At the mid-point of this season it has become clear one of the big games remaining is this weekend's Stanford-Oregon contest. That result will in turn highlight the game between the winner and Cal. Arizona State's meltdown at USC last weekend elevates their Oct. 30 match with Cal as another defining game in the final conference standings. So while history and tradition are a significant appeal to all that is college football, I think I prefer the wide-open dynamism of the Pac-10 over the "same old, same old" most other conferences provide.
In this, their second year of use, the current incarnation of Nike's creative genius still attract grumbles as the various combination of jersey/pant colors are worn on game day.
1.) My favorite Duck football uniforms were the yellow pant/green jersey/yellow helmet combination they wore the year of the Rose Bowl. The jersey was accented with the "Duck through the O" logo across a 3-band white/yellow accent on each sleeve while the yellow pants featured the interlocked UO in green. Top off the look with a yellow helmet divided by a "Green Bay Packers' green/white/green tri-band and also showing the green interlocked UO logo on each side, the Ducks styled in fine fashion.
The combination used last Saturday in their game against Arizona caused the earlier version to be fondly recalled – perhaps a "throw-back" day would be something the Athletic Department would consider. Such promotions have been a staple of the professional leagues for the past few years, but to my knowledge no college program has done such a promotion.
2.) I am not a traditionalist in the uniform matter – although I do consider the '94 combination to be the best, I do like the various combinations the new uniforms allow. The road whites are simple but elegant, and the yellow/green combinations are contemporary and striking. I could do without the shiny brocade across the front shoulders – this seems to be a distracting element to the overall look to my eyes - but on the whole, I find the uniforms to be appealing. Their strongest attribute, however, is the telegenic properties they possess. Especially for night games, but true in all light conditions, when the camera turns on, the Ducks uniforms exhibit a pleasant contrast to the green of the playing field. In particular, the yellow used in the newer uniforms televise as a bit deeper a shade than they hold when seen in person, and that slight spectral shift is flattering to the uniform's overall appearance. As the players are in motion these uniforms accentuate the angularity and speed of the game better than the conventional uniforms most teams wear. What is next up Nike's sleeve is surely top secret – but I look forward to seeing what they conjure up to improve upon these.
Stop a Moment to Ponder:
In the 70's when the option attack became the rage, it seemed all of what is now the Big 12 ran some variation of the offense. Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska established their programs amongst the nationally elite with big strong linemen and a quick backfield, employing the versatile system to identify where to attack the defense after the play was underway. This represents a distinct advantage over a conventional offense where two or three options are pre-determined in the play call. The forward pass was always an element of the option offense, though none of those schools really developed that element beyond the very basic ability to throw the ball, mostly unsuccessfully, for seven or eight yards in a third and long situation. The offense never realized it's full potential due to the lack of quarterbacks who threw in high school (they too, were ALL running the option), or speed receivers (most likely, they were the pitch option in ALL those high school option offenses).
Fast-forward to the 21st century and the Ducks. Beginning with Joey Harrington, the Oregon offense has included an option play or two nearly every game. It has been particularly effective for them near the opponent's goal line, but they have utilized the formation just about everywhere outside of their own 20-yard line.
I would be very interested to see if Oregon could develop a true passing threat out of their option package. Certainly the personnel are in place at the skill positions. With the increased mobility of modern day offensive linemen compared to the historic Big 12 variety, and also given the fact the Ducks routinely roll the quarterback out to the right to help in the protection scheme, it would seem to be a natural step forward to incorporate a medium to deep passing threat into the play list. Kellen Clemens has shown he can throw on the move and from what has been seen to date of Dennis Dixon, it would be easy to assume he could master such an offense. Anybody got the ear of Coach Mike Bellotti or Coach Andy Ludwig enough to offer the suggestion? In my opinion, if they were to develop that capability, it would strike complete panic in any defense finding such a beast across the line of scrimmage.
In your mind's eye, imagine Kellen taking the snap: a dive fake to Dante Rosario, then sprinting behind the right line of scrimmage with Terrence Whitehead as the pitch option while Tim Day runs a 10-yard crossing route from the opposite end and Demetrius Williams runs a streak to the goal line from this end of the formation. I would give a pretty dollar to have a close up of the eyes of the outside linebacker, cornerback and safety once they recognize how outflanked they are and realize how physical the point of attack has become. Nice to know, too, is that the rest of the current offensive package would remain effective, if not more so. It's worth contemplating anyway…
(Not So Instant) Replay:
Twice this season, the television camera has caught first year Arizona coach Bob Stoops having an epileptic temper tantrum on the sidelines. While it is true that last Saturday's episode was precipitated by a very real injustice - game officials absolutely missed the fumble the Wildcats recovered on their own one-yard line to prevent what became Oregon's first touchdown - the antics quickly became an embarrassment to the game. More concerning, later in the game quarterback Kris Heavner received a full-blown Bill Cowher style face full of Stoops. Yes, Heavner had struggled all day – he's a sophomore – they all struggle… but whatever the transgression, I doubt he deserved or found to be beneficial the sideline shower of epithets. Yes, coaches have to become demonstrably emphatic to penetrate the thinking process of young athletes occasionally and sometimes later in life it takes on a comical aspect. It is doubtful this will be one of those occasions. I would be curious how many future recruits will decide the path to improvement is better found with a collaborator instead of a dictator. Dictators wear very thin very quickly; understandable only at the professional level, and then only marginally acceptable. If he can't change his approach to teaching, Mr. Stoops best win soon… next year at the latest, in my view. Beyond that he is Arizona's next (John) Mackovic – more destructive than can be quantified in terms of wins and losses, though the latter surely accumulate in the process.