Interview: Talking Pac-10 Football with ESPN Los Angeles’ Arash Markazi

markaziWith all the craziness that has gone down at USC the past couple weeks, I thought it’d be great to get some inside info from a man who actually gets paid to cover the Los Angeles sports scene. Formerly of Sports Illustrated and the LA Times, Arash Markazi, now of the newly formed ESPN Los Angeles, joins me to talk about how the Trojans’ turnover will affect Oregon and the Pac-10.

UO Sports Dude: Hey Arash, it’s great to get a chance to talk to you. You must be pretty busy these days with how chaotic the Los Angeles sports scene has been. First of all, you just made the move from Sports Illustrated to the brand new ESPN Los Angeles. How has the transformation been and what kind of what work will you be doing? The new studio must be nice.

Arash Markazi: It’s been a fairly smooth transition. I was already covering the Los Angeles sports scene for Sports Illustrated so I’m basically doing what I’ve always done but now I’m doing it for ESPN Los Angeles. I’ll still be covering the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers and other Los Angeles teams as well as some other interesting events that always seem to pop up in Los Angeles such as George Lopez hosting Kobe Bryant’s shoe premiere in Hollywood or Hulk Hogan talking about his return to pro wrestling. There’s always something going on around here.

UO Sports Dude: I don’t know about you, but your colleague, Bill Simmons, has had a huge impact on my development as a sports fan and as a writer. Some have even called him the most influential sports writer of the decade because he started a whole new genre of sports writing, bringing the fans point of a view and a more humorous and pop culture reference-laden style to his column. Has he had much of an effect on you, and living in LA, have you had a chance to meet the Sports Guy yet?

Arash: I’ve met him a couple of times although I doubt he’d remember it. Guys like Rick Reilly and Bill Simmons are in another class. I mean, I guess they’re technically colleagues but that’s like calling Sasha Vujacic and Kobe Bryant colleagues. For example, if I were ever lucky enough to come out with a book and for some reason thought I was important enough to have a book signing I’d be lucky if my friends and family showed up. Simmons has people lined up around the block across the country. It’s amazing. He’s got more Twitter followers than anyone he writes about. He’s easily the most influential writer we’ve had since the advent of the internet.

UO Sports Dude: Going to school up here in Oregon, the Ducks and Pac-10 football is the number one headline year round. Obviously, this was a wonderful year for us, taking over USC’s spot atop the conference. As great as it is knocking off the champs, a strong Trojans team is helpful to the overall health of the conference. What do you expect out of USC this year and beyond that? Do you think the Sporting News was wrong leaving the Trojans outside of their top 25 for 2010?

Arash: Yeah, I think anyone leaving USC out of their Top 25 is ignoring all the talent they have returning. I don’t think they’re a Top 10 team but I’d certainly put them in the teens when you consider that first-year starters like Matt Barkley and Chris Galippo who hit a wall at the end of October will be returning with a full year of experience under their belt. I certainly don’t think USC will ever be as dominant as they once were and quite frankly that’s good for the conference. As much as those dominant USC teams put the national spotlight on the Pac-10, most of it was in a negative light because it looked as if USC was simply beating up on bad teams in a bad conference.

UO Sports Dude: After Carroll’s departure, the Trojans needed to hire a new coach quickly in order to save their recruiting class. Do you think Mike Garrett panicked and took a familiar face or do you think Lane Kiffin will be a successful coach? He definitely has the assistants to tear up the recruiting trail.

I don’t think he panicked in picking Lane Kiffin, I just think he was enamored with the coaching staff Kiffin was going to put together. Sure they would have rather had Mike Riley, Jeff Fisher or Jack Del Rio but those are three guys who are very happy and content with the jobs that they have and weren’t looking to go anywhere else. So, once again, as they did with Pete Carroll, USC settled for the fourth choice. I think the package of Monte Kiffin running the defense and Ed Orgeron running the defensive line and recruiting was a huge reason Kiffin was hired. I’m also sure Garrett was optimistic they could bring back Norm Chow to run the offense but unfortunately for USC that didn’t happen.

UO Sports Dude: Pete Carroll obviously had the perfect personality to coach in Los Angeles. Now that he’s gone, is there another coach in the Pac-10 who can assume his role as the funny guy? I would like to nominate Chip Kelly. He might not be able to attract the same amount (or level) of coeds, but he dressed up as the mascot for College Gameday and the fans really love him. Any chance Chip could fit the bill? Phil Knight could be the next Snoop Dogg.

Arash: With all due respect to Chip Kelly, no one is going to replace Pete Carroll in the personality/celebrity department and that’s OK. What Carroll did at USC had never been done before and will likely never happen again. Outside of the seven straight Pac-10 titles, BCS bowl games, 11-win seasons and AP Top 4 finishes, Carroll was able to attract celebrities like Will Ferrell, Snoop Dogg and Alyssa Milano to USC games and practices. At its height the sidelines at USC home game were more star-studded than courtside at a Lakers game. It’s going to be hard to duplicate that kind of national and pop culture buzz in any other city.

