The Ducks boosted their cause Oct. 21 with a 60-13 deconstruction of UCLA on national television, furthering stamping Oregon as the fastest and funnest team in the land.
"We do put up a lot of good numbers, put a lot of points on the board," center Jordan Holmes told the Eugene Register-Guard. "But we practice hard. Our preparation's great and we have a lot of talent. When we work together, it's something special."
It's been a special season so far, but coach Chip Kelly never talks about rankings, whether they are for his own team or for the opponent. He is masterful on keeping the Ducks focused and on-task.
"We've never talked about the rankings. It's not all of a sudden when we've gotten to No. 1, 'Oh wait, I've got to call a team meeting and talk about it,'" he said.
"If I called a team meeting to talk about rankings, our players would think there's something wrong. We've never addressed it before."
He won't have to address the escalating hype for this week's game at USC.
The ESPN GameDay crew will be in Los Angeles as the top-ranked Ducks (7-0, 4-0 Pac-10) take on USC. The Trojans are coming off a bye, which followed a 48-14 victory over visiting Cal that signaled that USC is still dangerous. The Trojans are not going to quietly roll over despite not being eligible for the postseason or conference title due to NCAA sanctions.
"We've got a huge challenge next week," Kelly said.
"I have a lot of respect for them. I think Matt Barkley is one of the really, really special quarterbacks in this country."
Mostly, though, the word "special" is being reserved for the Ducks.
--Oregon's 60 points in its Oct. 21 victory was its most ever in 64 meetings against the Bruins. And the 47-point margin of victory was the Ducks' most in the series, easily eclipsing the 27-point margin in the 1929 game.
--LB Casey Matthews is one of 15 semifinalists for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's top linebacker. UCLA's Akeem Ayers and Washington's Mason Foster are other candidates from the Pac-10. Finalists will be announced Nov. 23, with the winner announced Dec. 8.
--Oregon improved its home winning streak to 14 games. The Ducks have won 11 consecutive home games in Pac-10 play. The Ducks have had 72 consecutive sellouts at Autzen Stadium, dating to 1999.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB LaMichael James -- He's right near the top of the discussion for the Heisman Trophy, although he might be a stumble or two from Auburn's Cam Newton. James has 123 yards and two touchdowns against UCLA, which was the 14th 100-yard game in the sophomore's career. He has scored at least one touchdown in each of his six games this season, and has 11 TDs on the season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We try not to let the outside world put it in our head that we're No. 1. Because just how fast we can be No. 1, we can be No. 'It Don't Matter.' We don't let that get to us. We just play football." -- CB Cliff Harris, in the Portland Oregonian.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Just about everything. Oregon is first in the nation in scoring at 55.14 points per game and is first in yardage at 569.14 per game, looking utterly unstoppable. The Ducks have scored at least 42 points in each of their seven games. This fast, veteran team has answered its most pressing question with the emergence of sophomore quarterback Darron Thomas as a playmaker who also is a game manager who limits the big mistake.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Some of the punt return work against UCLA was shaky, including Cliff Harris throwing a dangerous lateral across the field to Josh Huff. That seemed unnecessary. Coach Chip Kelly probably got on his reserve defenders for letting UCLA score a late touchdown. The Bruins are the only team to score in the fourth quarter against the Ducks this season.
--RB/KR Kenjon Barner was not dressed out for the Oct. 21 game because of a concussion suffered Oct. 9 at Washington State. He will be monitored this week before any announcement is made on his status. Remene Alston Jr. helped fill his backup role against UCLA, rushing for 75 yards and three touchdowns on eight carries. Cliff Harris took over for Barner on punt returns, while Josh Huff was the primary kick returner.
--CB Anthony Gildon (ankle) was out vs. UCLA. Cliff Harris took his spot.
Chip Kelly has the Ducks playing at a very high level. (Kevin Carden Photo)
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