Sometimes redemption—for both a three-year losing streak and an embarrassing season debut on national television—can motivate a team to achieve great things.
But while there are no doubt exceptions to every rule, statistical truths can be much too overwhelming to overcome.
That said, unfortunately for Oregon, all signs point to a Pac-10-opening loss to Cal in Eugene this weekend.
But with about as much on the line for the Bears as ever—see USC's loss to Washington last weekend and the country's subsequent latching onto Cal as the Pac-10's rightful heir—how could anyone be so confident?
Well, let's start with the facts.
Oregon's run defense hasn't been very good, something we expected with such an inexperienced front four.
After three weeks, the Ducks rank just 76th in the nation in run defense, allowing 151 yards per game. Combine that with the fact that, for the most part, Cal's offensive line has performed well, and Oregon could be in a lot of trouble defensively (insert sentence here, containing the words "Jahvid Best" and "field day").
And that's not even considering the Ducks' mediocrity defending through the air, as Oregon also ranks 62nd nationally against the pass.
But really, when have the Ducks ever been primarily about defense, anyway?
It's just, in 2009, the ornately attired Donalds score or be scored upon approach isn't working out so well.
The usually potent ground attack isn't there (and it's not like it left with LaGarrett Blount, either), and there's absolutely zero passing game to compensate.
But even if the Ducks' offense was rolling, history—and a certain defensive coordinator—still wouldn't be on their side.
From 2005-08, Oregon has had one of the most daunting offenses in not just the conference, but also the country as a whole.
During that time, the Ducks averaged just over 37 points per game against Pac-10 teams not wearing blue and gold.
Against the Bob Gregory coached Bears in that span?
Statistically, few Pac-10 coaches game plan for Oregon's up-tempo offense like Gregory (though, to USC's credit, the Trojans have limited the Ducks to just 14 ppg from 05-08), and up against the No. 111 offensive unit in the country, the one-time U of O defensive backs coach looks good to defend his title as bird wrangler.
That said, Oregon is going to have to lean on its penchant for forcing turnovers (14th nationally with eight) this weekend...but those darn stats are at it again.
The Bears have exactly one giveaway in all of 2009.
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