UO Sports Dude: There has been a lot of talk up here about Oregon’s improvement in getting recruits from across the country in Florida, Texas and Southern California. Do you think Oregon is ready for a USC-like run of dominance in the Pac-10 or will parity ensue until the Trojans retake their “rightful” place atop the standings?

Arash: No team, not even USC, will have a USC-like run of dominance in the Pac-10. Like I said before, what USC did for seven seasons is extremely rare. It had never been done before and will likely never happen again. To be honest, as great as it is to have a dominant team, it doesn’t look good for a conference when one team wins seven straight conference titles and 27 straight conference games. It looks like the conference is a bunch of pushovers, which was the national perception of the Pac-10 while USC won 34-straight games. Oregon is clearly the top team in the conference now but they’ve only held that title since Halloween. That could easily change next season as competitive and unpredictable conference was last season.

UO Sports Dude: Finally, I have a basketball question to wrap it up. The Pac-10 has been an absolute mess this year. Not a single team is ranked in the top 25 and only two are in Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology. Do you think a dominant team will emerge and be able to make a run in March or should we start thinking about next year?

Arash: There won’t be a dominant team this year and I can’t imagine a team winning more than one game in the tournament. The Pac-10 has never been this bad before. Not only do they not have a Top 25 team, they only have one team in the Top 50. It’s sad. I actually thought USC had a chance to do something before their post-season ban because of their half-court defense and the way Mike Gerrity was running the point. Yeah, if I’m a Pac-10 men’s basketball fan I would definitely start thinking about next year.

UO Sports Dude: Sorry, I lied, I have one more. Here’s the only question Oregon basketball fans have right now: Should Ernie Kent be fired, and if so, could we steal Mark Few from Gonzaga? Fans up here are screaming pretty fiercely for this to happen, especially with the brand new $200 million Matt Court coming next season.

I would never come out and advocate a coach getting fired but Kent hasn’t done a whole lot since reaching the Elite Eight in 2007 and if Oregon is able to get a coach like Few that might be the best move for the program. I think Kent is a great coach but if the fan base is behind him getting fired, the school might have no choice but giving them what they want in the hope of making them happy and filling up the new arena.

Well thank you for everything, Arash. I appreciate you taking so much time to talk to the UO Sports Dude.

Be sure to read more from Arash Markazi on ESPN Los Angeles and  follow him on the Twitter machine as well.

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Oregon Ducks: Recruiting Update

This little investment goes a long way in making recruits forget they are leaving Florida and California to come to OREGON.

This little investment goes a long way in making recruits forget they are leaving Florida and California to come to OREGON.

College football on the field is now officially over. However, there is good news: recruiting is heating up.

And we all know how exciting it is when some teenager that we’ve never actually heard of with crazy good high school statistics dons an Oregon cap at a press conference covered by his local news station in his small town high school gymnasium.

Even better news: the Ducks have become a national player in the recruiting game, with more kids from out of state than Oregon (and even California) on their prospect radar.

So far the Ducks have received verbals 14 players ranked in the top 75 at their positions nationally, including nine in the top 25.

With the latest commitment from defensive back Dior Mathis today at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, the Ducks are in the midst of their finest recruiting season in a very long time.

Here’s a breakdown on who the Ducks have signed so far, who they are pursuing and which big names left out there they actually have a chance of bringing to little old Eugene.

Offense

Obviously, the two big names are Marcus Lattimore and Lache Seastrunk, the number one and two running back recruits in the country, respectively.

Both have a laundry list of top schools offering their finest coeds and SUVs for their services, but there is thought to be a decent chance that the Ducks land one of them.

For what it’s worth, a site admin on DucksAttack.net received a text message from an Oregon commit that Seastrunk is “all Oregon”.

And with all the Seastrunk and Lattimore talk, I almost forgot to include commit Dontae Williams , a 4* from Texas who could be the thunder to LaMichael James’s lightnight, a la Legerratte Blount.

He’s a 5-11, 210 pound physical specimen who is also a great blocker, catcher and team leader.

Even though Oregon is loaded at quarterback – with Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, and redshirt freshman Daryle Hawkins – the Ducks added another top prospect, 4* Bryan Bennett, who by the way runs a 4.6 40.

On the line, Chip Kelly added two more top recruits – 4* Nick Rowland and 4* JC transfer Ryan Clanton – to an already deep line that returns EVERY SINGLE player.

Once again, the Ducks are having trouble landing a top wide out. Oregon is in the running for both 4* Ivan McCartney from Florida and 4* Dyjuan Lewis from Indiana, but neither is likely to sign. I guess receivers want to play for a team where throwing the ball to an actual wide receiver is not the fourth option on offense.

There is a glimmer of hope, though. Kyle Prater, a top USC recruit looks like he is backing out of his commitment. Oregon is one of the schools that is flooding his high school recruiting coach with phone calls and text messages.

As far as tight end goes, 2* JC transfer Brandon Williams has given a verbal and there is still an outside shot at 4* Christian Thomas.

