Sunday, January 15, 2012

Darron Thomas - Agree or Disagree he is among Oregon's Greatest!

Fitting to Darren Thomas' personality, his accomplishments do the talking.

Darren Thomas' decision to declare eligible for the NFL Draft shocked me when I first heard it. My initial thought like most was that he was not making the right decision. That thought lasted all of about five minutes after putting some more thought into it.

First thing to consider is Thomas would really gain nothing from coming back and would be risking injury where he plays in a system that has scene its fair share of QB's go down. Second is there are some really good QB's coming out next year and though RGIII and Andrew Luck are going this year the depth of this class is not like in years past. Another thought to consider is Chip Kelly always talks about how intelligent he is at his position and how much of a competitor he is. Really sit back and think about late in games that mattered...he delivered in the Championship game last year when he needed too, same thing against SC even though we lost both. He delivered in the Rose Bowl this year, and at Stanford too. I really can't remember him losing a game for Oregon with bad decision making or errant throws. I realize against SC he made several mistakes and if he led DAT on a late 4th quarter pass it would have been 6 but forget that, he still got the team in position to go to OT. I really can't remember a QB that was as clutch as DT since Harrington and its hard to say DT wasn't more productive. Two consecutive 12 win seasons, 12-1 as a first year starter, Rose Bowl Champions, led his team to the first ever NC game, and holds the record for most TD passes in a single season and career. Oregon finished #3 and #4 in the country with Thomas as the starter. Under Harrington Oregon finished #7 AP Poll 2000, and #2 in 2001 however did not make the BCS Championship game (not to say Oregon didn't deserve to be in the game).

If there was a knock on him it's that he lacks spectacular mechanics and went through spells of inaccuracy but overall he is very solid. He's not the runner that Masoli and Dixon were nor is he the passer that Harrington was but he also isn't the slowest guy on the field either. He extended plenty of plays when he needed too, and was always looking downfield first. I would say he was a better passer than Masoli, has just as strong of arm as Joey, and could extend plays like Dixon. I'm not saying he's better individually but his resume in my opinion is better than all three. The last thing to consider when comparing him top past Oregon greats, is his bad games were not that bad. I remember Harrington having 11 turnovers in the two losses in the 2000 season to Wisconsin and Oregon State. I don't remember Thomas having a game close to that bad. You could probably argue who was better all day as I am fond of both and my guess is you would be splitting hairs. Point is, if you are judging today Darron Thomas belongs in the conversation for Best QB's to ever play at Oregon!

One of the last things to consider is athletes need to look at their financial future and propensity to make money in a trade that is cut throat with a very short shelf life. Even if he goes to the CFL he will still get paid to play football, which is the ultimate for these athletes. He may only have a 3-7 year window to make money professionally so he should do it while his body is young and resilient. As fans I think we can be idealistic and want to believe that winning championships is #1 priority to college athletes. While this is true in many cases, there is a point where you have to think about whats best for you personally.

Darron Thomas did what he needed for the University and even more than was expected. He took Oregon to its first ever National Championship game in his first year as a starter, ended the 95 year Rose Bowl Champion drought, and broke records doing it. He accomplished just as much, if not more than any QB in his time at Oregon. No matter how you slice it, DT is among the best QB's to ever play at Oregon. Duck fans should be thankful for what he accomplished and support him in his decision, because it is exactly that...his decision!

The Fan

If you want to read more...Shockingly this is the first time i actually agree with John Canzano...Ted Miller also offers some good insight.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Rose Bowl: Keys to Game and Prediction

Oregon vs Wisconsin

Keys to the Game:

We've all heard the match up talked about as Oregon Speed vs Wisconsin Power. The contrasting styles, the traditional Big 10 vs Pac 12 match-up. Oregon wants to get its explosive play makers in space and Wisconsin wants to pound Monte Ball down your throat and then play action and beat you deep.

I think a lot has been made about how good the offenses in this game are however to me this game will come down to three important things. Who has the better defense, who turns the ball over more, and who outplays who on special teams.

