Stanford (1-2, 0-2 Pac-12) fresh off a beat down in Seattle is shipping out for yet another ranked battle in foreign territory. Oregon (3-1, 1-0), meanwhile, has bounced back from a brutal loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the first game of the season with three straight wins to increasingly good opponents (yes I meant this, BYU fans, your team is mid), including a surprisingly tough Wazzu team last week. We caught up with Addicted to Quack's Carl L. Blackwell to get the scoop on the Ducks.
Oregon has now beaten the Cougars in back to back weeks (BYU followed by Wazzu), though in different fashions. How nice was it to silence one of the worst Twitter fanbases (BYU), and what momentum do you feel you have coming off a close one against Wazzu?
I think that "relief" is the best way to describe what many Duck fans felt after manhandling BYU. Oregon was completely dismantled by the best team in the country in our opener and then we ran Eastern Washington out of Oregon by halftime. That lead to very valid questions about how good and how bad Oregon really is. BYU was seen as being a middle ground juxtaposed between the extremes of Georgia and EWU and would be a litmus test on where Oregon is really at. The funny thing is that although the BYU victory appeared to have answered those questions, it really hasn't. This Ducks team is still something of a mystery as far as how good or how bad they are. Part of the problem is that BYU appears to have been ranked higher than deserved. Insofar as Oregon is concerned, Pac-12 play will show us who the real Oregon team is.
The other Cougars are always a concern for us, especially when we play in Pullman. I was certainly concerned after watching the second half of the Washington State - Wisconsin game. It's been long enough that I don't remember when the WA St. defense was arguably better than the offense...so it wasn't really a shock to find us down by a couple of scores in the fourth quarter. I would wager that most of the fan base had resigned themselves to another road loss against the Cougars. Then the improbable happened; something that hasn't been the case under the last few coaches that we've had. The Ducks came back in a big way - big enough that a last-second FG or TD wasn't going to win the game for WA St. That's a confidence builder that I see potentially carrying into the rest of this season. We'll see how this plays out.
A few games in the books, how do you feel about the direction of the program under rookie head coach Dan Lanning? Your former HC Mario Cristobal hasn’t quite lived up to the hype this year, most recently losing a guarantee game to Middle Tennessee State… how do you feel about his departure in light of his early struggles?
Mario Cristobal is a fantastic recruiter and he won games while at Oregon, but to say that he was not beloved by the Ducks faithful is a huge understatement. The consensus from our fanbase is that he gave up midway into last season, having set his sights on his alma mater. He couldn't even be bothered to coach a bowl game, same as his predecessor.
Contrast that with coach Lanning, who - after accepting the Oregon head coach position - finishes his obligation as Georgia's DC and coaches his soon-to-be former team through the entirety of their postseason. Here's my feeling on this: I think Dan Lanning would have concluded his coaching obligations if he was the DC for the Temple Owls or the Georgia Bulldogs, or any team in between. IMHO, I think that's his character.
Having been burned by Willie Taggart and Mario Cristobal, it seems to me that many Duck fans are, shall we say, very cautiously optimistic about Lanning. Now say what you will negatively about Cristobal, but his ability to recruit won't be part of that conversation. Coach Lanning did not have a bare cupboard, to say the least, and he is also showing that he and his staff are extremely capable recruiters. Having instilled Kenny Dilligham as OC, Lanning seems to be guiding the Oregon offense back to what fans want and expect - an explosive offense that can run up serious numbers on an opponent.
I don't think there's a single person in the Oregon fanbase that liked Mario Cristobal's offensive philosophy. Thanks for the recruits and your time here, Mario, but there is no love lost at his departure. In fact, there are many fans that are pointing and laughing at Miami, saying I TOLD YOU SO.
As for me personally, I harbor no ill will toward Cristobal. I sincerely hope he can right the ship at Miami and find success. That remains to be seen...he's had an astonishingly short honeymoon with the Hurricanes.
Your QB1 Bo Nix is a transfer, but you also lost RB Travis Dye to U$C in the transfer portal this summer. Having been on both sides of the issue, how do you feel about the growing influence of the portal?
All coaches in all NCAA sports are feeling the impact of what the transfer portal giveth and taketh away. In the case of Oregon football, Lanning and his staff have made excellent use of the transfer portal in the offseason. Acquiring Bo Nix appears to have filled a necessary gap in allowing younger quarterbacks more time to develop. (Lack of quarterback development has been an issue since the Chip Kelly era). But the transfer portal plugged in some holes in other areas as well. Oregon lost Travis Dye, but they picked up several running backs through the portal - most notably Bucky Irving. The result is that the Ducks have probably the deepest RB room that they've had in quite some time. Cornerback was another position that was (and is) an area of concern. Picking up Christian Gonzalez from Colorado was a great addition. They dynamic of the transfer portal is just a fact of modern day collegiate sports and one hopes that your coaching staff uses it wisely.
If Oregon wins on Saturday, what will be the main reason?
It will be because we discovered how to tackle. Seriously, the inability to tackle was a major factor in the Georgia loss, and was a nagging concern against Wazzu. Oregon's secondary also needs to show progress. The Ducks have shown the can score points, but they need to finish better in the red zone. Take care of these areas, and Oregon should win.
If Oregon loses (dream with me here), what will be the main reason?
It will be because of turnovers, and the Cardinal taking advantage of poor secondary coverage that leads to explosive plays. While I don't expect that, this is Stanford we're talking about, and Oregon will not have won until they have the lead at 00:00.
What’s your realistic score prediction?
I think that Stanford initially scares the Autzen crowd before the Ducks pull away. After all, Stanford is one of the few teams that does not seem to be fazed by the Autzen environment. Unless the Cardinal has some serious offensive struggles, I think we'll see a score with Oregon winning 34-21.
What is your dream Pac realignment scenario? And how are you feeling about those traitors in LA?
Although was USC and UCLA did was a punk sucker-punch move, I get it - money is really the only consideration where revenue-generating sports are concerned. Provided that the higher profile remaining Pac teams *cough Oregon cough* don't bolt for a super conference, I'd like to see the Pac-12 survive by adding SDSU and perhaps Fresno State, and then a couple of Texas teams. Then I think there's benefit for both the Pac-12 and the ACC to get into a cooperative media product. That's probably the only way to avoid getting sucked into the BIG and SEC.
Below is a graphic that contains every Stanford Tree costume to date (except for the most recent 2). Which is your favorite, least favorite, and why? What sort of Tree would you make if you had the choice?
My least favorite is second row down, third from the left. Too much person and not enough tree.
My favorite is two under it - fourth row, third from the left. I'm partial to the hat, and that Tree expresses the quirkiness that I associate with the Tree and the Stanford band.
Not sure what tree I would make. I would have it eucalyptus scented, though; always loved the eucalyptus trees down at The Farm.
--Fear The Me.