It looks like Oregon is stockpiling its strengths, and with no major offensive losses outside of Ed Dickson (I really like David Paulson) this season, the Duck offense should be flying higher than ever.

Defense

Oregon finally displayed a dramatic improvement on the defensive side this past season, and by the looks of it, will only get better in the years to come. Lots of big names have already signed and there are still a few more interested that could really make the defense dominant. And soon.

The Ducks’ biggest area of concern is defensive line, where they lose two starters, Will Tukuafu and Blake Ferras.

4* Dominique Easley’s last second and unexpected change of heart (to Florida) was a big blow, but with 5* Sheldon High School product Curtis White already signed, 4* South Eugene product Gabe King expected and a decent chance at Portland’s 4* Owa Odighizuwa, Oregon could still come out with a solid group of defensive lineman.

White was initially recruited as a tight end, but with the lack of depth along the line might be forced to switch positions.

King and Owa are the keys to this class. If neither signs, it will still be a pretty good, if one signs, very good and if by some stroke of Irish luck both sign, well, I might literally jump for joy.

There have been a few rumors lately flying around that said King has been wearing a lot of Cal stuff, but like I said with Seastrunk, you can only believe so much of what you hear.

With a talented young core of linebackers already on its roster, Oregon didn’t have to focus too much on the position this season, recruiting just one, 3* OLB Isasc Dixon from Miami, FL.

Alright folks, this is where it gets fun.

The Ducks are well on their way to the best defensive back class in the history of the program.

With youngsters Javes Lewis, John Boyett (my budding man crush) and Cliff Harris already assuming starting roles, this unit might end up being the best in the country in a couple of years. And that isn’t even hyperbole.

Dior Mathis obviously is the headliner, because after all, there’s not a whole lot sexier than a 4.28 40. Ok, maybe Amanda Pflugrad, but it’s close!

Along with Mathis, the Ducks have received verbals from Terrance Mitchell, Troy Hill, James Scales and Derrick Malone, all in the upper echelon of the 3* recruits.

There is still a very outside shot at Anthony Jefferson and Erick Dargan, both 4*’s.

Overall, this is a very solid class and will probably finish well with the top 25 nationally (Oregon has only had one top 25 class since 2004). That said, the even more impressive thing is that Kelly and Co. are invading recruiting hotbeds like Florida, Texas, Michigan and Southern California, something extremely important for continued success.

Let’s just say I’m very excited for the next few years.

You can follow Keith on twitter or on his Facebook page.

Why Oregon Fans and Media Should Take The Blame For The Rose Bowl Loss

duck-707078It’s taken a while for me to write anything this week.

It’s part shock, part anger, and a whole lot of mourning. I needed time to complete the five stages of grief, regroup, collect my thoughts and write something more meaningful than a “Chip Kelly effed up that fourth down call” rant.

This was such a great season and it so see it go down this way was more crushing than watching the season finale of “Friends” in 2004 or seeing someone about to get hit by a car knowing you can do nothing to save them.

After spending the last few days figuring out the good, the bad and the ugly (mostly ugly) that happened on New Year’s Day, I have come up with an explanation for why so many Duck fans had such a rocky start to 2010.

And it has absolutely nothing to do with anything on the field.

Here goes.

Winning is a tradition. And unfortunately, traditions don’t hatch over night.

Oregon fans have only recently gotten a taste of winning. In fact, most lifetime fans have suffered through far more losing seasons that winning years, as evidenced by the number of Rose Bowl appearances (5) and wins (1) in the program’s history.

At this stage, winning is sort of a novelty for Duck fans the media. It’s new, it’s fun, trendy even, but it’s not expected.

Look at Ohio State. Every single year, the Buckeye media and fans come into the season expecting no less than a Rose Bowl win. They demand excellence.

The goal for a program is always to exceed expectations. Setting the bar at making the Rose Bowl is one thing, but for Ohio State, getting there is not enough. They expect to win.

You can call them spoiled, sure, but they put pressure on the team to deliver. And for the most part, they do. No team wants to deal with an unhappy fan base or media telling them what they did wrong, especially one that can fill a 110,000 seat stadium and connect with ears all over the country.

Their coaches, players, fans, writers and recruits all expect to win every play, every game, every season. It’s contagious.

Why do teams fire coaches? Because they lose the trust of the players and in return, they stop expecting to win. Mindset is half the battle.

Ohio State’s tradition of winning is over a century long, with 33 Big Ten and seven national championships to prove it.

In fact, their tradition is so strong that fans started an uproar when Ohio State introduced a slightly modified jersey in 2006.

Oregon on the other hand, is all about the now. The Ducks are cutting edge in just about everything: the newest uniforms, offense, locker rooms, training facilities, the list goes on.

There’s not much history or tradition (aside from The Pick) outside of the past 15 seasons, at least that Oregon fans want to remember.

And like the new uniforms, success isn’t something the fans and media can get tired of like a pair of week-old Nike cleats.

