Friday, October 11, 2013

Oregon Football Game Six: Is This Where It Finally Gets Real?

Kenny Wheaton about to head 94 yards the other way in 1994
I didn't post last week because, well, it was Colorado, and that outcome was known as soon as the schedule was released.

As for this week.... Ahhhhh, an actual opponent for the #2 ranked Oregon football team.

I mean, kind of.

It is Washington, after all.  Even if they are ranked #16th this week.

This is a team that Oregon has beaten nine straight times (the longest streak in the history of the rivalry- and remember, there were plenty of years when Oregon was plenty bad and Washington was plenty good). And while Oregon has won 14 of the last 18, Washington has won 15 of the last 31.

Wait, what?

That means this: starting in 1994, (a little game that turned on this play you may have heard of. The cartoon version is awesome) Oregon has only lost to the Dawgs four times. But if you then go back another decade and a half, Oregon only won twice.

So, it's actually something the new Oregon fans simply refuse to believe: In the last 31 years, the Dawgs lead the rivalry, 16-15. (Now, admittedly, if you go a year either way, it's tied. This is called “creative accounting” in the Washington PR department. Who compares anything in 31 year increments?)

And another thing: The Dawgs actually still lead the rivalry overall, 58-42-5. This means Oregon would need to win another 16 straight games just to get the rivalry to .500.

But that matters little to the players and other college students looking at Saturday's game. What they see is that Washington can't beat Oregon. In that time, the Ducks have only scored fewer than 40 points three times ('04, '06 and '11). They have eclipsed 50 points three times ('07, '10, and last year). And the closest margin of victory was 17 points (that 2011 game, it was 34-17 at the final game at Old Husky Stadium).

However, this is clearly Washington's best team since the streak began, and the game is in Seattle, and it's at New Husky Stadium. The Dawgs made it verrrrry close against Stanford last week, and should have won. But again, I like going to the stats to make an informed decision. The weird thing about stats, and why people like them, is they actually give you a pretty good idea about what should happen. Note, should. That's why we have phrases like “statistical anomaly.”

National Stats:

Washington: 5th in total offense
Oregon: 20th in total defense

Washington: 10th in total defense
Oregon: 2nd in total offense

So far it looks reasonably even. But here's where it skews in Oregon's favor, and it is, as you might expect, in the points department. In the scoring offense category, Oregon is 2nd (59.2 points per game) and Washington is 33rd (37.4 ppg).

Washington: 25 total TD's (no defensive TD's)
Oregon: 41 total TD's (39 offensive, Braylon Addison's returns are the defensive scores. Watch it if you've not seen it.)

The Ducks have outscored the Huskies by 16 touchdowns. That's 96 points. The only time UW has broken the 40-point barrier this season was against Idaho State, the game they looked really, really good and won 56-0. They opened the season against then-#19th ranked Boise State and won 38-6. Boise State is now unranked at 3-2. They beat Illinois 34-24. The Illini are also 3-2, having lost last week by 20 to a Nebraska team that is really being raked over the coals for being 4-1 so far. (There's also this that's making the season a little more interesting in Lincoln.) Then came Idaho State. Please note that the Bengals, a “subdivision team,” are 2-3, having followed up the UW loss with Big Sky conference losses to UC Davis and North Dakota.

The Dawgs then went to 4-0 for the first time since 2001. It should be noted here that the Ducks and Dawgs did not play in 2001. Because the Pac-10 only played 8 conference games at the time, they rotated the “missing team.” 2001 was Oregon and Washington's year to miss. However, that was the only time the Ducks and Dawgs didn't play in that arrangement. That marked the first time the rivalry hadn't been played since the 40's, when both teams suspended their football teams for World War Two. Before that, you have to go back to 1921. I have no idea why they didn't play in 2001, but whatever the reasoning, it was stupid.

Anyhow, Washington went to 4-0 this season by beating Arizona. This is an Arizona team that then trailed USC by as many as 25 before the Trojans got soft in the 4th quarter, and they called it at Arizona “rally” when the final margin was only seven. Then the Huskies lost to Stanford, 31-28.

Statistical notes here: Stanford's defense is worse than Oregon's (and Washington's). It's 48th in the country. It's 68th in total offense and 23rd in scoring offense.

Washington had 30 first downs and Stanford had 14, yet, the Cardinal won because of an amazing night by Ty Montgomery, who returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown and had 204 total return yards (290 overall). Washington's special teams defense needs to do an awful lot better if they want to contain Braylon Addison, never mind De'Anthony Thomas (who may or may not play. I'm leaning towards them putting him in for the first kickoff return, then holding him out till the second half or if they really need him).

Truth is, Washington is better, and should still be undefeated, but they're not up to the Ducks speed yet. This is a good test for both teams, however. The Dawgs will learn how far they have to go to compete, the Ducks will merely let everyone know that they're still here, and even when there is an actual opponent, they're still the dominant team.

Oregon gets 50 again (or darned close to it), and the defense holds. You know the Oregon D has yet to give up more than 16 points in a game this year? Maybe UW gets 20-someodd, but it'll take a big breakdown in Oregon's coverage for that to happen when the game is actually in doubt. Maybe late. Again: maybe.

So it looks like 10 in a row for Oregon. And then a chance to turn it up to 11 in 2014.

photo courtesy:  ebay.com