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Tag:LaMichael James
Posted on: March 5, 2012 12:17 pm
 

Report: Oregon WR Huff arrested on DUI charges

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Unfortunately for Chip Kelly and Oregon, traffic-related arrests are nothing new for Ducks. And thanks to wide receiver Josh Huff, they're going to remain nothing new for a little while longer.

The Eugene Register-Guard reported that Huff was arrested by Eugene police in the early hours of Saturday morning and charged with driving under the influence, as well as driving without a license and speeding. A police spokeswoman said Huff was pulled over at 1:22 a.m. after being spotted speeding in Eugene. Huff was taken to Lane County Jail and released to an acquaintance after completing sobriety tests.

An Oregon spokesperson said the Ducks were aware of the incident but would have no further comment or disciplinary action at this time.

Huff, a rising junior, is the Ducks' leading returning receiver at the wideout position, having caught 31 passes a year ago for 431 yards. Huff has also returned kickoffs and had more than 200 yards rushing as a freshman in 2010. Though Kelly is -- as always -- somewhat spoiled for choice when it comes to offensive playmakers, the departures of LaMichael James, Darron Thomas and Lavasier Tuinei means that Huff should nonetheless play a much more prominent role in the offense in 2012 than he did a year ago; any absence via suspension would likely have a noticeable impact, despite the presence of De'Anthony Thomas.

Complicating matters is that Huff's arrest will do nothing for his program's continuing image as one rife with discipline issues and petty lawlessness. Even if the charges stick, Huff's punishment isn't likely to be too stiff--but Oregon's history might make it stiffer than it would be elsewhere, and that punishment in turn could have serious on-field ramifications. It's safe to say Kelly has had better weekends.

Of course, Kelly also has bigger things to worry about right this second. For columnist Gregg Doyel's take on the Ducks' impending NCAA violations case, click here.

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Posted on: March 4, 2012 4:37 pm
 

Report: Oregon RB Tra Carson to transfer

Posted by Chip Patterson

Oregon running back Tra Carson intends to transfer, according to a local report.

The Eugene Register-Guard, citing a team source, confirmed Saturday reports that the talented sophomore running back will seek a playing opportunity elsewhere. Carson ran for 254 yards a touchdown on 45 carries as a true freshman in 2011, also contributing to the kickoff return team occasionally throughout the season.

The school has not confirmed Carson's departure, but the Texarkana, Texas native explained his situation on Twitter.



Carson attended the same high school as former Ducks running back LaMichael James, and was projected to enter spring practice as the primary backup to senior Kenjon Barner in the backfield. The 6-foot, 227-pound Carson is the third running back from Texas to leave Oregon since the end of 2010, along with Dontae Williams and Lache Seastrunk.

Oregon starts spring practice April 3, with the spring game scheduled for April 28. For the full list of Spring Practice dates and previews, check out our Spring Practice Home.

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Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:01 am
 

The biggest shoes to fill in college football



Posted by Tom Fornelli


With teams having already started or starting spring practice over the next few weeks. there are a lot of players across the country who will be charged with replacing someone who has come and gone before them. It's an annual rite of spring in college football, when the senior quarterback from last season is putting the finishing touches on his final semester as a college student, and the sophomore who isn't even sure what he's majoring in yet realizes he's going to be majoring in Playbook 101 for the next few weeks.

Of course, while roster turnover is a common occurence in college football, there are bigger shoes to fill than others, and in this post we take a look at the ten biggest pairs looking for a new owner this spring.

10. Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

Ryan Broyles began re-writing the Oklahoma record books the moment he stepped on the field in his first game as a Sooner. He caught 7 passes for 141 yards against Cincinnati, both of which were freshman records. Four years later he finished his career having caught more passes than any other receiver in FBS history, pulling in 349 passes for 4,586 yards and 45 touchdowns.

In other words, he's not the type of player that Oklahoma can just replace with anybody. This spring receivers like Kenny Stills, Jaz Reynolds and Trey Metoyer will try to replicate Broyles' production in Norman. Whether it will be one of them doing it, or a group effort, Oklahoma will need it to happen if the Sooners want to win the Big 12 and contend for a national title.

9. Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Understandably, USC fans were extremely excited by the news that Matt Barkley would be returning for his senior season, and many have pegged the Trojans as a title favorite because of it. What you don't want to do, however, is overlook the fact that the man who was in charge of protecting Barkley's blindside these last few years won't be back.

Though that's how life generally works for offensive lineman like Matt Kalil. As large as they are, they're often overlooked. Kevin Graf, Jeremy Galten, David Garness and Nathan Guertler will all be competing for the unenviable task of being the man in charge of making sure nothing happens to the most valuable piece of the USC offense.