After we (yes, I feel like am a part of Oregon football) lost last Friday, you have no idea how many times I heard “Well, it was just fun being here.”

That attitude, more so than talent, preparation or coaching, is the biggest reason why we still don’t have a Rose Bowl victory since 1917.

Duck fans were more interested in tailgating in sunny, palm tree-speckled Pasadena, basking in the experience and taking pictures of the beautiful, overlooking San Gabriel Mountains, than trying to destroy their vocal cords by the second quarter per usual.

Columnists were busy readying their stories about what a great season it had been and how it be just oh so nice to finish the year off with a win.

Just like most teams who screw up in big games because they change their style of play, we as fans should take the blame for change our style in the Granddaddy of Them All.

“Win the Day,” isn’t that Chip Kelly’s mantra? It felt more like, win the season and whatever happens next happens.

January 1st had to be the quietest (aside from at Stanford) Oregon game that I have ever been to.

But this is ok. I can’t expect us to get it right away. Like Aristotle said, we learn by doing.

Now that we have been on the big stage, the crucial transformation is learning from our mistakes. This experience needs to teach us what to expect and how to act for next year, when we’re right back in the Rose Bowl.

We need to build a winning tradition, one where “just being there” isn’t enough. And this takes time. It needs to be instilled from birth (for fans) and letter of intent (for players), read everyday in the newspaper and seen everyday on tv.

If Oregon wants to take the next step in terms of national prestige, fans and media will have to act like we belong with the traditional powers like Ohio State, Florida and Notre Dame.

The reason these powers have been able to maintain excellence is because the fans, the media, the players and coaches are  very critical of themselves and involved in how to make improvements. And those teams listen.

If Ohio State had lost last week, the media and fans alike would be calling for Jim Tressel’s head. Yeah, he’s done a great job for the program, but that doesn’t mean anything unless you win it all.

The powerhouse programs are victims of their own success, but that is a positive. It shows they care.

As it stands right now, Oregon is just the little engine that could, waiting for its chance to finally join the popular group.

We as fans and the media need to start treating the team like grown men and not just kids who need to hear repeated encouragement.

“Nice try, sport, you’ll get ’em next time” only goes so far.

After a Rose Bowl loss like this one, we can’t pat ourselves on the back and say it was a good try, we need to find the reasons why Oregon lost and improve immediately.

It’s up to us for Oregon to get there. We need to demand excellence, and if they know what’s best for themselves, they’ll listen.

It starts now.

You can follow Keith on twitter or on his Facebook page .

Rose Bowl Trip Photos

Even though we didn’t win the game, we still still had a great time. Go Ducks!

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Donald Duck in front of Grauman's in Hollywood

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The girlfriend.

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JOEY!

The Grove

The Grove

For more pictures, check out the Facebook album.

Ohio State “I Told You So” Thread

I have a serious physical gag reflex to this picture.

I have a serious physical gag reflex to this picture.

I didn’t give you guys a chance. I thought you were an afterthought, just another slow Big Ten team that wouldn’t be able to handle Oregon’s speed.

Boy was I wrong.

All I can say for now is congratulations, you guys deserved it and I am looking forward to hearing it from you nutty Buckeye fans.

Well done.

I will write more shortly, but for now I am too crushed to put together a set of cohesive paragraphs.

Go ahead and gloat, I am waiting for it.

Breaking Down the Rose Bowl: Battle of the Defensive Lines

How about a bad pun: Sean Canfield looks like he just met a Brandon "Bear" in a secluded forest.

I need to think of a good Brandon Bair "bear" pun. Give me a minute, I'll get one.

Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the defensive lines. If you missed yesterday’s, you can read about the offensive line here.

Ohio State fans got passionately heated when the totals from the offensive side of the ball came out to Oregon 41.5, Ohio State 35.

Really?

Was this a surprise to you?

The Buckeyes averaged almost nine points per game fewer than the Ducks, and that’s without factoring in strength of schedule (Oregon #4, tOSU #59).

USC looked like a tough team at the time, so I’ll give them credit for that one, but Navy, Toledo, and New Mexico State? I’m surprised they couldn’t find a way to squeeze a junior college onto their schedule as well.

And I’m not even counting Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota or Michigan.

So for them to only come out six and a half points behind the Ducks on offense, I think is generous. Honestly, I’m surprised it wasn’t by more.

But be that as it may, tOSU has a chance to gain some ground on the defensive side of the ball, where the numbers say they are much better.

Here is the Buckeyes first chance: the defensive line.

Before the season, defensive line coach Jim Heacock said this year’s group was his best since 2003. No small statement, considering that line had four future NFL players (Will Smith, Simon Fraser, Darrion Scott and Tim Anderson. For those of you counting at home, that’s a first rounder, two third rounders, and an undrafted free agent).

Not too shabby.

On paper, this year’s defense put up better overall numbers than the 2003 contingent, at least points and yardage-wise, but you have to take that with a grain of salt, as Big Ten offenses were much more prolific back in the day.

