Pac-12 North

The 2016 Ducks Again Lose in Embarrassing Fashion: Stanford Edition

At least the Huskies lost. That’s about all that went well for Oregon fans Saturday. The Ducks were humiliated yet again, this time at Autzen Stadium, against Pac-12 North Division rival Stanford, 52-27. The final score really doesn’t even come close...

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Can the Ducks Ride Momentum to Win Over Stanford?

Stanford Week is upon us, and our Ducks seem to be hitting stride at just the right time, coming off a 44-28 victory against Cal that wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Oregon scored 31 unanswered points to end...

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Bye Week Gives Ducks a Chance to Refocus

The Oregon Ducks had this past weekend off, but the rest of the Pac-12 stayed busy as we make our way toward the release of first College Football Playoff Rankings of 2015. In anticipation of their release on November 3, ESPN’s Kevin Gemmell...

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Ducks’ 2015 Schedule Brings Intrigue

The schedule for the Ducks’ 2015 season has been released, and there are some big matchups you should keep your eye on. The season kick off with the Ducks’ home opener against Vernon Adams Jr.’s former team, the Eastern Washington Eagles....

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Three Takeaways from the Oregon vs. Utah Game

What a dogfight, what a battle, what a game that was for the Ducks. Last night, Oregon flocked out of Rice-Eccles Stadium with 51-27 victory over the tough Utah Utes. It wasn’t easy for...

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Third Time’s The Charm For Ducks

The last two years the Ducks have been in position to play for a national championship, but they have been thwarted by Stanford. All Ducks fans know this and we all understand the importance...

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“Fundamentally Sound” Defense Ready for Golden Bears

Last year’s “monsoon” game against Cal holds a special significance for me. I had come up from California for my first ever Oregon football game. This Friday’s game hold’s similar value for DL Arik...

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Gameday: Players/Matchups to watch between No. 9 Oregon and Washington

Oregon lives to see another day following its 42-30 win over UCLA last weekend. The No. 9 ranked Ducks not only kept their playoff hopes alive, but they also answered an array of questions that were looming over their heads after falling to Arizona a week before.

Now that Oregon (5-1) is back in playoff contention, the team will face Washington (5-1), a team that is looking to make-up some noise in the Pac-12. While the highly anticipated throwback uniforms will be game-long eye candy for the crowd, there are a few key matchups and players to watch out for this Saturday.

Here are your matchups and players to watch for the Pac-12 North showdown:

Matchups to watch

QB Cyler Miles vs. Oregon secondary

Among the plethora of elite Pac-12 quarterbacks, Washington’s Cyler Miles has flown under the radar. The sophomore quarterback has yet to throw an interception this season and has racked up 896 passing yards to go along with his nine touchdowns.

Having said that, Miles will be facing an experienced Oregon secondary that is eager to live up to its hype. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Troy Hill have been solid through the first six games against other teams, but it will be intriguing to see them face a somewhat unproven first-year quarterback.

Currently, Washington is averaging 181 passing yards per game (106th in FBS), an area that the Oregon secondary will be looking to test.

RB Lavon Coleman vs. Oregon LB’s

An area of concern for the Ducks has been their linebackers. While Joe Walker has shown signs of being a formidable starter, the inconsistent pressure produced by his counterparts have led to some trouble on multiple occasions.

On the flip side, freshman running back Lavon Coleman has proven he can be a long-term starter in the Pac-12. Despite recording just one touchdown this season, Coleman’s 410 yards and 4.4 yards per carry is something that the Oregon defense will have to focus on.

After giving up 208 yards on the ground in the Arizona loss, the Oregon defense will have to make sure to not forget about Coleman.

Players to watch

Oregon: Joe Walker

Sitting behind Reggie Daniels (41) and Erick Dargan (38) in total tackles is junior inside linebacker Joe Walker (37). In his few starts this season, Walker has come up big against Michigan State and more recently, UCLA.

