Oregon hopes to avoid the pitfalls of being No. 1
Oregon is the No. 1 team in both major polls for the first time in school history, and the Ducks currently occupy the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings. But none of that really matters to head coach Chip Kelly, who throughout the season pretended that rankings don’t even exist in the college game.
But Kelly loosened up a bit during his media conferences this week, acknowledging the place the Ducks occupy on the college landscape and what it means for now.
And that’s just it. It means something — for now.
But Thursday night against UCLA (3-3, 1-2), Kelly and the Ducks (6-0, 3-0) will feel what it’s like to be the hunted. Just as Alabama and Ohio State felt when the two teams sat atop the polls.
ICONOregon head coach Chip Kelly finally acknowledged this week that rankings do exist.
“Really, what it is is it's nice to be ranked," Kelly said. "Obviously, it's beneficial to us because we don't have to go far [up in the standings]. But we still have to win. And if we lose one — that's something unique about college football now — if you lose one you're probably out of it."
The Ducks certainly have the talent to navigate a tough Pac-10 schedule, and if they remain unscathed it's more than likely they will be playing for the BCS national championship. Of course, no one will know how the standings shake out until the end of the season. For now, winning is everything.
Which UCLA team will the Ducks get Thursday night in Autzen Stadium? The one that rolled Texas 34-12 on Sept. 25, a game in which the Bruins rushed for 264 yards and threw just nine passes but still dismantled the Longhorns. Or the squad that was shut out by Stanford 35-0 and rushed for only 26 yards in a 35-7 loss to California?
The Bruins are battling the injury bug once again under center. Kevin Prince, who has struggled with consistency in games when he hasn’t been on the practice field the previous week, is once again questionable. Richard Brehaut could very well get the start.
The key will be if the Bruins’ physical offensive line can pave the way for explosive running backs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman. If the Ducks are able to limit a rushing attack that averages 223 yards per game, then it could be a disastrous showing for Rick Neuheisel’s squad. Despite it being an area of emphasis during the bye week, the Bruins’ passing game has been nonexistent this season, ranking 118th in the nation at just 95.5 yards per game. With questions under center and a very fast and deep Ducks defense on the other side of the ball, this could look more like the Bruins we saw in the first two weeks of the season and two weeks ago against Cal.
In addition to wide receiver Nelson Rosario likely being sidelined with a bad ankle, Neuheisel will be dealing with other personnel issues. Reports claim that as many as six players could be suspended for the game for team rules violations. The only announced suspensions so far have been to wide receiver/kick returner Josh Smith and tight end Morrell Presley. Smith is the Pac-10's fifth-leading kick returner.
If you’re a Bruins fan, the prospect of winning in such a tough environment as Autzen seems bleak. Your best bet? Believe in the curse of No. 1.
And hope that the pistol offense comes out smoking.
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