Friday, November 18, 2011

Speed Kills: PAC-12 Preview - Week 12

We've seen it all season. The SEC boasts a battle of defenses, the PAC-12 puts up 40+ points per game, the BIG 10 beats up each other, the BIG East awaits Boise State, and the BIG 12 goes to the Okies. So which conference winner has the best team for BCS Championship talk?

Although the PAC-12 only has two ranked teams, Oregon and Stanford, BCS bowl games are in sights for both schools. For the Ducks, the only acceptable bid is to the BCS Championship Game. Anything short of that is disappointment.

If we can remember back to Labor Day weekend, the Ducks fell victim to a huge opening game opponent LSU. A mistake-prone Oregon team, without Cliff Harris at corner and punt returner, watched LaMichael James stumble to a disappointing 54 yards. James, having to sit out 2-3 games due to injury, has all but been erased from the Heisman Trophy race...despite being one of the most explosive running backs in the game.

Speaking of explosive...that's what Oregon is. Explosive, play after play, drive after drive. If you watch the Ducks in action, you can't disagree that their speed kills. But many college football fans, analysts, writers, etc. say the LSU-Alabama game was the greatest of the year, and that's who we should see in the National Championship. Well Kirk Herbstreit, may I remind you that in 2006, #1 Ohio State hosted #2 Michigan on the last game of the BIG 10 season...and you sat there saying "I just don't think we should see a rematch of these two teams. I'd like to get a team like USC in the mix and give them a shot." (I know you said this because I re-watched the 2006 OSU-Mich game last night and had to listen to your bromance for Troy Smith and Teddy Ginn Jr. I still want to puke.)

But here we sit, a short 5 years later...and all I'm hearing is "if Okla State falls to Okla...Alabama deserves to get that rematch." A rematch of a 9-6 OT game for the National Championship? I like defense, but what a snoozer. Let's insert that explosive Oregon Duck team instead...and give us a thriller of a game. I'd love to see a LSU-Oregon rematch for all the marbles. My bet? Oregon embarrasses LSU...showing that the Ducks' defense matured throughout the year, LaMichael is easily the best running back in the nation, and Chip Kelly's risk-it-all mentality is the way to play. The Ducks are running circles around any and all opponents right now...and they're not stopping 'till the grab the National Championship trophy in the bayou.

But before we can get there, Oregon has to take care of business against USC on Saturday. The Trojans are a very underrated team in my eyes, and are easily the best unranked team in the BCS. The AP likes 'em, the coaches like 'em....but the computers don't. This match up is the likely preview for the inaugural PAC-12 Championship Game. Both for teams and location. The Trojans continue to play tough against the Ducks year after year...but can't find a way to withstand a full 60-minute game.

USC needs to go into Seattle and compete like they did against Stanford. Compete hard, and gain more respect. Then, after you lose to Oregon, pick up your last win against UCLA...and take another shot at bringing down the Ducks on December 2nd. I'll let Arkansas and possibly Georgia or South Carolina have their shots at LSU. And if the SEC can't tame 'em, let the Ducks bookend their season with a shootout against them Bayou Bengals.

WEEK 12 PAC-12 MATCH UPS (all times eastern)
Washington -2 @ Oregon State (3:30p)
Any QB with the last name Montana has my money! (If you didn't hear, Washington QB Keith Price is out with a knee injury from last week's USC game.)

Utah -3.5 @ Washington State (5p)
Utah is looking to finish their season with a 5-game winning streak. But after a HUGE home win over the Sun Devils last week, the Cougars are trying to finish our their year with a little magic of their own.

Colorado @ UCLA -11 (7:30p)
UCLA needs to win out to have a prayer for a South Division lead...and an invite to the PAC-12 championship game. Step one? Get all cylinders firing against Colorado.

USC @ Oregon -14.5 (8p)
The Ducks are simply going to be too much. James is looking to finish his final 4 games with 150+ yard games...putting him in the Heisman conversation. Thomas is needing to stay in true form to get a shot at the national championship. And Chip Kelly is going to call a gem.

Arizona +10.5 @ Arizona State (9:30p)
This game is personal for me. ASU is maybe the most frustrating teams in the PAC-12...due to their inability to be a consistently good team. Big wins and bad losses = frustrating. Never thought I'd say this, but 'Cats cover.

California @ Stanford -18 (10:15p)
This is one of those late-season in-state rivalry games where an 18 point spread looks enticing. But I'm doing something I haven't done most of the year. Stanford wins big in hopes to keep Luck as the Heisman front-runner.

Dear College Football,
The Ducks are the real deal. When they win out...roll USC twice...and put up 45+ each game, you better be putting them in the "Battle in the Bayou".

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