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5 Thoughts - It's Oregon's World
Oregon QB Dennis Dixon
Oregon QB Dennis Dixon
Posted Nov 5, 2007

Is Dennis Dixon really having that much better a season than other quarterbacks? Why aren't other teams getting the same love Oregon is? The superstar to pay attention to, the team that's going to slip into the BCS, and a big call in the latest 5 Thoughts.

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And the Heisman goes to ...

By Pete Fiutak   

1. Is this the most bizarre Heisman race ever? I was a guest on a Sunday night radio show and was asked who my vote would go to right now, and I froze. I actually had to pause before firing out an, "Uhhh, I dunno."

Dennis Dixon is certainly having a tremendous year, but is he a poor man's Vince Young, a great do-it-all player who's carrying a team to a big season, or is he Brad Banks (if you have to Google him, you get the point) who's having a phenomenal year on an above-average team that just keeps winning?

We're talking about the Heisman here. This turns players into legends, and allows names like Eric Crouch and Jason White to stay alive forever, while, well, Brad Banks and other players who came close become footnotes.

Dixon is having a very nice year with 20 touchdown passes and three interceptions to go along with 549 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Good numbers, great leadership. Heisman? Maybe. Troy Smith had similar numbers through nine games last year, but his team is unbeaten, while Dixon threw two of his three picks in the loss to Cal.

Is Dixon having a better year than, say, Clemson's Cullen Harper, who has thrown 24 touchdown passes with four interceptions? How about Missouri's Chase Daniel, who has thrown for 23 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but has bombed away for 2,954 yards to Dixon's 2,074? Daniel's loss came on the road at Oklahoma, who's ranked No. 5 in the BCS. Dixon's loss came at home to a Cal team that went into the tank. Todd Reesing of Kansas, unlike Dixon, has his team unbeaten, and has thrown for 23 touchdowns and four interceptions with more yards (2,334)

I'm not slamming Dixon and I'm not even saying he's not a worthy front-runner; I'm just pointing out that he's having a good year at the same time when plenty of other quarterbacks are doing the same thing. And then there's Florida's Tim Tebow, who's having the best year of any quarterback, leading the nation in passing efficiency, has thrown for one more touchdown than Dixon, one more interception, 154 more passing yards, has rushed for more yards (549) and has more rushing touchdowns (14) all while playing through a banged up shoulder in the SEC.

To me, the Heisman goes to the signature player in a given college football season, and goes to the player who defined the year. And yeah, at the moment, that's probably Dixon. Last week it was Matt Ryan. The week before it was Tebow. The week before it was Andre Woodson. The week before it was Mike Hart.

Welcome to the 2007 Heisman chase.

And because the Nike clad nation isn't grouchy enough after that ...

By Pete Fiutak   

2. Oregon fans, before getting all ticked off at me, I'm not disrespecting your team or trying to be negative in any way. I'm not ripping, hating, or firing. I'm trying to put a puzzle together, your team happens to be the key piece at the moment, and I can't make it fit.

Last week I said that beating Arizona State would mean once and for all that Oregon is the real deal, but even after the big win, I’m still missing what all the hubbub is about with these Ducks, and I honestly can’t figure out why. This was a fantastic team Oregon beat, and I still believe it’ll end up going to the Rose Bowl, so shouldn’t the 35-23 victory have convinced me? Shouldn’t four touchdown passes from Dennis Dixon all but seal the Heisman? According to all the talking heads, yes, but I can't shake the feeling that ASU would've won in Tempe. I can't get the image of a banged up Rudy Carpenter lighting up the Oregon secondary like a Christmas tree for big second half yards. I feel like there’s a party going on and I didn’t get an invitation.

I continue to see a defense that gives up yards in chunks, and got two big breaks on turnovers that came more because ASU screwed up than anything the Duck D did. The defensive line, especially Nick Reed, generated a ton of pressure all game long, but got pushed around too much against the run.

Comparing apples to oranges, Ducks to Sooners, Jayhawks to Tigers, Mountaineers to Buckeyes, I’m missing, exactly, what about this Oregon team is so much better than about ten other teams ranked behind it. I’m missing why Missouri isn't in the national title hunt with its loss coming at Oklahoma, one of the top five teams in America, and Oregon is being hugged and kissed despite losing at home to Cal. I’m missing why hanging 50 on Fresno State, Stanford, Washington State and Washington is more impressive than Kansas hanging 76 on Nebraska and going to Kansas State, Colorado and Texas A&M and winning. I'm missing why West Virginia, with a better running game and better defense, but not as good a passing game, is out after losing a tough battle against South Florida on the road in a biggest-game-ever atmosphere, and without Pat White for a stretch, but Oregon got a free pass for its loss.

Why is Oregon getting the love? Exposure. For the first time in years, a non-USC team from the Pac 10 has the spotlight on it, and it's coming through big-time. Everyone wanted to see what Michigan was going to do after the loss to Appalachian State. Oregon 39, Michigan 7. Everyone wanted to see Cal at Autzen. It was a Duck loss, but by inches on a late fumble. Everyone was watching when USC lost in Autzen, and the national spotlight was on when Arizona State came to town last week. And you've watched Kansas and Missouri play how many times? Do you even know what channel Fox Sports Net is on your system?

