Instant Analysis: Oregon 59, Tennessee 14
Oregon struggled in the first 10 minutes... and then flourished. That's a very familiar narrative from the past five college football seasons. CFN's writers and analysts react to the Ducks' drubbing of Tennessee.
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Stanford is the only thing standing between Oregon and a shot at playing for a national championship, likely against the SEC winner.
Okay, Tennessee has a long way to go under rookie head coach Butch Jones, but the ease with which Oregon continues to score points is alarming. The Ducks have rung up at least 59 points in each of their three games, the last two against AQ conference programs, Virginia and the Vols. Had head coach Mark Helfrich not tapped the brakes and emptied his bench, Oregon could have reached 70 points without so much as breaking a sweat.
Somewhat overshadowed in the string of routs are a couple of integral factors that'll become increasingly important as the season grinds on: Coordinator Nick Aliotti is quietly crafting a very fast and very physical defense, and all of these blowouts are going to be a long-term boon to Oregon's depth. In fact, teams in the coming years, let alone just 2013, are going to benefit from all of the reps that the underclassmen receive this fall.
At least for now, there's been absolutely no indication that the Ducks are missing Chip Kelly. The offense is a machine under Helfrich, and the D does a great job of getting the ball back in the hands of QB Marcus Mariota. Sure, anything is possible, but it looks as if you might be the last line of defense to Pasadena, Cardinal.
By Matt Zemek
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It's no surprise at all that Tennessee does not belong in Oregon's weight class. Yet, what the Vols and their fans must wonder about after Saturday's game is why a questionable call late in the first quarter wasn't reviewed.
With Oregon leading 10-7 in a very competitive game, Tennessee's Marlin Lane appeared to have gained a first down at the Oregon 37. He was thrown forward by an Oregon defender. His knees never seemed to hit the ground at an earlier point in the play. It's exactly the kind of play that deserves to be reviewed, and Tennessee head coach Butch Jones – knowing his defense needed to be kept off the field as long as possible – needed to challenge that play when the replay booth in Autzen Stadium was slow to react.
Jones never did challenge that call, though. Oregon scored a touchdown on its next possession, and Tennessee never did threaten after that point in the proceedings.
In order to be alive in the fourth quarter, you have to do well enough in the first and second quarters. Jones needed to realize that his team needed to control the ball on that drive late in the first quarter. He needed to force the replay booth to overturn the on-field call. He didn't. The rest was history��� as were the Vols themselves.
By Phil Harrison
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So far this year, Oregon is still looking like Oregon. There are still 1,001 uniform combinations, Nike is plastered everywhere from the stadium scoreboard to the urinals, and points are still coming in bushels. Yeah, apparently losing former head coach Chip Kelly isn't going to hurt that much this year.
It remains to be seen if new head coach Mark Helfrich can get the whopper recruiting classes that Kelly continued to reign in, but if he does, he knows the blueprint and way of life to keep the program between the guardrails for the foreseeable future.
And unlike the last couple of weeks, it's not like the 687 yards of total offense weren't done against a real, live football team with more than a faint pulse. The Tennessee Volunteers may not be in the upper crust of the SEC anymore, but there's enough talent on the roster to put up a fight.
It didn't happen, and it is in large part because of the dynamics of a surging Heisman candidate in Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. His 456 yards and four touchdowns through the jetstream should vault him right to the top of voters minds.
As far as the rest of the winged Ducks, they may be the class of the Pac-12 and are likely a break here or bounce there in the right direction away from perhaps smelling roses on January 6 in Pasadena. This team is that good, but has to stay away from the one game per year that seems to keep Nike U from making the big time.
By Terry Johnson
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After watching Oregon breeze through its first serious test of the season, it's clear that the Ducks are the team to beat in Pac 12.
Make no mistake about it: the Vols figured to give UO all it could handle. After all, UT played Georgia and Florida tough last season, and forced a Bobby Petrino-coached offense into an uncharacteristically high 7 turnovers last week.
However, the outcome of this contest was never in doubt. Sure, the Volunteers jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but that was the lone highlight of the afternoon. The Duck offense dominated the game starting on its third series, scoring on eight of its next nine possessions. During that same span, the UO defense held the Tennessee offense to five three-and-outs, and just one drive of longer than 30 yards.
Imagine if Helfrich hadn't called off the dogs in the fourth quarter.
That, my friends, is exactly why the coaches voted Oregon as the second-best team in the country. There aren't too many squads out there that can line up and beat an SEC opponent at its own game.
If that doesn't qualify as the team to beat in Pac 12, what does?
By Russ Mitchell
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Well, there was no snow storm in Eugene, and the Oregon Ducks pasted a severely overmatched Vols squad, as expected.
However, Tennessee fans can take solace in two facts… First, the Vols jumped off to a quick lead. After fumbling on the second play of their opening drive and then holding firm, Tennessee drove 80 yards on six plays, ending in a four yard touchdown pass from Justin Worley to Jason Croom - and lo and behold, the Vols were up 7-0 in Eugene. Strike the trumpets - and get the hell outta Dodge quick!
59 unanswered points later, and Tennessee would fight back to score again. The Vols under Butch Jones didn't quit. And THAT is worth noting.
You might argue the Ducks had called off the dogs, not scoring a single point in the game's fourth quarter. However, it would have been easy for the Vols to mail it in, but they didn't. Early in the fourth quarter, down 59-7, Tennessee would drive 73 yards on 12 plays to score the game's final points.
It was clear the Vols were a few steps behind Oregon even before the opening kickoff. They still are - and it might be more than a few.
But the Vols never quit, had only one turnover, few penalties, and 178 yards rushing (4.7 ypc).
Absent a nor'easter out west, Tennessee was not going to win this "contest". But they had pockets where they executed well and the team is slowly growing up in Jones' image.
Besides, remember that no Tennessee coach has ever started 3-0 in his first full season since Robert Neyland in 1926 (via ESPN). Fate was against it.
Russ Mitchell is the Lead SEC Columnist for CFN and Campus Insiders. Follow him @russmitchellcfb