks.
Presuming this scenario also entails the three winning the rest of its games, the Pac-12's tiebreaker policy starts with BCS ranking.
There's no predicting how the computer is going to slot the teams. Washington may end up with the most impressive non-conference resume, should Boise State reach 10 wins and Illinois reach bowl eligibility.
All three play UCLA outside of the division. Washington and Stanford have Arizona State. Oregon and Washington see Arizona.
In a three-team tie, the Duel in the Desert pitting the Arizona schools against each other becomes of particular importance.
The third place team in the BCS standings is eliminated, then the head-to-head winner of the two remaining teams is the conference championship game representative.
Got all that?
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