The Oregon Ducks showed their legitimacy as a contender last week with their 53-30 win over Stanford. The Ducks really have continued to impress after their opening-week letdown, scoring over 50 points four times and only failing to score 40 once since their loss to LSU.
The Ducks may be looked down upon after twice being handled by top SEC talent on the national stage, but then again, who hasn't in the last decade?
The Ducks are on their way to another one-loss season and are making their case for BCS national championship consideration with Oklahoma State's loss on Friday night. So the real question is this: Are the Ducks the best one-loss team in the NCAA?
The answer is yes, and the Ducks have five good reasons to be awaiting the No. 2 overall ranking.
LaMichael James is everything the new Oregon stands for in a player: dynamic, explosive, loud and fast. Basically bottled lightening and Chip Kelly has lightening strike multiple times a game.
James has rushed for 1,207 yards in eight games with 12 touchdowns and is averaging just under eight yards a carry, showing in just the stat line how effective he is on the ground.
James suffered a brutal arm injury in the Ducks win over Cal, a game where he had rushed for 239 on 30 carries. James missed two games and in the two games he has played in since, he has yet to eclipse the 200-yard mark, something he did three times prior.
Maybe James is still not 100 percent healthy or maybe Kelly is resting his workhorse for the stretch run against USC, Pac-12 championship and bowl game.
Regardless, James is a Heisman-caliber running back with the potential to seriously carve up a defense on the ground.
While LaMichael James shreds defense with his legs, Darron Thomas has turned into a threat through the air and with his feet.
While Thomas may not have the running abilities that Oregon has seen in the past (only 126 yards rushing this season) he has shown that he can throw the ball just as well as anyone else.
Oregon is 79th in the nation in total passing yards (above LSU) and Thomas has thrown for 1,704 yards and 22 touchdowns and has completed 60 percent of his 205 passes, a stat line that any quarterback would be proud of.
Oregon is a team that defeat you in the air or on the ground and this is something not every team can say. Most of the one loss teams in the Nation are that way because one opponent found a way to limit the damage from the prolific offensive unit. Oregon is not like every other team in this regard and thus, their balanced attack may not get all of the attention, but it the best in the nation.
As mentioned earlier, Oregon has a very balanced attack on offense a defense that can stop other teams before they score. So how did Oregon lose again? They played the number one ranked LSU Tigers in an opening game showcase in Dallas.
First, having to open a season against the number one team in the nation is challenging. The team has yet to come together in a true game situation and do expect this to happen and be successful against the best team in the county is absurd. To also try to do this all on the road (LSU is much closer to Dallas than Eugene, Ore.) is asking a lot of a team.
Oregon did not play their best against LSU and did not have their offensive machine as oiled as it is now. Oregon has had every game to measure up to this loss against the number one team in the nation and that kind of mindset and maturity cannot be undervalued.
Oregon lost to a quality opponent in the opening week of the season in a game where they did not have their team all figured out. Give the Ducks a rematch and I guarantee the outcome will be very different.
Oregon came into Palo Alto ready to show the college football world that they were still the Pac-12 champions to be dethroned. Oregon came out and showed Stanford that their winning streak meant nothing since it had been bookended with losses to Oregon.
The Ducks matched the total yards of Stanford (387-385) but the key difference was in the opportunistic Oregon defense. Stanford committed five turnovers, all of which Oregon used to help further their lead over the Cardinal. LaMichael James rushed for 159 yards, averaging over 7 yards a carry with three touchdowns.
Watching this game, Oregon just looked more athletic than Stanford at every position on both sides of the ball, a trait that they need to capitalize more on in games against the SEC elite.
With every good team this year in the NCAA, blowing out unranked conference opponents is common place, but not many teams are able to decimate a top-10 team the way Oregon did. The Ducks came out ready to prove that they deserve a rematch with the LSU Tigers.
Is this a potential cop-out for hard hitting analysis and number crunching? You bet. Is it still accurate? Oh yes.
The old adage goes "look good, feel good, play good" (grammar bad) and Oregon's madness with their jerseys shows what happens when Nike gets behind this movement.
Oregon is always pulling some new uniform out of the closest and it seems to be working. The players love being models for Nike and play just as bright and loud as the different shades of green on their chests. Oregon got to be number 2 because of this loud style and as the players continue to "swag it out" with the new jerseys, they will only gain more confidence.
Chip Kelly's style, combined with Phil Knight's desire for championship football in Oregon has led to all of this, a huge part of the Ducks' success. The Ducks dress for their success and win the "best one-loss team" label.