Sunday, November 14, 2010

What We Learned - Week Eleven in Pac-10 Football

A big week in Pac-10 football. Lets see what happened and what we learned...

Oregon (10-0 overall, 7-0 in Pac-10 play) defeated Cal by the score of 15-13 in Berkley. Wow. The Ducks barely survived Cal in this one. Oregon played by far its worst game on offense this season, but played one of its best on defense and came away victorious. When it's all said and done, they won on the road and are still undefeated and in first place for the Pac-10 title and still on track for an appearance in the national championship game. Sometimes games like this happen, and really good teams find a way to win. The Ducks did.

Here's what I think we learned:

  • We learned that the main threat to Oregon going undefeated is itself. Give Cal credit for playing hard, but penalties, turnovers and some overly aggressive play calling on 4th down basically gave Cal it's two touchdowns and helped put them in position for that ill fated field goal attempt that - had it been made - would have put Cal on top by a point.
  • We learned that the Oregon defense is better than it gets credit for. They won the game for the Ducks. After giving up a TD to Cal early in the first quarter, the Duck D held the Cal offense scoreless the rest of the game. And, they forced a fumble by Cal early in the second half that the Oregon offense then quickly cashed in for their only TD of the game. That's solid. And, that level of play by the defense WILL be needed to close out the season with two more wins.
  • We learned that the Duck offense can be held in check by an extremely aggressive defensive line and fast linebackers...all of whom do not over-react to Oregon's fake hand offs and misdirection. I am sure that Arizona and Oregon State are paying close attention to the video of this game as part of their preparation to play the Ducks in upcoming games.
  • We learned that the Oregon placekicker is not perfect. He had not missed any PATs or field goal attempts all season, but in this game missed two field goals that would have really helped Oregon's cause earlier in the game. 
  • We learned that teams will continue to fake injuries on defense as a way of slowing down Oregon's offense. This was VERY obviously happening during the game last night. And, since the refs didn't stop it, I imagine we'll see other teams continue to do this to the Ducks too. 
  • We learned, once again, how dynamic and valuable Mr. Cliff Harris is as a kick returner. His punt return for a TD was the Duck's only other score of the night. 
  • We learned that now the Ducks have to win one of their remaining two games to clinch the league title and an appearance in the Rose Bowl. If they win both their remaining games, they will appear in the national championship game. 
Washington State (2-9, 1-7) defeated Oregon State (4-5, 3-3) by the score of 31-14 in Corvallis. Again, wow. Who would have guessed this one? Kudos to the Cougs for taking it to the Beavers on their own field to break their LONG league losing streak. We learned that the WSU has a pretty dang good QB in Jeff Tuel and that the team has slowly but steadily improved all season...this being the payoff. Will they win again? Not sure, but we learned that if their remaining opponents take them lightly, they will make them pay. Meanwhile, we learned that OSU is suspect in pretty much every aspect of their game. We also learned that the Beavers have a very difficult road ahead to get enough wins to earn a bowl bid. They have to win two of their final three games to have a shot. They play USC, Stanford and Oregon. I don't see them pulling it off.

Stanford (9-1, 6-1) defeated Arizona State (4-6, 2-5) by the score of 17-14 in Tempe. In strikingly similar fashion as the Ducks game, Stanford had a poor day on offense, but made up for it with a stiff and turnover-creating defense and won a surprisingly close game on the road. So, we learned that Stanford also possesses the toughness and diversity of talent to overcome blunders that would sink most teams. As for ASU, we learned that their defense continues to stymie good offensive teams (Wisconsin, Oregon and now Stanford), but that they just cannot find a way to win close games. 

USC (7-3, 4-3) defeated Arizona (7-3, 4-3) by the score of 24-21 in Tucson. We learned that the Arizona defense has real trouble stopping a quality running game, and that this problem is acute enough that it cancels out a pretty dang good night by the very good Arizona offense. That could be interesting when the Wildcats visit Oregon in a week and a half from now. We also learned that rumors of USC's demise are premature. No, they're not going to overtake Oregon or Stanford for the best record, but they are...while not what they once were...still a team to be reckoned with.

Washington and UCLA did not play, so we didn't learn anything about them...except maybe UW QB Jake Locker will play in the Huskies next game.

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