College football on the field is now officially over. However, there is good news: recruiting is heating up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oregon 8, Ohio State 7.
Total: Oregon 41.5, Ohio State 35.
Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the running backs. If you missed yesterday’s, you can read about the quarterbacks here.
After losing Beanie Wells, a first round pick, last season, there were questions about how effectively the Buckeyes would be able to run the ball. Coach Jim Tressel downplayed it, instead talking up how Terrelle Pryor’s growth over the summer would account for the lack of the workhorse running back they are used to having (Wells, Antonio Pittman and dare I say it, Maurice Clarett).
That didn’t go according to plan, but Ohio State still won the Big Ten (eleven), even though they might as well have been playing against beer-league flag football teams. I mean, their biggest competition was Iowa. If the second best team if your conference can throw five interceptions again Indiana (the Hoosiers!) and still win, yeah, you have a weak conference.
In fact, their leading ball carrier is none other than the quarterback. Not a good sign for a team that is known for grinding it out on the ground. It’s amazing what teams will do to land a top recruit.
Apparently Ohio State was willing to throw their entire offensive strategy out the window. But hey, I guess it was time to change it up. Getting smashed harder than Lindsay Lohan at an open bar in BCS games is only fun for so long.
But in all seriousness, the Buckeyes do have a legitimate threat in the backfield, even though he is third on the team in carries and gets little to no national publicity. For all the press than Pryor and DeVier Posey receive on the offense, junior Brandon Saine goes relatively unnoticed.
In fact, like Bill Livingston said in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the biggest case of tOSU neglect stands 6-2, weighs 217 pounds, ran a faster 100-meter time (10.38 seconds) when he was Ohio’s high school state champion than Ted Ginn Jr., the old Glenville flash, and made second team All-Big Ten, despite having only the third-most carries on his team.
Neither of the Ohio State losses can be blamed on Saine. He received only one carry for two yards against Southern California while sophomore counterpart Daniel Herron ran 18 times for 44 yards, including getting stuffed at the Trojan goal line.
Saine also missed the Purdue game with an injury. But he has gotten healthy and turned on the jets lately, finishing the season strong with four touchdowns in as many games.
It will be intriguing to watch the Duck defense contain the Buckeye backfield, with an uncharacteristically fast offense match up with the speedy Oregon side.
Meanwhile, we all know about LaMichael James. My number one man crush also received Pac-10 freshman of the year and AP Third Team All-American honors.
James more than filled in for LeGarrette Blount; he made fans forget about him. He made me feel like I was playing a video game every time he touched the ball.
Case in point: the UCLA game (fast forward to 55 seconds in).
LMJ’s short stature actually works to his advantage, allowing him to sneak behind the offensive line until he finds the hole and then bursts through it faster than Lance Briggs fled the crime scene after crashing his Lamborghini Murcielago in 2007.
The freshman has the highest yards per carry, at 6.9, than any other running back in a BCS conference.
The re-emergence of Blount only adds to the punch of the Oregon backfield. (See what I did there?)
For the first time all year, Chip Kelly can give LMJ a breather knowing that he won’t have to take a hit in talent at running back. (Oops, I did it again)
The running game has been the strongest point for the Ducks all season long, averaging over 236 yards per game on the ground.
But the Buckeyes are no slouches either, topping 200 a game themselves.
I think it’s safe to say that whoever wins the running game will most likely come out on top.
Oregon 10, Buckeyes 8.
Total: Oregon 19, Buckeyes 15.
It’s never too early to start talking about the Rose Bowl. And even though we’re still 18 days away from the annual New Years Day tradition, I’m about nine days and eighteen hours behind everyone else.
With so much time to kill before the actual game (insert I want a playoff rant here), I will compare the Ducks and Buckeyes position by position to see who stacks up better on paper – because as we all know, whoever is better on paper always wins the game. Uhh, never mind.
Where better to start than the quarterbacks? Let’s get it on.