Again, I'm not criticizing Oregon. I'm pointing out that it's time to start looking at other teams as well, and I'm trying to come around and jump on the Duck bandwagon so I don't look like a total idiot late on January 7th when Dixon is holding a crystal egg-looking thing over his head.

You know, the team with the guy who proposed to the cheerleader

By Richard Cirminiello

. Ever since the early part of September, Hawaii has stood alone as that non-BCS program hoping to crash the annual 10-team bowl parade of big hype and even bigger payouts.  Are the Warriors, however, about to get company from a familiar face in this discussion?  Ever so quietly, Boise State, last year’s Cinderella on steroids, has climbed back into the picture with seven consecutive wins since losing to Washington back on Sept. 8.  The Broncos are using a familiar formula for success, a balanced offense, great blocking up front, and an underrated and undersized defense.  Now, with three games left, they’ve pulled all the way up to No. 20 spot in the latest BCS rankings, or just four spots behind Hawaii and eight spots removed from an automatic invitation to one of the five marquee games.  Both schools have the same problem, a lack of a quality win, so they’re looking at each other for help.  The Warriors need the Broncos to keep winning.  The Broncos need the Warriors to remain unbeaten.  The two meet on Nov. 23 with a chance to catapult up the charts at the other’s expense.  Can a one-loss team from the WAC earn a bid to a BCS bowl game?  If it’s Boise State, it just might because this is not your garden variety mid-major.  In the eyes of voters, the program earned the benefit of the doubt by beating Oklahoma in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, one of the great games in the history of the sport. 

QB Taylor Tharp has gotten hot.  RB Ian Johnson is getting healthy.  And Bronco fans are starting believe that they could be packing up and heading south again after the holidays.  It could happen.  In this most bizarre season, just about anything could and probably will happen.

The Sunday night star who'll soon by playing on Sunday

By John Harris

4. Due in large part to Conference USA’s decision to play any night of the week, Sunday night you got the opportunity to watch the most dynamic RB/WR duo in the nation.  Wait, what?  CUSA has the what?  Yes, that’s not a misprint – the “Quick Six and DA Show” has been making appearances all over the nation and no team has slowed them down yet. 

Quick Six is University of Houston running back Anthony Alridge, who has rushed for 1,063 yards, has 31 catches for 343 yards and accounted for 13 TDs on the season.  DA is wide receiver Donnie Avery, who has 56 catches for 981 yards (17.5 YPC) and five touchdowns. 

Both have legit 4.3 speed (rumored to be even faster) and can turn a three and a half hour game into a track meet.  The two were the first duo in history to have 300 yards receiving (Avery) and 200 yards rushing (Alridge) in the same game (against Rice).  But, they’re just CUSA guys, you say?  How about the fact that Alridge accounted for 344 total yards against the number three team in the country Oregon?  How about DA’s 26 yards per catch and a touchdown against Alabama in Tuscaloosa? 

Don’t believe me?  Just ask Nick Saban.  He had this to say about #22 Alridge…

“I don’t care who 22 plays for; the guy’s a good player.  Probably as good as any we’ve seen this year.”

You’ll find it out, too.

The term is: Lack of forward progress

By Matthew Zemek

The play that decided the LSU-Alabama classic was ruled correctly on the field...
...or was it?
There are two calls consistently made by officiating crews that I (still) fail to understand in my 32nd year of life and the eighth year of the 21st century. One is when a quarterback gets hit, the ball squirts backward, and a forward pass is ruled because the QB's arm was moving forward at the time of the throw. If the ball travels backwards, how can a forward pass be ruled? Even with arm action, the backward flight of the ball means that a lateral has been thrown, albeit unintentionally. Someone please explain the logic behind that rule. Can't officials override the "arm moving foward" provision with a simple identification of a ball's backward flight?
The second call is what we saw on John Parker Wilson's (cough, cough) "fumble" against LSU. Technically, Wilson's knees weren't down, which led everyone to conclude that the fumble was legit. As soon as I saw the replay, I knew the ruling would stand.
Here's the problem with that kind of play, however: simply stated, Wilson was being thrown backwards (see, it all comes back to backward movement in these two cases; one instance involves a backward-flying ball, the other a backward-flying body). This means that the quarterback's forward progress had been stopped. Such a contention is airtight and beyond debate.
Whenever this play occurs, I have rarely if ever seen officials rule that forward progress has been stopped. Sure, the lack of a whistle might mean that the play is still live--which means that a fumble ruling can be legally made by the officials--but upon further review, one should be able to make a reasonable determination that forward progress has been stopped.
The state of Alabama knows that I'm not exactly the leader of the Nick Saban Fan Club, but fair is fair: the Crimson Tide deserved a better, wiser, and more clear-headed ruling on a play that is regularly misinterpreted by officials. The "forward progress" provision is by far the least cited element of the entire college football rulebook. No dimension of the sport's rules has more of an impact on plays while being simultaneously ignored on so many crucial occasions. If you watch 14 hours of football every Saturday, you'd know how little the "forward progress" provision really means when it comes to interpreting "fumble/dead ball" judgment calls. Alabama fans discovered this reality in a painful way; better judgment from officials would have sent Saturday's game into overtime.