8. Mark Barron, S, Alabama

One of the problems with having a defense as strong as the one we saw in Tuscaloosa last season is that you're bound to lose players to the next level, and the Crimson Tide have no shortage of beasts making their way to greener pastures. Still, the Tide have a knack for churning out defensive lineman and linebackers, but safeties like Mark Barron don't come along all that often.

Barron made 231 tackles for Nick Saban in his four seasons, including 13 for a loss, while picking off 12 passes. Barron was the type of player that could defend the pass and the run, and he won't be easily replaced. Can Robert Lester or freshman Vinnie Sunseri step up and be the next stud in the Alabama secondary?

7. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

Based purely on production, there may be no larger shoes to fill in the country than Luke Kuechly's. There may not have been more than 3 plays run by opposing offenses in which Kuechly wasn't in on the tackle. Kuechly finished 2011 with 191 tackles. The next highest total on the Boston College defense belonged to Kevin Pierre-Louis, who had 74.

As our own Chip Patterson put it, "for Boston College, replacing Kuechly is like any other team replacing 2 1/2 players." Though it's been proven that it can be done, as Kuechly himself once had to fill the shoes left behind by Mark Herzlich. Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto -- who has a name that would be hard to replace -- will be the two linebackers looking to repeat the feat.

6. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Many casual college football fans never truly appreciated how amazing a player Morris Claiborne was for LSU in 2011 simply because opposing offenses weren't dumb enough to test him all that often. Throw in some Honey Badger exploits with a bit of Les Miles being Les Miles, and Claiborne gets a bit lost in the gumbo. Still, Claiborne truly was the definition of a shutdown corner for LSU, playing a pivotal role on one of the best defenses in the country.

While Tyrann Mathieu will be back in 2012, he's not the cover corner that Claiborne was, so it will be up to Tharold Simon to fill the role. One he seems capable of considering he led LSU with 10 passes broken up in 2011 playing mostly as a nickel back.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

I won't lie to you. Even when Mark Ingram will still in Tuscaloosa running through SEC defenses, I always felt that Trent Richardson was the best running back on the Alabama roster. Now both are gone, and Richardson will be harder to replace than Ingram was simply because Trent can't replace himself.

Can Eddie Lacy be the next Heisman finalist in the Alabama backfield? He showed some promise in 2011, and in an offense like Alabama's, the opportunities will be there. Still, even if Lacy is extremely talented, there are only so many shoes capable of doing this.

4. Brandon Weeden/Justin Blackmon, QB/WR, Oklahoma State

A bit of a cheat, I know, but the truth is that Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon felt like extensions of one another for the past two seasons in Stillwater. Their success was as a duo. I mean, Blackmon caught 40 touchdowns over the last three seasons, which accounted for 53% of the 75 touchdown passes Weeden threw with the Cowboys.

Now we know that Oklahoma State is going to continue putting points on the board without them, but will the offense ever be as prolific when the combination is Clint Chelf or Wes Lunt to Tracy Moore? We'll get our first clues this spring.

3. LaMichael James, RB, Oregon

Maybe you think that LaMichael James isn't all that hard to replace given the weapons Oregon has in the backfield. I can see your point, but I can also point out that James nearly doubled Kenjon Barner's rushing total (1,805 yards to 939) in 2011. I mean, this is a man who rushed for 1,805 yards and 18 touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry in 2011, yet we didn't think it was so amazing based simply on the fact we'd already seen him do similar things in the previous two seasons.

We just got used to it.

Yes, Barner and DeAnthony Thomas are extremely talented backs, but the fact is there's no easy way to replace a back who accounted for 5,888 all-purpose yards and 58 touchdowns in three seasons as a Duck, all at the speed of light.

2. Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Will it be harder to fill RG3's shoes, or his socks? Neither will be easy. While we all know how talented Griffin was as a quarterback for Baylor in 2011 and the two seasons before it, it's his impact on the program that will leave the biggest impression. Baylor went from a perennial bottom-feeder in the Big 12 to a team that can call itself the home of a Heisman Trophy winner.

Nick Florence will be the favorite to replace Griffin this spring, but he'll never be able to have the impact on the Baylor program that Griffin did. Instead he'd be much better served to focus on replacing the production on the field. Something that won't be easy, either, but given Art Briles' history with quarterbacks and the way Florence performed in place of Griffin against Texas Tech, it may not be that far-fetched, either.

1. Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Andrew Luck didn't win the Heisman Trophy like Robert Griffin did, but that doesn't diminish the impact he had on the Stanford program. In the three seasons before Luck showed up in Palo Alto, Stanford was 10-26, including a 1-11 season in 2006. In Luck's three seasons the Cardinal went 31-8, played in two BCS bowl games and became a national program.

Stanford is essentially the school Notre Dame used to be, and it's all thanks to Luck. Of course, the question now is whether or not Stanford can maintain the success they had under Luck with a new quarterback. Brett Nottingham, Josh Nunes and Robbie Picazo will all enter spring practice looking to replace the most important player in the history of Stanford football, and that's a list that includes John Elway.

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Posted on: January 12, 2012 1:29 am
Edited on: February 3, 2012 12:22 pm
 

1-to-35: Ranking the 2011 bowl games



Posted by Jerry Hinnen


Each December, there's plenty of rankings out there as to how good each bowl should be. But if that's the "before," what about the "after"? Here's the Eye on CFB's (highly subjective) ranking of all 35 bowls from the 2011-2012 college football postseason, best game to worst.

1. Rose. Unlike certain other bowls we could name (who happen to rhyme with "Schmalamo"), the Rose's outburst of offense came despite the presence of legitimate championship-level defenses--making the punch and counter-punch between Russell Wilson and Montee Ball on one side and LaMichael James and De'Anthony Thomas on the other like haymakers in a heavyweight prizefight. Add in college football's greatest venue, a down-to-the-wire ending, and even the aesthetic battle between the Badgers' understated uniforms and the Ducks' glitter factory helmets, and you've got the best bowl-watching experience of the year.

2. Fiesta. Andrew Luck vs. Justin Blackmon at the top of their powers -- at the top of the powers of anyone at their positions in college football -- would be worth a top-five placement alone. Luck vs. Blackmon and 79 points and overtime drama? That's worth top-two.

3. Alamo Bowl. To call the defenses in this game abominably porous would be an insult to pores (and abominations). But the Alamo is a random weeknight bowl game--just as no one wants to watch an Oscar-baiting 17th-century literary adaptation on their Guys' Night Out, so no one tuned into the Alamo for rugged defense and awesome punting. Thankfully, what Baylor and Washington gave us was the college football equivalent of four hours of Jason Statham shooting explosions.

4. Outback. Come for Kirk Cousins leading the most unlikely comeback this side of the whooping crane, stay for Mark Richt nominating himself for the (dis)honor of "World's Fraidiest-Cat Football Coach." Oh, and triple overtime.

5. New Orleans. We'd ask if you could remember this thriller between Louisiana-Lafayette and San Diego State from the bowl season's opening night, but we don't think anyone who watched could forget Ragin' Cajun kicker Brett Baer deliriously celebrating his last-second game-winner if they tried.

6. Military. One word: #MACtion. And two numbers: 42-41. And, all right, eight more words to help do this game justice: last-minute do-or-die failed fake extra point holder-kicker option.

7. Sun. We're suckers for any game featuring the triple-option (see the Air Force game ranked one spot above), and Utah's 4th-and-14 touchdown conversion to send the game into OT was one of the more dramatic single plays of the entire bowl season. That 3-0 anti-classic between Pitt and Oregon State was a particularly distant memory in El Paso this year.

8. Belk. A matchup of Utterly Average ACC team vs. Utterly Average Big East team -- in a bowl sponsored by a department store that thinks Macy's is way too wild and edgy -- should have been one of the snoozers of the year. Instead, Mike Glennon caught fire, Louisville mounted a spirited comeback, and this wound up one of the better games of the postseason.

9. Little Caesars. The quality of play in this game at times was like ... well, have you ever actually eaten the pizza of the sponsor? But Western Michigan receiver Jordan White put on a spectacular show (13 catches, 249 yards), the teams combined for 69 points, and the Boilers special teams pulled off two onsides kicks and a kick return for TD. Tasty!

10. Famous Idaho Potato. OK, OK: we're giving this game (which was less-than-must-see-viewing for much of the first 55 minutes) a slight bonus for its killer logo. But we're giving it a much bigger bonus for the pulse-pounding final drive from quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Bobcats for the first bowl win in program history.

11. Armed Forces. If you're going to be a sorta-dull game between two sorta-unmemorable teams, better come up with a memorable play and/or a big finish. Riley Nelson's game-winning fake spike touchdown to become college football's answer to Dan Marino just about did the trick.

12. Sugar. Another for the "ugly game, fascinating ending" file, but this was Michigan doing their damnedest to be Michigan again and Virginia Tech doing their damnedest to avoid the rabbit's feet and horseshoes and four-leaf clovers falling out of the Wolverines' pockets -- Danny Coale most especially -- and it was in New Orleans. You didn't quit watching, did you?

