The past few weeks, teams seem to have figured out the Ducks offense. Sure, they decimated USC, but the Trojans kept it close for much of the game.
Then, they played Cal.
The Cal game should have scared Ducks fans. The Golden Bears used an effective defense and conveniently timed injuries (does anyone REALLY think that very many of those injuries were real?) to stop, not slow down, the Ducks vaunted offense. While the “injuries” were certainly disgraceful, it should be noted that Cal’s defense played well. The Ducks did not look like the same team.
The Ducks offense is predicated on winning the speed game: that is, they will outpace any team they play. This is partially due to their off-season conditioning program, which is supposed to be the best in the country, and also due to their no-huddle approach, which leaves defenses little time to prepare or catch their breath.
Against these tactics, teams have resorted to one of the only ways to slow them down: fake injuries.
Ducks fans accused Southern Cal (let’s be honest, who doesn’t think Lane Kiffin would resort to faking injuries to try to win?) and had a very clear case against Cal. Unfortunately, there’s not much Oregon or officials can do.
Luckily for the Ducks, their defense came through and held the Golden Bears to 13 points—an accomplishment for the hugely underrated Ducks defense. After the game, Jeff Tedford, the California Golden Bears’ coach, said that teams will cramp up against fast-paced football programs.
But that doesn’t excuse faking injuries.
The Ducks are a very talented football program—and players like LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are certainly impressive players—but their offensive prowess comes largely from Chip Kelly’s system. If other teams are able to exploit the system and play within the realms of “questionable integrity,” they will be able to undo much of the magic that has brought the Ducks to No. 1 in the nation.
Can the Ducks win if their offense is slowed?
Probably; the Cal game proved that they are still an immensely talented football program even in absence of their powerful offense.
But can they win the national title?
That remains to be seen.