Like Heacock said before the season to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, he didn’t think this line “would” dominate. He said it “needs to” dominate.

And he’s dead on. If Ohio State has any chance of winning this game, they will need to disrupt the Oregon offense.

But lucky for them, if there’s a team that could do it, it might as well be the Buckeyes.

With eight guys in the defensive line rotation, Ohio State has the depth to keep up their aggressive style of play against the fast-paced Oregon offense for more than just the first half.

As the AP wrote, Thaddeus Gibson and Heyward, the son of the late former NFL running back Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, have been outstanding as rush ends. Todd Denlinger and Doug Worthington are the starting tackles, with substantial contributions from Nathan Williams, Lawrence Wilson, Dexter Larimore and others.

Asked how good the down linemen have been, safety Kurt Coleman grinned.

“Oh, my goodness. The front four, or front eight—how many ever they rotate in—they’re absolutely unreal,” he said. “It’s made my life back there so much easier.”

Pundits are saying that the only way the Buckeyes can disrupt Jeremiah Masoli and Co. is to bring constant pressure, but that plays right into Oregon’s strength as a spread-option team. The more aggressive tOSU plays, the more opportunities Masoli and Lamichael James have to beat them.

Since the Utah game, LMJ has rushed for less than 100 yards just once (88 in only 13 carries against WSU) and over 150 yards six times.

On the contrary, the Buckeyes haven’t allowed a lone rusher to reach the century mark in a single game this season.

This matchup will go a long way in deciding which teams’ fans leave happy on New Year’s Day.

For as many headlines as the Oregon offense vs. the Ohio State defense has grabbed, I think the real story will be Oregon’s defense against tOSU’s offense.

The Duck defense has actually been a strong point this year, and more importantly, it matches up well with the Buckeye offense.

Oregon has done a great job stopping the run this season, giving up just 3.4 ypc to opponents, despite the Toby Gerhart spectacular, which I have been vehemently trying to forget since November.

The defensive backfield however, has been plagued by injuries to Walter Thurmond and Willie Glasper, leaving Talmadge “why do I keep getting these P.I. calls” Jackson as the lone veteran to freshmen Cliff Harris and John Boyett.

Fortunately, 6-7 Brandon Bair has emerged as a clog in the middle, while Kenny Rowe and Will Tukuafu have brought excellent pressure from the outside all season.

If Oregon can stuff eight men in the box and eliminate the run, forcing Terrelle Pryor to play like Vince Young (something I, and Jim Tressel are not sure he can do), Oregon should come out victorious.

On paper, the Buckeyes look golden, but in the national college football landscape, Big Ten paper isn’t worth nearly as much Pac-10 paper.

At least for the moment.

Rating: Ohio State 9, Oregon 7.5.

Totals: Oregon 49, Ohio State 44.

You can follow me on twitter or fan me on facebook.

Breaking Down the Rose Bowl: Battle of the Offensive Lines

Analyzing skill positions is easy. Those guys hog the cameras, do flashy celebration dances and attract the affection of all the coeds (and sometimes even faculty) on campus.
Everyone knows about them.
But the guys who go unnoticed, the guys who allow for the skill players to do what they do, those are the guys in the trenches. Those are the guys who win games.
They may not be the sexiest or most attractive, they might even have unsightly facial hair or excessive back hair, you would probably even let own a loud grown if you were forced to sit between them on a cross-country flight, but dammit, they win games.
How often do you hear someone say, “Dad, all I want for Christmas is a game-worn Jordan Holmes jersey.”
Welcome to the life of an offensive lineman.
I don’t like that. No, not because I feel bad for them, but because now I have to do actual research in evaluating which team boasts the better collection of 300+ pound beasts.
And there is nothing lazier than a college student on winter break. Trust me.
But I toughed it out. I’m sure you will thank me later.
Coming into the season, Scout.com ranked both Ohio State and Oregon among the best in the country, with the Buckeyes at 11 and the Ducks at 16, respectively.
Up until last year, tOSU was known for its physical, unimaginative, run the ball down your throat style of play. Just push your guy harder than he pushed you – offensive lineman loved it.
But once Jim Tressel decided to change to the spread-option for Terrelle Pryor, it’s taken a while for everyone to get on the same page.
You can’t expect to completely change your style of play and have it work right away. You have to recruit different players and coaches have to learn what they’re doing. (You’ve almost got it Jimmy, just keep watching the film)
Look at Michigan, they were trying to run the spread with Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. At least Ohio State had Pryor.
If you look deeper, the Buckeyes have fallen all the way from second in the Big Ten in yards per game in 2006 all the way to eighth in both 2008 and 2009.
You can’t teach agility to those big, hulking farm boys over night.
Oregon, meanwhile, is all speed, even on the line.
Only one Duck checks in at over 300 pounds, while all five of the Buckeyes tip the scale.
After losing two starters to the draft and two to graduation last season, it took Oregon all three non-conference games for the newbies to get into rhythm.
Jeremiah Masoli was sacked five times in the first three games and just three times since then.
As well as protecting Masoli, the line has opened endless holes for running back LaMichael James, who leads the nation in yards per carry at a tick under seven.
Bo Thran and Jordan Holmes have admirably replaced Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou, while C.E. Kaiser, Mark Asper and freshman Carson York fill out the rest of the line.
If Thran and Co. can give Masoli time in the pocket and open lanes for LMJ, this game is as good as over. If Oregon can make it a shootout, Ohio State doesn’t stand a chance.
Since total offensive production is the easiest way to evaluate the position, I have to give Oregon the edge.
Rating:
Oregon 8, Ohio State 7.
Total: Oregon 41.5, Ohio State 35.
How could the ladies ever say no to these guys?