With the various matchups that the Ducks have seen against various teams, Walker’s physicality and aggressive nature have stood out. While it isn’t certain that Walker will get the nod for the starting spot this weekend, his presence is always something to keep an eye on.

Some have compared him to former inside linebacker Kiko Alonso and for valid reasons. Against a capable Washington offense, Walker will once again be an x-factor depending on how Don Pellum decides to mix it up with Derrick Malone.

Washington: John Ross

Disregarding his number of receptions this season (13), Washington receiver John Ross has been extremely efficient and dangerous in the red zone. The sophomore receiver already has 358 receiving yards and four touchdowns through six games.

Going back to the matchup between the Oregon secondary and Washington’s passing game, Ross has the opportunity to make an impact as a second or third option. While Ross doesn’t standout from a height standpoint (5-foot-11), his knack for the end zone will be a threat every time Washington is driving down the field.

Follow Hayden Kim on Twitter @HayDayKim

Division Powers: Pac-12 North

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Pac-12 is one of the best conferences in the country. The conference has changed vastly since its conception, but one thing has always stayed the same: winning. With the addition of Utah and Colorado three years ago (how time flies), the Pac-12 was split into two divisions: North and South. Though the North division has produced the Pac-12 Conference champions both years, the South division has steadily gained power. The 2014-2015 football season will have top-ranked teams in both divisions, but the two divisions will always have teams in the cellar who need a little bit of help getting up.

Let’s take a look at how the North division rankings shake out in the pre-season:

6. Cal Bears

Cal QB Jared Goff trying to throw the ball during the rain storm against Oregon.

Cal QB Jared Goff tries to throw the ball during the rain storm against Oregon.

1-11 – that was the Bears’ record at the end of the 2013 football season. First-year head coach Sonny Dykes inherited a team with some talent, but a lot needed to change. Though he has now had a year to institute the changes he wanted, the team is still young. Quarterback Jared Goff shows potential, but he still needs time and coaching to fully reach that potential. The rest of the team has little experience and there is truly no single player that stands out. Those in the fan base hoping for a quick climb up the division rankings will be disappointed.

Not helping the Bears at all for the second year in the row is their schedule which is one of the hardest around. Cal is certainly capable of winning more than one game this season, but hoping for much more than three would be wandering into fantasy land.

[Out of conference foes: @Northwestern, Sac State, BYU (in November)]

5. Washington State Cougars

QB Connor Halliday being knocked down by a Duck player

QB Connor Halliday is knocked down by a Duck player.

The 2013 football season brought big improvements for the Washington State Cougars. The team went 6-7 overall and 4-5 in Pac-12 play which was a vast improvement from the previous year. This year the Cougs return a three-year starter in QB Connor Halliday along with offensive and defensive lines that, while not perfect, have some experience and are starting to believe in themselves.

Coach Mike Leach worked wonders in Pullman in his first two seasons there, pulling the team from the bottom of the conference and getting them to the middle of the pack. Leach is known for his fast offensive attacks, but a couple victories last season were largely thanks to the defense. If the team can figure out how to play together and not lose hope even after falling behind early, Wazzu will be a threat to most teams on their schedule.

[ooc schedule: Rutgers (in Seattle), @Nevada, Portland State]

4. Oregon State Beavers

Oregon battling Oregon State in the Civil War

Oregon battling Oregon State in the Civil War.

Last season did not start off the way the Beavers had hoped, with a loss to FCS Eastern Washington. The Beavers bounced back, however, and went on to win their next six games before losing the next five games, followed by a win in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to close out the season. Looking at the Beavers’ last two games (against Oregon in the Civil War and Hawaii in the bowl game), you have to wonder how good the Beavers could have been if they’d figured out how to run ball earlier in the season. Oregon State’s offense last year seemed to focus mostly on the Sean Mannion-to-Brandin Cooks formula, which worked — until it didn’t.