13. Poinsettia. Not a classic, but three-and-a-half back-and-forth hours with a feisty Louisiana Tech team and an underrated TCU squad most definitely qualified as "serviceable." Think of this year's Poinsettia as the quality burger-and-fries plate from the local joint down the street--not mind-blowing, but spend a few weeks in Peru, where they don't have burgers or college football, and you'll crave a Poinsettia Bowl so badly you could scream.

14. Orange. In the space of about an hour, Dana Holgorsen's evisceration of Clemson went from thrilling to discomfiting to boring to morbidly fascinating to -- once we all realized the Mountaineers weren't going to hit triple digits -- back to boring again. Not every game that hits 100 points is one for the DVD vaults, as it turns out.

15. Liberty. Give me Cincinnati defeating Vanderbilt in surprisingly convincing, mildly entertaining fashion or give me death! (Actually, we've got that first thing already, so no need to worry about providing the second, thanks.)

16. Chick-Fil-A. For 2.5 quarters, this was a delightful shootout with all the requisite trickery you'd hope for from a game involving Gus Malzahn. Then Virginia remembered that it was not only Virginia, but proud ACC member Virginia, and the fun was over.

17. Meineke Car Care. Seriously, Texas A&M, we didn't tune in to see you only flirt with blowing a huge lead against a team that hasn't won a bowl game since approximately the Grover Cleveland administration.

18. Capital One. This game featured an abundance of must-watch plays -- Alshon Jeffery catching a  bomb, Alshon Jeffery hauling in a half-ending Hail Mary, Alshon Jeffery getting ejected for fighting -- but aside from, well, Alshon Jeffery, there wasn't much to it.

19. Cotton Bowl. The 15 seconds of Joe Adams' punt return, the 10 seconds of Jarius Wright's touchdown, and the 5 minutes when it looked like Kansas State might mount yet another smashing comeback were riveting stuff. The other 54:35? Not so much.

20. BCS National Championship. A great game, if you're the sort of fan who enjoys watching nature shows where a pride of lions tear a wildebeest to pieces because the wildebeest can't complete a downfield pass to save its life.

21. TicketCity. If he'd stuggled, he'd have been called a fraud; because he ripped Penn State's D into tiny shreds, no one paid attention. Which is why we're working on a sitcom pilot right now called Case Keenum Can't Win.

22. Gator. When one team's special teams scores just one fewer touchdown than the two offenses combined (as Florida's did), it's safe to say you're not watching a classic.

23. GoDaddy.com. Thanks to a 31-0 run from Northern Illinois, what was expected to be a nailbiting shootout ended up the biggest disappointment since that "unrated web content" we checked out.

24. Champs Sports. It wasn't pretty, but at least the Seminoles and Irish were trying their best ... to make us wish they'd just aired a repeat of the 1993 meeting instead.

25. Las Vegas. College football produces a lot of emotions, but from the neutral perspective, it's rare that one of them is outright legitimate anger. Seeing Kellen Moore forced to end his career slumming it against an Arizona State team that checked out in early November sure turned the trick, though.

26. Independence. The Tar Heels came out so flat, and were finished off so quickly, that we're pretty sure the only lovely parting gift they walked away with was "Independence Bowl: the Board Game."

27. Music City. Mississippi State turned the ball over four times, and Wake Forest averaged 2.9 yards per-play. If Hank Williams or some other old-time country artist had come to Nashville to write a sad song about a sad bowl game, this is the game they'd use for inspiration.

28. Insight. Sadly, the only "insight" we got from this game was that Vegas oddsmakers -- who had the Sooners installed as the biggest favorite of the entire bowl season -- know what they're talking about. And who didn't know that already?

29. Holiday. It wasn't that long ago when Jeff Tedford's Cal and Mack Brown's Texas squaring off would have been appointment television. This game was, too, though in the sense that it was the sort of game you made an appointment somewhere else to avoid viewing.

30. Hawaii. Nevada and Southern Mississippi were collectively as sharp as your average butter knife, but let's see you spend a week chilling in Hawaii and then play a quality football game. The best players the NFL has to offer try it every single year and haven't succeeded yet.

31. Pinstripe. The only thing we remember from this game was our wish to travel back to, say, 1998, and explain to a random college football fan that in 2011, Rutgers would win a bowl game in Yankee Stadium that would give them the nation's longest postseason winning streak. (We're still not sure it's actually happening.)

32. Beef 'O' Brady's. Newton's Second Law of Bowl Aesthetics: Whensoever a Game Produces Fewer Offensive Touchdowns Than the Game Has Apostrophes in its Title, That Game Shall Be, Verily, Entirely Terrible.

