Just as the Alabama Crimson Tide were putting the finishing touches on their undefeated national championship team, whispers began to arise as to who would be the premiere team next season.
Would it be the Tide—Who lost over half their starting defense from last season—?
Could it be the Buckeyes from Ohio State? I mean, after all, junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor has to make the transition to superstar at some point, right?
Or maybe it would be the Texas Longhorns, though they lost the winningest QB in NCAA history, along with six starters on defense.
Regardless of who you assumed would be asserting dominance on the college landscape, odds are you did not think it would be the Oregon Ducks. If you did happen to be that one guy in the office screaming about how they made it all the way to Pasadena to play in the Rose Bowl, odds are you were singing a different tune once starting QB Jeremiah Masoli had yet another run-in with the law over the offseason.
Despite all of the off-the-field problems, including a domestic case involving starting tailback LaMichael James, the Ducks have been as impressive as any team in the land. Outscoring foes 189-13 through three games, the Ducks lead the nation in offensive points per game (63.0) and defensive points allowed (4.3).
On the offensive side of the ball the running game has been stellar. In the opener without James, who was suspended for the entire game, the Ducks ran up 528 yards rushing against poor New Mexico. Seven different players are averaging 4.9+ yards per rush, and six different Oregon players have scored TD's on the ground.
Defensively the Ducks have been stifling, especially when defending the pass. Oregon is allowing less than 100 yards passing per game, ranking third nationally in that area. As mentioned before, Oregon is leading the nation as a whole defensively, allowing just 4.3 points per game.
Like the other teams competing for the honor of "America's Best Team," Oregon has studs on the offensive side of the ball. LaMichael James, though only a sophomore, ranks 15th in the country in rushing yards (361) despite having already missed one game. James is third in the country with an average of 180.5 yards per game on the ground, a pace that would break the Pac-10 record if he were able to continue it.
But the Ducks still have plenty of opportunities to prove to the nation that they are for real. Stanford looms on the Ducks' schedule in two weeks, followed by a visit to Southern Cal on October 30th.
The Ducks are no stranger to the national stage, though. They have won 17 of their last 20 games, and defeated two teams ranked within the top six last season by a combined 66 points.
Led by an unbelievable stable of backs, and an unrelenting defense, the only thing that is for certain is that the Ducks are here to stay, and the nation better look out.