Now Cooks is gone and Mannion, who was one of the best quarterbacks around last year, will be playing without his first-choice weapon on the field. The Beavers’ defense was young last year and didn’t have much experience. With a year’s worth of learning and in some cases, 12 games under their belts, you have to wonder how good the Beavers can be. With a coach as good as Mike Riley, I don’t anticipate another year of barely batting .500.

[ooc: Portland St., @Hawaii, San Diego St.]

3. Washington Huskies

This past season brought the best record the Huskies had seen in the past 12 years. The last time the Huskies did better than 9-4 overall (5-4 in the Pac-12) was in 2000 when they went 11-1 with Rick Neuheisel as head coach. When, at the end of the season, head coach Steve Sarkisian left to become the head coach at USC, most fans and critics alike were surprised. Those same fans and critics rejoiced, though, when Washington went out and hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State, a feat other big-time college programs had been trying to accomplish for years.

Huskies in the house at Autzen Stadium in 2012.

Huskies in the house at Autzen Stadium in 2012.

With Petersen at the helm, expect the Huskies to avoid taking any steps back and instead to move forward. Washington will be a very real contender in the Pac-12 North race and will likely appear in the Top-25 list at some point in the season. Quarterback Cyler Miles is young but showed promise last year and is now back from a suspension. The team needs to work on its secondary, but that is something that should improve over the summer and during fall camp. The defense was solid last year. It doesn’t lose a lot of players and should be as strong as it was in 2013.

The Huskies start off the season with a fairly easy preseason schedule — playing first at Hawaii and then home against FCS Eastern Washington, Illinois and FCS Georgia State — but their first game in conference play will be against Stanford. They play California after their bye week, then Oregon and Arizona State back-to-back, followed by Colorado and then UCLA. If the Huskies can get through this stretch of their schedule unscathed, they will be riding on top.

2. Stanford Cardinal

Wade Keliikipi pushing Stanford.

Wade Keliikipi pushing Stanford.

Stanford is one of the three teams in the Pac-12 likely to be ranked in the Top-10 at the beginning of the season. The Cardinal had one of the strongest defensive front sevens in the conference. The defensive line was instrumental in helping retain Stanford’s Pac-12 Championship for the second year and end the season with a 11-3 (7-2 Pac-12) record. Though the defense lost some great talent to the NFL, there are still some lesser-known players who will step in to fill the holes and make Stanford’s defense one to be feared once again.

On the offensive side, Quarterback Kevin Hogan threw 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and has a 16-3 record since he took over as the starter in the middle of the 2012 season. He was a strong playmaker last year and is likely to improve with more time and experience under his belt. Ty Montgomery, one of Hogan’s favorite targets, returns this year. Stanford will add Devon Cajuste and Michael Rector to Hogan’s target list, as well.

One of Stanford’s biggest hurdles this season will be its schedule. After the Cardinal open with UC Davis, they play USC in the second game of the season, plays Army the next week, and then, after a bye, come games @Washington and @Notre Dame in back-to-back weeks. At the end of October Stanford plays Arizona State and Oregon State, and then plays Oregon at the beginning of November. The game against Oregon is already marked on calenders everywhere and if both Oregon and Stanford make it to November 1st undefeated, it will be one of the biggest and best games of the year.

1. Oregon Ducks

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Oregon will be ranked in the Top-25 (and likely the Top-10) at the beginning of the season. The Ducks return almost all their starters and have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation leading the charge. Last season didn’t end the way the Ducks hoped when QB Marcus Mariota injured his knee late in the season. Without one of their best weapons at 100%, the Ducks lost two games and their national titles hopes faded.

The Oregon offense running away with the ball.

The Oregon offense running away with the ball.

This year the Ducks are back and ready to go for a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. On the offensive side, Oregon not only returns Mariota but has a lot of experience returning in most positions. Oregon lost its top three receivers to the draft and its most experienced WR Bralon Addison is out for the season with an injury, but there is more than one young and eager player ready to battle for his position. The entire offensive line is talented and has a nice mixture of young and veteran players who will all work to keep defensive coordinators on their toes.