If I had told you in December of 2007 that Jeremiah Masoli would be better than Terrelle Pryor you probably would have laughed harder than the first time you showed your unsuspecting friend the two girls one cup video.
Pryor, the all-everything uber recruit, drew Vince Young comparisons before he even signed a letter of intent. The Army All-American Bowl MVP was ranked No. 1 by every single recruiting service in the world, galaxy and universe.
My roommate even started a Facebook fan page called “Make Terrell Pryor an Oregon Duck” that quickly amassed 2,000 supporters. Of course, on March 19th, the name of the page was swiftly changed to “Terrelle Pryor Will Get Owned by the Oregon Ducks”.
Funny how fast things change in the world of sports.
What about Masoli. Where was he in 2007? Masoli was trying to rebound from being expelled from Bay Area football power house Serra High School (in my hometown!) after he, and three other captains, were arrested and charged with robbing a kid at the mall.
Fortunately, Masoli got back on track at Community College of San Francisco, a national junior college power, winning the national championship and player of the year honors as a freshman.
Quietly and with little fan fare, the Ducks landed the three star recruit and listed him fifth on their depth chart going into last season. There was no such Facebook page was made for him.
Four injured quarterbacks later, Masoli was starting and we all know the story from there.
Masoli is what Pryor was supposed to be, a spread-option machine, perfect for Chip Kelly’s wide open system. And well, Pryor is the tenth most efficient quarterback in the Big Ten – slightly behind expectations.
Ok, maybe that’s selling Pryor a bit short. He still has all the potential in the world, and having been thrust into the starting role as a freshman in one the country’s biggest programs, and having coach who has no idea how to run a spread offense is no easy situation to deal with.
That said, he still has trouble making the correct reads and knowing when to take off or stay in the pocket. His interceptions are up and his completion percentage is down from last year. Also, Prior has been sacked 18 times for more than 200 yards.
With a month to prepare for Oregon’s speedy, yet undersized defense, Pryor might be at an advantage. The Ducks have never seen such a gifted dual-threat quarterback before, so they might have some trouble stopping him in the open field.
But if the Oregon defense can bring pressure and fluster the sophomore quarterback, there’s a good chance Pryor will start to lose his composure, like in the Purdue game where he was visibly upset, even starting arguments with his teammates on the field.
Masoli, on the other hand, has played just about as well as humanly possible since the start of Pac-10 play. Since the Cal game, Masoli holds a 63-percent completion percentage and a 15:3 touchdown to interception ratio, not including his seven rushing touchdowns.
Another plus for Masoli is that he gets up for big games: Both Civil Wars, the Holiday Bowl and the last few games in the Pac-10. Masoli truly thrives when the pressure is on (see Masoli’s run late in the fourth quarter against the Beavs in you don’t believe me).
I fully expect Masoli to be the better quarterback on New Years Day.
Rating (I will rate each position on a 1-10 scale and keep a running tally as we go along):
Masoli 9, Pryor 7.
If you go to Kansas, Kentucky or Syracuse, football season couldn’t have ended fast enough.
Why bother suffering through the endless Mark Mangino fat jokes when you could support a different sport in which the national media has doled out 62 first place votes?
Kentucky already has accounted for more wins on the hardwood in one month than they did on the football field since last October. I think fans in the Bluegrass State are much happier watching the most exciting player the country, freshman John Wall, instead of freshman quarterback Morgan Newton struggle his way to a 55.4 completion percentage.
And Syracuse, well, they were so desperate for basketball season that they stole Duke’s point guard to be their quarterback.
So if you’re a Duck fan, I hope you relished every second of the football regular season because after the Rose Bowl, it’s a long way back until football season. It hurts to say, but the most exciting sport during the winter in Eugene is football recruiting. But hey, at least we’re doing well at that!
Alright, maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. Or maybe not.
I had a chance to take in today’s game against the St. Mary’s Gaels and the team is clearly much improved from last year. It won’t take until February to win the first game of conference play. But the same crutches still remain: Turnovers, forced shots, missed free throws and the complete lack of a half court offense.