How could the ladies ever say no to these guys?

Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the offensive lines. If you missed yesterday’s, you can read about the tight ends here.

Analyzing skill positions is easy. Those guys hog the cameras, do flashy celebration dances and attract the affection of all the coeds (and sometimes even faculty) on campus.

Everyone knows about them.

But the guys who go unnoticed, the guys who allow for the skill players to do what they do, those are the guys in the trenches. Those are the guys who win games.

They may not be the sexiest or most attractive, they might even have unsightly facial hair or excessive back hair, you would probably even let own a loud grown if you were forced to sit between them on a cross-country flight, but dammit, they win games.

How often do you hear someone say, “Dad, all I want for Christmas is a game-worn Jordan Holmes jersey.”

Welcome to the life of an offensive lineman.

I don’t like that. No, not because I feel bad for them, but because now I have to do actual research in evaluating which team boasts the better collection of 300+ pound beasts.

And there is nothing lazier than a college student on winter break. Trust me.

But I toughed it out. I’m sure you will thank me later.

Coming into the season, Scout.com ranked both Ohio State and Oregon among the best in the country, with the Buckeyes at 11 and the Ducks at 16.

Up until last year, tOSU was known for its physical, unimaginative, run the ball down your throat style of play. Just push your guy harder than he pushed you – offensive lineman loved it.

But once Jim Tressel decided to change to the spread-option for Terrelle Pryor, it’s taken a while for everyone to get on the same page.

You can’t expect to completely change your style of play and have it work right away. You have to recruit different players and coaches have to learn what they’re doing. (You’ve almost got it Jimmy, just keep watching the film)

Look at Michigan, they were trying to run the spread with Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan. At least Ohio State had Pryor.

If you look deeper, the Buckeyes have fallen all the way from second in the Big Ten in yards per game in 2006 all the way to eighth in both 2008 and 2009.

You can’t teach agility to those big, hulking farm boys over night.

Oregon, meanwhile, is all speed, even on the line.

Only one Duck checks in at over 300 pounds, while all five of the Buckeyes tip the scale.

After losing two starters to the draft and two to graduation last season, it took Oregon all three non-conference games for the newbies to get into rhythm.

Jeremiah Masoli was sacked five times in the first three games and just three times since then.

As well as protecting Masoli, the line has opened endless holes for running back LaMichael James, who leads the nation in yards per carry at a tick under seven.

Bo Thran and Jordan Holmes have admirably replaced Max Unger and Fenuki Tupou, while C.E. Kaiser, Mark Asper and freshman Carson York fill out the rest of the line.

If Thran and Co. can give Masoli time in the pocket and open lanes for LMJ, this game is as good as over. Oregon wants to make it a shootout, and if they can, Ohio State doesn’t stand a chance.

Since total offensive production is the easiest way to evaluate the position, I have to give Oregon the edge.

Rating:

Oregon 8, Ohio State 7.

Total: Oregon 41.5, Ohio State 35.

Shameless Plugs:

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The Definitive Oregon Green Dude Interview

He is a man of simple taste. He enjoys safety blitzes, the Oregon spread-option attack, and the colors green and yellow. He prides himself on being the most fanatic, intimidating, and downright terrifying force in Autzen stadium. He makes visiting players, well, to be honest, piss themselves.

The Green Dude. That is all.

The Green Dude. That is all.

No, I am not talking about the Most Interesting Man in the World from those ever so popular Dos Equis commercials. Instead, I am describing a man who wears nothing but a skin-tight neon green spandex suit no matter the weather, the man who helps make the Autzen Zoo the Autzen Zoo, and the man who is the Duck football fan equivalent of Superman and Clark Kent.

Indeed, I am speaking of the one, the only, Oregon Green Dude.

You’ve all seen him by now. It would be hard not to. I mean, he is wearing a neon green spandex green suit. And I’m sure you have all wondered, “who is he”? Who this unmistakably stunning man hiding behind such a mysterious and attractive persona?

Unfortunately, I am not here to reveal the name of the man beneath the suit. Instead, I am here to tell his story. A story of how one modest episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia changed the course of one University of Oregon student’s life, and possibly the entire football season. Settle in, sports fans. Read close, for this is a story you may very well end up re-telling to your grandchildren (OK, maybe not…unless you’re the Green Dude).

