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their prayers are being answered. The team is off to a 9-0 start, the best in school history, and has a strong chance to get to Glendale, Arizona for the BCS National Championship Game if they continue their winning ways. The Ducks have always been the pesky little brother in the Pac-10, holding their own against traditional powers like USC and making the occasional Rose Bowl appearance. For the last two seasons in particular, however, this program has taken a back seat to no one and is starting to look like the next long-term power in the conference.
While much credit goes to Mike Bellotti for developing the program over the last decade, it’s Chip Kelly that has taken this program to the next level. Kelly’s story is particularly striking considering that he came literally out of nowhere to coaching stardom in Eugene. Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire prior to taking the same position with Oregon in 2007 and then succeeding Bellotti as head coach last season.
When it comes to offense, Kelly’s spread option attack relies upon three things: speed, speed and speed. Did we mention speed? The Ducks practice during the week at a lightning pace and they carry that pace into their game performances as well. It might not be an exaggeration to say that the college football world has never seen anything like it—Oregon Ducks tickets have been best sellers not only in the Pac-10, but in all of college football too.
After losing star quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to off-field violations leading into this season, many thought that the Ducks would take a step back, particularly with a stacked field of Pac-10 opponents looming on the 2010 Oregon Ducks schedule. Enter freshman signal caller Darren Thomas. Thomas has been nothing short of brilliant, throwing for over 2,000 yards with 22 TDs against only 6 picks. Thomas has also rushed for 400 yards with 4 ground scores as well. And he’s not even the marquee player on offense. That title goes to LaMichael James, currently waging a Heisman race with Auburn’s Cam Newton. James leads the nation with an average of 166 yards per game and 18 TDs. Kenjon Barber and Remene Alston, Jr. provide quality running depth, while wide receiver Jeff Maehl (7 straight games with a TD catch) and tight end David Paulson are popular targets through the air. It all adds up to an offense that has put up 50+ points an alarming six times this season.
Considering that exactly half of their 58 touchdowns have been scored on drives of five plays or less, it might be accurate to state that they have considerable quick-strike capabilities.
With all the attention focused on the offense, it’s easy to overlook how good the defense has been as well. Cliff Harris leads the way with five picks, but the real story here is depth. With endless waves of quality players rotating in and out, the Ducks have repeatedly worn down their opponents, contributing to their 13th national ranking in scoring defense. Most astounding of all, Oregon has outscored the opposition 87-7 in the fourth quarter, a tribute to their conditioning, depth and the overwhelming speed with which they play the game. They’re not there just yet, but as of now there’s little indication that this team can be beat. If the current trend continues, this could be the year that Duck Nation finally reaches the Promised Land.