Stanford is next. The Ducks have 10 days to heal and get ready for the November 7th night game against The Cardinal, Thursday on ESPN. The bruisers from Palo Alto clubbed Oregon State 20-12 in the nightcap yesterday, sacking Sean Mannion 8 times and getting 145 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns from Tyler Gaffney.
That game will be the ultimate contrast of styles, #2 at #5. A win would give the Ducks the schedule strength to establish a firmer hold on the the #2 spot in the BCS, but nothing is guaranteed in that area: BCS pollster Jeff Sagarin, one of five computer rankings used in the formula, has Florida State #1 and Northern Illinois #3, ahead of the Ducks at #4. Sagarin is a whacko computer nerd with no understanding of football or connection to reality, and it illustrates how seriously flawed the BCS model is.
If things held, the Ducks would edge out Florida State and Ohio State, despite some scoreboard politicking by Urban Meyer. He ran up 63 points on Penn State yesterday in an attempt to impress pollsters and Coaches’ poll voters. The Buckeyes could finish 13-0, undefeated for the second straight year and still be shut out of the championship game: an out of conference schedule that featured Buffalo and Florida A&M, plus a down Big 10 that lacks a heavy-weight challenger, dooms tOSU in a tight race for the top 2. Texas Tech and Missouri fell from the ranks of the unbeaten this week. Baylor and Alabama rolled to big wins, The Tide dispatching former Oregon victim Tennessee 45-10, 35-0 in the first half.
Oregon’s kicking game was miserable yesterday. Alejandro Maldonado missed a 38-yard field goal. The Bruins blocked a punt. Matt Wogan put a kickoff out of bounds, the 7th time this season the freshman has set the opponent up on the 35-yard-line. In a close game, errors like those could be costly.
But the story of the game was Oregon’s resilience, and a great effort by the defense. Mark Helfrich remarked that the team was even more eager for the second half kickoff than they were for the first. That’s good; the team made a dominating effort in the decisive half. But the Stanford game and a matchup with Alabama or Florida State might demand four quarters of sustained excellence, with no glaring glitches in the kicking game or run defense.
The Ducks can also use the extra-long week to get De’Anthony Thomas healthy and incorporated back into the offense, out on the wing and in the open field. Leave the pounding between the tackles to Marshall and Tyner. The Beavers don’t run the football well anyway, but they had just 17 net yards on the ground Saturday night against Stanford. Moving the ball on offense against The Cardinal will require a good plan and a determined effort. The Ducks have to find the right spots for DAT, whose quickness was one of their few effective weapons in last year’s loss.