And what do you know, those exact reasons led to a fourth quarter collapse against a beatable St. Mary’s squad (I think they were the first team in the history of D1 basketball to start five white players, especially one with a 6-1 record).
The Ducks led most of the game, controlling the tempo and letting their superior athleticism bail them out in transition and on the glass. But late in the second half, Oregon started slowing the pace, trying to control the clock. And here’s a shocker – the Gaels started creeping their way back into the game.
In short, Oregon looked more lost running the half court set than when Bambi realized the hunter had made dinner out of his mother.
First of all, earth to Michael Dunigan: A screen doesn’t work just by running to a certain spot on the floor and standing there. You actually have to make contact with the defender. And secondly, didn’t you learn in elementary school that after you set your “screen” you roll to the basket? You don’t just lollygag at the top of the key with your hands in your pockets waiting for the play to end so it’s a shorter run back on defense.
I don’t get why Ernie Kent would force his team into an uncomfortable style of play that he KNOWS they aren’t good at, when the only reason they were winning in the first place was because they managed to completely avoid running a half court set the entire game.
Ernie Kent, dance with you brung you.
If you haven’t figured out yet, Oregon basketball is my whipping boy for Duck athletics. I can shamelessly say that I never get tired of Joevan Catron fat jokes or “fire Ernie Kent” talk.
And missing nine free throws in a five point loss isn’t going to slow me down anytime soon.
But let’s take a second to look at the positives.
With Tajuan Porter and Catron (thank God) sitting out, it gave some of the youngsters a chance to get some extra run. E.J. Singler, Malcom Armstead and Jamil Wilson all look like future quality starters.
Singler brought back Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s famous sky hook, unleashing it against taller defenders successfully at least three times. He also has an eye for the correct passing lanes, dishing out four assists without recording a turnover.
Armstead will make a solid back-up point guard once Porter returns from his ankle woes. The juco transfer is a physical player who likes to take the ball to the rack and gives his all on D, averaging over 2.5 steals per game.
Wilson, when he isn’t tripping over his own feet, shows flashes of absolute brilliance. The freshman out of Wisconsin has a smooth stroke and a constant motor, always following his own shot and finding a man to box out. Then again, there’s the three for thirteen performance against Missouri last weekend.
But the player to watch this season is Teondre Williams. The sophomore looks like a completely different player than last year – and considering he had a 36.1 FG%, that’s a good thing.
He can shoot, drive, dish, defend, and deliver some rim-shaking dunks. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the Pac-10 second team.
Don’t get too excited yet, Duck fans, this team still has a long way to go before reaching even half of its potential. Until they understand the basics, Oregon will be in for a season filled with highs and (even more) lows.
Hopefully, Ernie Kent will soon check his ego at the door and give Mike Dunlap a chance to teach something Kent can’t: The fundamentals.
It’s no secret that people are attracted to celebrity. That’s why brands and mega-corporations hire athletes, actors and hot women to promote their products: people often blindly emulate and imitate the stars they idolize.
Michael Jordan built Nike, George Foreman became known more his grills than his boxing career, and Peyton Manning, well, he’ll endorse just about anything.
Celebrity endorsements can work on a national scale if the celebrity’s star power is strong enough, but in some cases, it can be more efficient to target local icons where the entire community will get behind just about everything they say.
Case in point: The Oregon Green Man.
Football is just about as big at the University of Oregon as Tiger Woods is nationwide, so if a company can hire a passionate, loveable fan that epitomizes Oregon Football – for a fraction of the price – there’s a good chance that the company will get a good return on its investment.
Lundquist College of Business seniors, Steven Strand and Daniel Cogan, were hired by New York-based marketing agency Mr. Youth to be Hewett Packard brand ambassadors on the Oregon campus.
Seeing that HP doesn’t have a sponsorship agreement with the University of Oregon athletic department, the students were struggling to find a way to align themselves with the university.
As students of the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, they saw the opportunity to leverage their role as HP Ambassadors and align their marketing efforts with one of the universities premier sports properties in such a way that required no official purchase of marketing rights.