Under new defensive coordinator Don Pellum, the Ducks’ defense will look to prove, once again, how good it really is. With the surprising return of CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, the defense will look to find ways to make the opposing quarterback, receivers and running backs’ lives miserable. DeForest Buckner, Alex Balducci and Arik Armstead, all projected defensive line starters, average 6’6 and 295 lbs. All three spent the off-season in the weight room getting stronger. All the backup spots on the defensive line are filled by either veterans or players with game experience.

Barring any unforeseen injuries, Oregon may very well earn one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff.

[ooc: South Dakota, Michigan St., Wyoming]

The Pac-12 is the deepest conference in the country. The North division by itself holds three potential Top-25 teams, and we haven’t even discussed the South yet.

Top photo by Craig Strobeck

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Ducks Fans Still Believe in Chip Kelly’s System

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Poll

 

As you can tell from the poll, Oregon fans are still very much buying into the Kelly system.

News broke on Monday that Chip KellyMichael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles organization had agreed upon terms to keep the quarterback with the team via a one year deal worth up to $10 million.

The dual-threat quarterback is set up to be the leader of Kelly’s offensive debut in the league. And I don’t believe for a second that backup Nick Foles will be in serious consideration for the job. With a lack of strong quarterbacks on the market, Kelly wanted to sign Vick before he was left with a worse option to fall back on. That’s understandable, but I still believe that signing Vick will end up being a mistake, and it will not be the solution.

Young Vick has all the intangibles to run Kelly’s system, but at 32 years old and a veteran of 10 seasons, he is on the backend of his career.

In his double-digit season career, Vick has only played one full season. Yes, you read that correctly. Of 10 seasons, Vick has only played in all 16 games once. It was also his final season with the Falcons before missing two seasons in prison.

In my opinion, the Eagles would have been much better set moving on with a new quarterback for the new system. The perfect solution would have been to take Geno Smith from West Virginia in the draft.

SportsNationWhile Smith may not be an elite level quarterback like a Colin Kaepernick or a Robert Griffin III, he’s still an elite runner and an accurate deep ball thrower. There was a solid reason why he was the Heisman front-runner for half of the season.

But in order to fully understand why I disagree with Vick at Kelly’s helm, you’ll have to look at the numbers.

Vick burst back into the list of the NFL’s elites in 2010 with the best season of his career, completing 233/372 pass attempts (62.6%) for 3,018 yards with 21 TDs to just six interceptions.

His 100.2 quarterback rating was the highest of his career by nearly 10 points, and 20 points higher than his career average. However, his productivity has decreased since at an alarmingly fast rate.

Here is Michael Vick’s passing and rushing productivity over the last three seasons:

SEASON CMP ATT CMP% YDS TD INT Q RAT R ATT R YDS R AVG LNG TD FUM
2010 233 372 62.6 3,018 21 6 100.2 100 676 6.8 35 9 4
2011 253 423 59.8 3,303 18 14 84.9 76 589 7.8 53 1 7
2012 204 351 58.1 2,362 12 10 78.1 62 332 5.4 20 1 7
 

The most concerning number is the steady increase in turnovers. Vick’s TD/Turnover ratio has dropped from 30-10 in 2010, 19-21 in 2011 and finally at 13-17 in 2012. Having a sub 1.0 ratio is inexcusable. His yardage has also dropped by 27% from 2010 to 2012.

While Kelly is a quarterback expert, much more so than Andy Reid, it seems that the franchise is in need of a complete makeover. The team may still move in the direction of a new quarterback; you just never know.

Maybe they get a late steal in the draft like the Seahawks did with Russell Wilson, but I just see this blowing up in the team’s face. Michael Vick will not be the team’s starting quarterback by season’s end. Either by injury or by failure, he will be gone.  Let’s get ready to fumble!