No. 2 in the polls but No. 3 in the BCS, Oregon had something to prove in its 42-14 rout of UCLA. After sustaining the stiffest challenge they've faced all year, the Ducks counterpunched from a 14-14 halftime tie with a 28-0 second-half response.
"The second half was just a total team effort, every single guy contributed to this," Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said in his postgame press conference.
Routing the Bruins, ranked No. 12 in the initial BCS rankings, should elevate the Ducks into that oh-so-important second position when the updated standings are released Sunday.
Linebacker Boseko Lokombo referred to the Ducks as "top dogs," in his press conference. The rankings will reflect it.
Florida State's advantage in last week's standings was .028, or the difference of just one computer score. Buoying the Seminoles was their rout of ranked Clemson, which Oregon can match with its blowout of UCLA.
The Seminoles did nothing to dissuade confidence in them, blasting ACC opponent NC State 49-17.
But all that was missing from Oregon's otherwise wholly impressive resume through the first seven games was a marquee win. The Ducks checked off that box rather emphatically.
Oregon joins Florida State with a BCS Top 25 win, and one of No. 1 Alabama's two Top 25 wins is in jeopardy with No. 14 Virginia Tech losing to Duke Saturday.
Of the top four, which also includes Ohio State, only Alabama and Oregon have two matchups with currently ranked teams remaining in the regular season.
|Team||Record||Wins over BCS Top 25||Upcoming Ranked Opp.|
|1. Alabama||8-0||2 (vs. No. 14 Virginia Tech, @ No. 16 Texas A&M)||vs. No. 13 LSU, @ No. 11 Auburn|
|2. Florida State||7-0||1 (@ No. 9 Clemson)||vs. No. 7 Miami|
|3. Oregon||8-0||1 (vs. No. 12 UCLA)||@ No. 6 Stanford, vs. No. 25 Oregon State|
|4. Ohio State||8-0||0||@ No. 22 Michigan|
No opponent has come closer to Oregon than three touchdowns; the nation's No. 12-ranked team lost by four scores.
UCLA's athletic defense slowed the Oregon offense more than any opponent this season, yielding just two touchdown drives in the first half. One was set up by a fake punt.
Though the Bruins held the Ducks to 21 points through three quarters, the final period was a reminder that beating Oregon requires 60 full minutes of great football. The Ducks deluged the Bruins with 21 unanswered points to pull away.
The win was significant for Oregon beyond its BCS ranking implications or moving one step closer to a Pac-12 Championship. ESPN Stats & Info notes Helfrich became the first coach ever to start 8-0:
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is the first head coach in Oregon history to win his first 8 games.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 27, 2013
Oregon also continued to show just how deep and dangerous its offense is, attacking UCLA from multiple angles offensively. Running backs De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner all reached the end zone, though Thomas pulled himself in the second half due to the ankle injury that sidelined him the last few weeks.
More significant was the outstanding play of the Oregon defense, which completely stymied UCLA in the second half to make the rout possible.
"We make adjustments and the opposing team gets tired when they play us. That is our style of play," Lokombo said.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota had his quietest performance of the season, going without a score until the decisive fourth quarter. His streak of games with both a passing and rushing touchdown came to an end at nine.
The pedestrian day by Mariota's standards may shake his standing in the Heisman Trophy race, but Marshall could have entered the conversation.
Saturday was his second consecutive game with three touchdowns, giving him 12 on the season. He's also averaging nearly 110 yards per game, an impressive total given how duties are distributed across the Ducks roster.
"Whenever my name is called I just go in there and make the most of it," he said.
Both Marshall and Oregon made the most of their opportunities Saturday, and it should shake up the BCS landscape.
All quotes courtesy of GoDucks.com.