By recognizing and leveraging a local student icon, they were able to promote, advertise, and execute a successful ambush campaign.
DuckVision, ESPN cameras and Facebook users all love the Green Man – and they should. If he’s crazy enough to wear nothing but a paper-thin nylon suit to 20 degree football games, the man deserves some attention.
And boy, has he gotten plenty of it.
With over 3,000 dedicated fans on Facebook – mostly students – the Green Man can easily communicate with the desired target audience. As a key element of promoting an HP-sponsored tailgate before the Arizona State game, they required the Green Man to post several times in his status updates that he would be hanging out at the tailgate.
Word quickly spread and the Oregon Daily Emerald, the student-run newspaper, published a release about the endorsement agreement: “The HP tailgate event has also partnered with Green Man, an enthusiastic University football fan, to attend the event, take photos and greet fans”.
Steve and Daniel estimate that over 300 people stopped by to enjoy the free hot dogs provided by HP and to check out the dm3 computer they had set up.
Along with the tailgate, the Green Man wore cleverly placed HP stickers on his suit during the game, finding his way numerous times onto DuckVision and ESPN to boot.
“”HP’s Brand Ambassadors, Dan and Steve, came to us with the suggestion to incorporate the Green Man into an HP sponsored tailgate that the team was hosting to promote the new HP Pavilion dm3 notebook,” said Mr. Youth representative Ashley Tyson.
“We were excited to see the Green Man supporting the HP brand. HP is deeply invested in student life at the University of Oregon and we will look to continue that in future semesters.”
Without a doubt, the partnership has been a resounding success. With low input costs and lots of exposure, the brand ambassadors found a great strategy for influencing brand preference at a critical age for potential lifelong HP customers.
Well, maybe you are in calculus, quantum physics or organic chemistry, but probably not in picking college football games.
Welcome to the first annual UOSportsDude.com College Bowl Pick’em contest.
I have teamed up with FantasyDaddy.com, 619Sports.net and NFLshouts.com to put on the biggest tournament that is hosted by a University of Oregon student, a fantasy football website, a San Diego sports website and a Twitter-like website that covers the NFL. Beat that ESPN!
Although I cannot officially announce the prize just yet, it will be good. Think free product from a company that sponsors Oregon football and many high profile professional athletes such as Ryan Braun. If you guess the prize you will earn a high-five and/or free product.
Also, the winner will get free merchandise from the FantasyDaddy.com store, most likely featuring the above beautiful winged logo on it. Duck fans can relate.
This is how you can sign up:
You will be able to make your picks once the oh-so-exciting Army-Navy game is over on December 12th, because you can’t have the college bowl season without the EagleBank Bowl. That’s like having Spaghetti without meatballs or lamb without tuna fish. It just shouldn’t happen!
Why we can’t just make our picks and come back for this one, I still don’t know.
UPDATE: They must have read this because all of the set games are available to be picked as of this moment!
It’s finals week. You have two essays to write, three exams to study for, and a final project where one member of your group keeps showing up to meetings drunk (that really happened).
And it all needs to be done by Wednesday.
You’re overwhelmed. You don’t want to study. I understand.
You might have even made it to the library, have your books and notes on the table in front of you, but you just can’t stop checking your @mentions on twitter, your Facebook fan page and googling your own name. Wait, that’s just me?
I have been in the library for eight of my last twenty-four hours and this post is all I have to show for it. FAIL.
Whatever the case, if you’re like me and you’re looking for any excuse to take a break from the books, or just prolong you from starting in the first place, this is your lucky day.
I have scourged the depths of the internet to find the most entertaining, time-wasting, anti-productive, raise-your-chances-of-failing, parent-infuriating, anything-is-better-than-studying-for-anthropology-videos on YouTube.
Here is the best of what I could come up with. Please feel free to add your links or just vent about finals in the comments.
Stay with this one till the end, it’s worth it.
That’s enough to get you started. Maybe I’ll add more later. Enjoy!