Thursday night’s game against Arizona State was supposed to be the first true road test for No. 2 Oregon. Any questions leading up to the game about how the Ducks would respond – redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota in particular — were answered about two minutes in. A Kenjon Barner fumble on the Ducks’ first offensive possession was recovered by the Sun Devils, and Taylor Kelly threw a 28-yard touchdown to receiver Kevin Ozier seven seconds later to give ASU a 7-0 lead.
That was about the only thing that went right for ASU. Barner responded with a 71-yard touchdown run on Oregon’s next possession. After that, it was all Oregon all the way to halftime (which metaphorically signaled the end of the game). The entire second half was essentially garbage time and the Ducks went on to beat ASU 43-21.
It’s tough not to be impressed with Oregon, especially on defense. Say what you will about the Ducks’ schedule, but it’s not like Alabama has played anyone worthy of being called a quality win either. The Tide’s best win so far is the season-opener against Michigan, and the Wolverines haven’t exactly lived up to the preseason hype.
But Alabama’s a good football team. So is Oregon, and the two programs have a lot more in common than you might think. Nick Saban and Chip Kelly may run different schemes, but they have instilled a similar identity in their respective programs that’s proven successful over the past few years. That, and they have great players.
Does that mean those two will meet in the BCS championship at year’s end? Not necessarily; there’s a whole second half of a football season left to be played. The good news is that contenders like Oregon, Alabama, Kansas State, Florida and even Notre Dame all have key games remaining on their schedules. We’ll find out over the next six weeks who’s for real and who isn’t.
If Oregon keeps playing the rest of the season like it did tonight, though, there’s no reason to think the Ducks won’t be seriously in the BCS championship conversation once again. And they’ll deserve to be there.