It is no coincidence that the first time the Oregon Green Dude donned his new suit, the Ducks “upset” the California Golden Bears 42-3. In fact, you could even say it was fate.

Although the students who reside in Autzen stadium are collectively the craziest in the country, there was something missing during the first three games of the season. I wouldn’t say noise, or passion, or even good old fashion heckling. They were missing an identity.

And on Sept. 25, thanks to a seldom great idea from a Beaver fan, the suit was born.

By the time the Oregon Green Dude came within eyesight of Autzen stadium that sunny Saturday afternoon, he had already become a huge hit with the other fans.

“Right away people were asking for pictures and everything,” the nameless one said. “I definitely didn’t expect people to find it so cool and ask for pictures, hugs, and high fives and all that right.”

How can you blame them?

“Thus the green dude was born.”

So what is life like as the Oregon Green Dude? Well, it would be a lot easier if there were more phone booth’s on campus, that’s for sure.

“The suit really reveals nothing but my physique,” the mystery man says with a wry smile.

Fortunately, he hasn’t yet come across any clever, conniving, and cunning students who have tried to divulge his true identity.

“Haha, no, not yet. That would be interesting,” ponders the Green Dude. “I live away from campus, so normally it’s a car ride home. I would say if anybody goes through the work to follow me home, and are nice about, then they deserve to know.”

That isn’t an invitation to stalk the man–although it’s been hard for many to restrain their curiosity, especially middle-aged women (read: cougars).

“Up in Seattle a couple of hot Husky moms asked for a picture, but they ended up wanting more than just a snapshot. They were intrigued by my downstairs region.”
And for good reason.

What does the Green Dude wear under his suit?

“Nothing. It would look weird. Clothes would get all crumpled up and stuff.”

I guess women really do love a man in uniform, because the suit has proven to be a real aphrodisiac.

“I was fooling around with a certain lady friend and she wanted the green suit on, so I had to oblige, just for a minute or two. It was weird, it just didn’t really work.”

So what is the lesson behind the Oregon Green Dude? No, it isn’t, “don’t be afraid to take advice from a Beaver fan”.

The truth is, it’s all about being the best fan you can be—no matter how bad it smells under that suit.

“A good antiperspirant is a must.”

Autzen Stadium is home to several other super fans, but could there ever be a bigger fanatic than the Oregon Green Dude?

“I would say I’m a pretty hard character to copy. I’m a little bit of Spider Man, mixed with a little bit of Puddles, add some Brad Pitt, and some Jim carry… and you (the UO Sports Dude) might be close.”

I could not imagine a higher compliment.

Highlights from Halloween: Oregon Ducks Thrash the USC Trojans

This is the only video on the net that truly captures how great a day it was to be an Oregon Duck. Enjoy, and Go Ducks!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=7387138&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=00ADEF&fullscreen=1

Made by jtlight and danzig from Addicted to Quack

USC at Oregon from AT Q on Vimeo.

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Week Eight NFL Power Rankings: The Saints Go Marching On

Another week down and another crazy shake-up in the rankings. The Bears and 49ers faced reality checks, and I finally gave the Bengals the ounce of credibility they deserve. Due to midterms, I’m keeping the intro short and sweet this week.

Raiders Draft Football

Get used to that seat, JaMarcus. You'll be keeping it warm for a while.

On to the rankings.

32 (32) – Rams:
Poor, poor Steven Jackson. 143 rushing attempts on the season and still no touchdowns. Somebody give this man a hug.

31 (31) – Buccaneers:
Tampa Bay can now say they suck in two countries, which is probably more exciting than watching Josh Johnson try to throw a football.

30 (29) – Browns:
In his five games since taking over for the disgraced Brady Quinn, Derek Anderson has posted QB ratings of 30.9, 68.8, 15.1, 51.0, and 36.4. With a completion percentage of 44. Did Quinn beat up the GM? What does he have to do to get back on the field?

29 (27) – Chiefs:
On the bright side, that was an amazing touchdown catch by Dwayne Bowe. Unfortunately, it was their only one.

28 (25) – Raiders:
Andre Ware, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Rick Mirer, Cade McNown, Jim Drunkenmiller, Todd Marinovich, Joey Harrington, David Carr, JaMarcus Russell. Not a good list to be on.

27 (29) – Titans:
Best PR move of the week goes to Jeff Fischer wearing a Peyton Manning jersey to a charity event: “I just want to feel like a winner.” Classic.

26 (28) – Lions:
Cancel your plans and clear your schedules for this Sunday. You don’t want to pick up the in-laws from the airport anyway. Why? St. Louis comes to town. I can barely wait.

25 (22) – Panthers:
Jake Delhomme’s three interception performance on Sunday actually raised his QB rating for the year. Sad. Hey John Fox, Delhomme sucks, your backups are worse, and you have two of the best running backs in the NFL, don’t you think it’s time to try the wildcat? There couldn’t be a better situation.

