Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oregon Ducks Football: When A Sellout Isn't A Sellout

This is absolutely true. Last week I got a phone call from the University of Oregon football ticket office asking me to buy tickets to a sellout.

As of this writing, little more than 30 hours before kickoff… there are still tickets available for Thursday night’s game against Arizona (7:30 pm, ESPN) through the official Oregon website. Not secondary market tickets, mind you, but the real thing. Admittedly, the seats aren’t very good… but it’s nobody’s idea of a sellout right now. Now I know that they’ll fudge it and say it was a sellout (there’s no way it won’t happen at this point), but it shows you where the Oregon football program is right now.
If you're still hawking tickets, it's not sold out.

And where is it? Well, it’s ranked second in the country, but let the Washington State Cougars hang with them before winning 38-31. And this week, it’s hosting the one team that blew them out last season. You may recall that the Wildcats smoked them in the desert, 42-16. For some reason the last time Oregon got blown out like that wasn’t listed in the official game notes, so I had to do a little digging. Turns out the loss to Arizona was the first time that Oregon has lost a game by more than 25 points since October 4, 2008, when they lost at USC to Pete Carroll, Mark Sanchez and company, 44-10. That was Mike Bellotti’s last season as head coach. Before that, it was the BYU Las Vegas Bowl abomination of 2006, 38-8. Which was the last game before Chip Kelly was hired as offensive coordinator. In other words, pretty rare for Oregon football nowadays.

And while the Arizona offense is not getting the notoriety of Wazzu for its emphasis on the passing game, it still flings the ball around an awful lot (365.8 ypg, compared to the Cougs’ nation-leading 480.8). And it also has a rushing offense. As a result, the Wildcats lead the conference with 593.8 yards per game, sixth in the country (Oregon, by contrast, is 10th at 555.3, and Wazzu is 14th at 533). That means the Oregon defense needs to have gotten much better in lots of ways during the bye week in order to stop the Wildcat train that’s coming to town.

So it’s easy to see why the game still isn’t yet a sellout: the Wildcats are better than the Cougars. The team that crushed the Ducks last fall now comes to Autzen looking nearly as good offensively as the team the Ducks struggled to put away two weeks ago. In a Thursday night showcase.

If Marcus Mariota is going to stay a Heisman candidate, if the Ducks are going to remain an early favorite to make the College Football Playoff… they have to put Arizona away. The last time Arizona came to Autzen, the Ducks crushed them 49-0. This game should end up being a true sellout, because this game ought to be an offensive explosion that comes down to the final quarter. The Oregon football ticketing office is just hoping they don’t have to beg me to buy tickets for “sellout” 101 in two weeks.

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