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These Ducks are filling the bill

Right now, Oregon (yes, Oregon) just may be the best team in the nation. But the Ducks still face a dangerous stretch ahead.

November 01, 2009|CHRIS DUFRESNE

EUGENE, ORE. — The best team in the country right now wears green and goes "quack, quack."

The school has the same name as the state: Oregon.

The uniforms may be ugly, but you couldn't even tell Saturday night because they were such a runaway kaleidoscope on the green turf at Autzen Stadium.

Oregon's 47-20 victory over USC was so impressive it dropped several jaws along with the mascot's lower bill.

This is not an argument for Oregon being No. 1 or whether the Ducks deserve to pass Boise State in the polls as long as Boise State doesn't lose.

That's a Three Stooges pie fight for another day.

This is not about rehashing what happened Sept. 3, when LeGarrette Blount's punch to the face of Boise's Byron Hout made you wonder if Oregon could ever dig out of its ditch.

This is about which team you would you least like to play right now.

You could argue Oregon is the biggest reason for a playoff in college football because a second chance would give the Ducks a chance to win the national title -- a possibility severely diminished by that Thursday night opener in Idaho.

Or, you could argue this is what makes college football special, because hideous four days before Labor Day counts just as much as tremendous on Halloween.

Honestly, though, when have you seen such destruction of a Pete Carroll defense?


Six hundred thirteen yards totaled against the men of Troy?

Impossible -- but it happened.

"We are growing up as a group," Oregon Coach Chip Kelly said afterward.

Call Oregon the Jolly Green Giants.

One of the stunning stats of the Carroll era is that his largest margin of defeat at USC was an 11-point loss to Notre Dame in 2001.

Oregon beat USC by 27. Oregon ran left, right and over the Trojans. The Ducks waddled east, west, north and south.

Oregon gashed USC for 391 rushing yards. There are months when USC doesn't allow that many.

Kelly, in his first year, was asked if this was his biggest triumph.

"I haven't been coaching that long," he said. "This is my biggest win this week."

The public address announcer, as shocked as anybody, recited the unbelievable numbers to a jumping-bean crowd that congregated on the field.

Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, 164 yards rushing and 222 yards passing!

LaMichael James, 183 yards rushing!

Forty-seven points, the most ever scored against USC!

This Oregon eruption actually had been percolating a while, except no one bothered to care after the Boise State debacle.

While the football world went about its business, Oregon bounced back against Purdue, snapped Utah's 16-game winning streak, routed sixth-ranked California, crushed Washington State, defeated UCLA without an injured Masoli (knee). And then, after a week off, Oregon routed Washington on the same field Washington beat USC.

It takes a lot, though, to impress some people.

Oregon meandered in this week at No. 12 in the USA Today coaches' poll, and the Ducks were No. 11 in the Associated Press rankings.

Saturday night came the formal introduction, on national television, with Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit announcing and the post-game GameDay crew trying to talk over the post-game chants of "BCS, BCS."

Tell us, USA Today coaches: Was that the No. 12 team in the country?

Name a better team that Oregon right now.

Florida? The Gators sputtered along for a few weeks, getting their good share of officials' calls, before finally playing like No. 1 in Saturday's win against Georgia.

Alabama? The offense has scored one touchdown the last three weekends -- OK, that's counting Saturday's off day.

Texas? Starting to look like No. 1. Cincinnati? Maybe.

Iowa. Give me a break like the several Iowa got Saturday from the officials against Indiana. The Hawkeyes, lovable as they are, have smoke-and-mirrored their way to 9-0 and would not want any part of Oregon in a now very possible Rose Bowl matchup.

You never know, though, in this business. Oregon was on a fast track to the national title two years ago when star quarterback Dennis Dixon crumpled to the ground with a season-ending knee injury -- and there went everything.

Masoli has already missed one game this year with a knee injury.

That is now braced.

So, Oregon fans: Brace yourselves. Oregon may be the best team in the country and not get a chance to play for the national title.

If Boise State doesn't lose, how does Oregon jump the Broncos?

"I'm not even worried about Boise State," Masoli said.

Oregon may not be the Pac-10's best team in three weeks. The Ducks still face a dangerous stretch against Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona and Oregon State.

"We followed the game plan and we were the better team today," said Oregon freshman tailback LaMichael James, who followed the game plan for 183 yards.

This much is abundantly clear coming out of Autzen:

Oregon was the best team Saturday night -- by yards (613) and miles.


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