Offense: Both teams have explosive Offenses, explosive feature backs, solid quarterbacks, and average 44 and 46 pts per game. In NCAA total offense statistics Oregon ranks 4th and Wisconsin 14th however in the more accurate Yards Per Play stat Wisconsin would be 5th at 7.02 and Oregon 4th at 7.04. You are splitting hairs in comparing these teams offensively.

Comparing who they've played and how the stats were gained. Playing Top 30 Defenses you will see that Wisconsin played, Michigan State twice, Penn St, Illinois, and Ohio State. Oregon played, Stanford, California, and LSU. So I look at this and say it's pretty close in comparison. Illinois held Wisconsin to its season low at 28 and LSU held Oregon to 27 for its season low in points scored. In Wisconsin's two losses this year they were held to 31 and 29 points. In Oregon's two losses they were held to 35 and 27. A key factor in both Oregon losses this year were turnovers. In Wisconsin's loss to Michigan State they lost the turnover battle and time of possession. In the Ohio State loss they only rushed for 89 yards, and lost the Time of Possession battle as well.

So my conclusion for who has the offensive advantage is - Neutral 

Defense: Wisconsin ranks 8th in NCAA Total Defense. Oregon ranks 63rd so it would seem Wisconsin has a large edge here, but lets go deeper. If you look at Yards per play allowed Wisconsin averages 4.85 and Oregon 4.93. Again this is a very small difference. Oregon defended 1005 plays this season and Wisconsin 786. If you compare the Top 30 Offenses that each team played you will see that Oregon played Nevada, Stanford, Arizona, Arizona State, and USC. Wisconsin played Northern Illinois. One thing I'm not sure of is if the lack of good offenses are a product of good defenses in the Big 10 or if they just don't have that many explosive offensive players. Wisconsin seems to be the one team in the conference that has both.

Advantage- Oregon The Ducks have been tested against many top offenses and yield almost the same yards per play. They have defended great offenses and given up only 40 points to LSU who only gained 276 yards of Offense. USC gashed the Ducks for 38 points with their high powered offense and NFL Receivers. I'm not sure Wisconsin has that type of talent out wide even though they do have Monte Ball. The Badgers have the best Running back - Quarterback duo Oregon will play all year. It will be interesting to see how they come out and defend.

Turnovers: Advantage Wisconsin- 8 All season The Badgers handle the ball really well and Monte Ball has NEVER FUMBLED! Ball security is huge in this game and if Oregon loses this battle like against LSU it could be lights out for the Ducks.

Special Teams: Advantage Oregon- Wisconsin is 81st in Defending Kickoff returns. Oregon has speed on special teams that Wisconsin will have to contain. Oregon is 1st in Net Punting and Wisconsin 71st. In a game where there are few advantages this could be the biggest difference.

What to Expect: I expect The Badgers will look to do what they do best and that's run the ball. I think they will attempt to get Oregon on their heels on Defense and probably take a shot early, maybe even on the first play. I expect Wisconsin to look to stop the run of Oregon and keep the Ducks in front of them. They have emphasized tackling and tempo in their preparation so don't expect them to be surprised or intimidated by Oregon's tempo.

I think Oregon will look to soften up Wisconsin by throwing the ball early. I expect we will see an extremely balanced offensive game plan as it plays out. On Defense, I think Oregon will play man up on the corners, and leave 7 and 8 in the box to contain Monte Ball and Russel Wilson. Wisconsin is athletic and big enough on the edges to go deep on the Ducks. If Oregon doesn't play coverage well, it could be a long day for Oregon fans!

The ultimate difference in this game will be Oregon's Defense and Special Teams. The one thing that could change the outcome significantly is Oregon losing the turnover battle by 2 or more. I don't expect that to be the case. I think Oregon will make some big plays on Special Teams that will change the game. Oregon will need to take care of the ball on offense because Wisconsin quite simply doesn't make too many mistakes. I think The Ducks Defense will do a solid job however it will be how Oregon limits Wisconsin's explosion plays that will make the final difference. Expect Oregon's offense to get on track this game, and help propel Oregon to a 45-30 Victory.

Thanks for reading and enjoy a great 2012!

The Fan