Conventional wisdom is a contradiction in terms. By week three, preseason hype fades, some hopes are dashed, and teams and players everyone discounted begin to emerge as the real deal. Here’s what writers I like and enjoy had to say about this weekend’s games, at Oregon and elsewhere:
The Trojans appeared real — blond, good-looking quarterback, playmaking wide receivers, hype out the wazoo. This may come as a surprise to anyone outside the moviemaking capital of the world, but appearances can deceive. Hollywood’s Team played Saturday night as if it had been constructed by a Hollywood set designer. Behind the façade, there wasn’t a whole lot.
The Ducks wade into Pac-12 play next week with visiting Arizona, and the statistics that should concern UO fans aren’t so pretty.
Oregon committed 12 penalties for 105 yards. The Ducks fumbled three times. They threw two interceptions. They had a field goal blocked. The first offense couldn’t convert a fourth-and-one. Rob Beard’s only field goal attempt, a 25-yard chip shot, was blocked.
In general, the Ducks looked about as sharp as the butter knife in Aunt Martha’s set of silver.
Throw out that blueprint you’ve always associated with Stanford, the one with the pretty downfield passes and 45-point outbursts. Those days are long gone. Coach David Shaw has crafted a new identity in Palo Alto, and Saturday night’s performance sent shock waves throughout college football.
Shackling the No. 2-ranked USC Trojans with bone-rattling hits and a grind-it-out running game, Stanford played the bruiser’s role to perfection in its 21-14 upset. For decades, leading up to the Jim Harbaugh years, Stanford had a reputation as a pretty-boys’ team that couldn’t tackle. A lame generalization, to be sure, but not altogether crooked.
The good feeling of Arizona’s 3-0 start runs head-first into the reality of Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks, the three-time defending conference champs, will sit in wait for a Saturday night game on ESPN. Oregon (3-0) entered last week ranked No. 4 in the nation and should inch up after USC’s loss at Stanford.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez was only about 40 seconds into his postgame press conference before flipping the script.
“We have a huge task in front of us next weekend,” he said.
“I think our guys understand it’s a little different deal starting next weekend. … Certainly, everybody is going to be talking about it.”
Looking back on it, the Ducks probably ruined the curve for themselves with a brilliant seven-touchdowns-in-seven-drives start to the season.
That bit of perfection was sweet candy for UO fans, but ruined any chance of a realistic judgment through three games. Months ago, Oregon’s uninspiring nonconference schedule at least looked like the perfect chance for a new quarterback to get his feet under him, and for the Ducks to weather some growing pains before the start of conference play. While both have happened, they’ve come in the wake of a scintillating start during which they did little wrong, offensively or defensively.
In what was a typical non-conference game this year, Oregon raced to a commanding lead and then slogged their way through an uneventful second half to record a 63-14 shellacking of badly out-matched Tennessee Tech, of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Coach Chip Kelly and his staff will have their work cut out this week; no time for relaxation. Oregon had 12 penalties in the game, including nine for over 100 yards in the first half. There were plenty of examples of poor judgment: the defense had four penalties for unnecessary roughness, usually out of bounds. One roughing the passer penalty might have been avoided if the rusher had his hands up, attempting to knock down the aerial, rather then planting his head and shoulder into the upper part of the passer’s body.