24 (26) – Redskins:
“I had to go to the senior center and cancel my bingo calling,” said the 67-year-old Sherm Lewis, who last worked in the NFL with the Detroit Lions during the 2004 season. “And I had to cancel my Meals on Wheels today.” This team is a joke. Need I say more?

23 (23) – Seahawks:
Has there been a team more decimated by injuries in any sports the last two years? Other than the New York Mets this year, I can’t think of any. Brutal. I actually kind of feel bad for them, except for when they play the Niners.

22 (24) – Bills:
Did you know Ryan Fitzpatrick has won his last five starts? Me either. Unfortunately, I don’t think that stat alone is going to make Terrell Owens feel any better. Oh well, T.O. is probably working on his next reality show anyway.

21 (21) – Jaguars:
Jacksonville plays the Titans and Chiefs in the next two weeks, teams with a combined 1-12 record. Can you imagine the Jaguars as a 5-3 team? Even if it happened, it would just be a façade because four of their five wins would be against teams with a combined one win (Rams, Chiefs, Titans twice).

20 (20) – Dolphins:
If you’re going to blow a 24-3 lead at home, it might as well be to the Saints. In fantasy news, is it time to take Ricky Williams seriously as a legitimate starting running back? I think it might be.

19 (11) – Bears:
ESPN seriously can’t find somebody better than Jeffri Chadiha to do their NFL Power Rankings. Here’s his weekly gem: “The Bears are 1-3 on the road this season. That doesn’t bode well for their future.” I appreciate all the hard work and analysis you put into that one, buddy.

18 (10) – 49ers:
You know things are bad in San Francisco when Mike Singletary turns to Alex Smith to be the savior. At least Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree are fun to watch.

17 (19) – Jets:
ESPN’s Michael Clayton: “Mark Sanchez showed great hot-dog security in not fumbling the dog he ate in the second half of the win over the Raiders on Sunday.” Take it down a notch, cowboy, you’re trying too hard.

16 (18) – Texans:
Gun to your head, who has the most passing yards and TDs in the NFL? 99% of people would guess Peyton Manning. And 99% of people would be wrong. The answer? Matt Schaub.

15 (13) – Chargers:
San Diego’s wins are against Oakland, Miami and Kansas City. Their losses are against Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver. Just beat one good team and I’ll believe in you, that’s not too much to ask for, right?

14 (17) – Cowboys:
Miles Austin, the undrafted wide received out of Monmouth, is the sole reason the Cowboys have a winning record. He already has almost double the entire yardage from the first three years of his career. Not too shabby.

13 (16) – Cardinals:
Arizona plays Carolina, Chicago, Seattle, St. Louis and Tennessee in the next five weeks. There’s a legitimate chance the Cards could be 9-2 heading into a crucial week 13 matchup against Minnesota.

12 (9) – Falcons:
Hey Matthew Berry, Michael Turner’s looking pretty good, huh? He’s currently ranked 11th behind Ricky Williams, and even Fred Jackson has over 150 more total yards.

11 (14) – Packers:
Green Bay went an entire game without giving up a sack. Definitely good news, but it would be a little more convincing if they weren’t playing the Lions.

10 (12) – Eagles:
Philadelphia actually got outgained by the Redskins. Good thing Andy Reid bought the Costco pack of Butterfingers so he could afford to give one to Antwaan Randle El.

9 (9) – Ravens:
In contrast with recent history, Baltimore has the third highest scoring offense in the AFC and sixth in the NFL, thanks to the emergences of Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. But Denver will provide a huge test this week. A loss would put them at 3-4, with two games still looming against Pittsburgh.

8 (15) – Bengals:
Ok, a 35-point blowout of a playoff-caliber team does a little bit to convince me that Cincinnati is for real.  I still can’t believe Cedric Benson is the NFL’s leading rusher.

7 (6) – Giants:
I’ve been waiting all season to say this: Hey Eli Manning, never go full retard.

I have unhealthy man love for Drew Brees. 6 (7) – Steelers:
That Lamar Woodley fumble recovery was eerily reminiscent to the one a few years ago against the Colts in the playoffs.

5 (5) – Patriots:

I really want to believe the 2007 Patriots are back, but until they do it to a team with a win, I can’t believe it. At Indy in two weeks will be a telling game.
4 (5) – Broncos:
If Denver beats Baltimore this Sunday, you can just go ahead and give him the Coach of the Year Award on the field after the game.

3 (1) – Vikings:
Brett Favre looked a lot more like the Brett Favre of recent memory than the one from the first six games this season. Maybe he forgot he has the best running back in the NFL in his backfield. Speaking of Adrian Peterson, that was one of the best hits I have seen this season.

2 (3) – Colts:
I’m scared that the Colts are going to absolutely destroy my Niners this weekend. Please NFL Gods, have mercy.

1 (2) – Saints:
The Saints are winning games they never would have won before. And how cool was it to see Reggie Bush make one of his signature plays from his USC heyday by jumping a legitimate five yards for a touchdown?

Shameless plug:  If you made it this far, please share this blog with friends, family, or even people you don’t know or don’t like. Thanks!

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