So, kudos to the universities who had the guts to play their first game against tough opponents, and the possibility of losing a serious BCS run so early in the season. It was good for college football and good for those universities, win or lose. Well, maybe not so much for the Oregon Ducks.
After losing the National Championship to Auburn last year, the high-tempo offense of Oregon seemed to be a safe bet to help head coach Chip Kelley lead the Ducks to another strong run at a national championship, proving that PAC-12 teams can compete with SEC teams. Why not start the season off with Oregon taking on LSU? Start strong, finish strong. For the Ducks, an early win over a big SEC team would be a perfect way to start the season. It would silence all the doubters, who don’t believe the Ducks are an elite team. So, it was a number three-ranked team against a fourth-ranked team – early season fireworks with BCS implications.
On top of all the hype, player suspensions affected both teams. Oregon lost its standout cornerback and punt return man, Cliff Harris. Louisiana State was forced to play without its starting quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, who violated NCAA regulations. One would think that losing a starting quarterback would be more detrimental to a team than losing a cornerback. That wasn’t the case.
Backup punt returner Kenjon Barner fumbled early in the game, deep in his own territory, and basically handed LSU its first touchdown. The backup cornerback blew his pass coverage in the end zone just a bit later, and handed LSU its second touchdown. It was apparent that Oregon missed its suspended players more than LSU, yet they were still in the game at half time, and only down a field goal.
Whatever adjustments Kelly wanted to make in the locker room during the half time break didn’t work, though. In the third quarter, last year’s top-scoring offense couldn’t do a thing. They gained only 15 yards, and produced no first downs. An entire quarter with only 15 yards? You can’t win games with only 15 yards of offense in a quarter of a game.
The LSU Tigers, on the other hand, didn’t exactly play well, but they played well enough, and didn’t make as many mistakes as Oregon. They scored 20 of their first 30 points off of turnovers. All LSU had to do was capitalize on Oregon’s mistakes to win the game, 40-27.
Now, you could say Oregon made too many mistakes. Or they didn’t come prepared to win. Or that suspensions distracted the team. I believe the Oregon Ducks tried to be a team they aren’t. Instead of being that high-tempo, nifty offensive team with cool neon shoes and grey jerseys, they tried to be a big, bad-boy SEC team. Did you notice Oregon seemed a bit dirty and cheap in the first half of the game? They had two leg whipping penalties, plus a few other penalties. I think they were trying to prove to the world that they are a team you shouldn’t mess with.
In a sense, they were trying to prove that they were a big, tough team, and could out-brawl an SEC team. Of course, this didn’t work. SEC teams play in rough, brawling games week in and week out. That’s what makes SEC football so much better than any other conference. PAC-12 teams play those games every once and a while, but they are mostly used to California-boy, laid back play, where quarterbacks and receivers are the heroes instead of nose tackles, linebackers and fullbacks.
If Oregon decided to go in and play its nifty, geeky football, I think they may have had a chance to win. They shouldn’t have tried to beat LSU with LSU’s style of tough football. They will lose every time.
Since the Ducks have been on the scene as a national championship contender, I haven’t jumped on their bandwagon. Yes, they have a powerful offense, but for how long? How long until teams find a way to beat the Ducks’ offense to the punch? Unfortunately for the Ducks, what happened on Saturday night is going to happen again this season. Oregon’s time is up in the top 25. I do give them credit, though, for playing in such a tough game, their first game of the season.
You could say the same thing for Boise State, who took on the SEC’s Georgia last weekend and came away with a big 35-21 win. I didn’t think Boise State could pull it off in Atlanta, but they ended up winning, and put off doubters like myself for another week. Could this be the year for Boise State to make an argument that it belongs in the SEC, maybe as its 14th team (after Texas A&M joins)? Is Boise State football for real? Or will it be similar to Oregon, i.e., close to being an elite college football program with nifty jersey/field colors but not exactly a football powerhouse? For some reason, I tend to believe they will never play up to the level of SEC teams but maybe, just maybe the Broncos will prove me wrong. It’s not going to be Oregon’s season. Maybe it’s Boise State’s.