33. New Mexico. We'd waited so long to be able to sit down and watch a college bowl game, and by halftime we were sort of wishing we'd gotten to wait a little bit longer.

34. BBVA Compass. For two straight years, Pitt has been forced to play in Legion Field on a January weekday afternoon in front of no one under an interim coach against a nondescript opponent. Vs. SMU the Panthers looked like they'd much rather be off somewhere doing something much more fun, like peeling potatoes with their teeth--and we don't blame them a bit.

35. Kraft Fight Hunger. Comedian Patton Oswalt once called a certain famous KFC product a "failure pile in a sadness bowl." Capitalize that B, and we can't think of a better way to describe 2011 Illinois "battling" 2011 UCLA.

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Posted on: January 2, 2012 6:55 pm
Edited on: January 2, 2012 7:31 pm
 

1st half at the Rose Bowl has plenty of offense



Posted by Bryan Fischer


PASADENA, Calif. -- Granddaddy of them all? Try granddaddy of all the offense.

Oregon and Wisconsin traded touchdowns so quickly at the Rose Bowl Monday afternoon that even Baylor and Washington were a little impressed, setting a host of bowl records in the first half.

Amid the pageantry and picturesque setting you expect in Pasadena at the start of a new year, Wisconsin won the toss and made the unusual move to take the ball to open the game. The Badgers had a gashing first drive, with Montee Ball close to breaking several long runs. Quarterback Russell Wilson effectively used the play action to roll out and hit a streaking Abbrederis for a 38-yard touchdown on an impressive opening drive.

Oregon answered right back, as Darron Thomas, with a Badger defender in his face, threw off his back foot to hit Lavasier Tuieni for a big gain to the one-yard line on the Ducks' opening drive. LaMichael James punched it in for a touchdown up the middle on the next play and it was away… we… go...

A big run by Ball was the answer for Wisconsin on their next drive, capped by a spin move that netted him a few extra yards that moved the Badgers into scoring position. Wilson did the rest near the goal line, running in a touchdown unopposed off of a bootleg to get Wisconsin a 14-7 lead with over five minutes left in the 1st quarter.

Electrifying freshman De'Anthony Thomas ended the 1st quarter on a high note, taking an inside handoff 91-yards for a touchdown by showing off his speed and pulling away from the Wisconsin defense. It was a Rose Bowl record run, breaking the 88-yarder Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley had in 1993. It also gave the two teams a new record for combined points in the 1st quarter of the bowl.

That wasn't the only record to fall in Pasadena on a hot Southern California day (the 82 degrees at kickoff was the sixth-highest in the game's history). Ball took a handoff off to the left side for a three-yard touchdown run to tie Barry Sanders' FBS-record for touchdowns in a season with 39.

Sanders immediately congratulated Ball on Twitter right after the play, "Congrats @M_Ball28 - I love that it was a go-ahead TD."

De'Anthony Thomas took the kickoff back to midfield and, on the very next play, Darron Thomas found Kenjon Barner on a wheel route for a 54-yard touchdown pass to tie things up again at 21. At that point, Oregon was averaging over 14 yards per play.

Wisconsin took over and Ball was stuffed for no gain on a 3rd and short at the 17. Head coach Bret Bielema opted to keep the offense on the field to go for it and Wilson dropped back off a play-action fake but pressure forced him to be flushed from the pocket before Kiko Alonso ultimately sacked him near the sideline for one of the few early defensive plays of the game.

The Wisconsin defense stepped up on the next series though. On third down, Darron Thomas was sacked and fumbled the ball, which Louis Nzegwu scooped and scored a 33-yard touchdown to put the Badgers ahead 28-21.

Thomas and the Ducks responded with an impressive drive that featured several sharp pass plays to get into the red zone. Then the signal-caller faked a short run on third and goal following a timeout and found Tuinei in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass with 30 seconds left in the half.

The 56 combined points was a new Rose Bowl record and the two teams had 631 yards of total offense - good for 8.8 yards per play.

Like I said, granddaddy of all the offense.

Posted on: December 30, 2011 5:08 pm
 

Rose Bowl Key Matchup



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A look at the key matchup that could decide the Rose Bowl. 

Chip Kelly vs. time to prepare

In addition to being a great matchup on the field, the Rose Bowl this season pits two head coaches who have experienced plenty of success early on in their careers as the men calling the shots. Both Bret Bielema and Chip Kelly have taken over for their respective mentors and taken their programs to new heights. Wisconsin is making a return trip to the granddaddy of them all while this is Kelly's third straight BCS game with an appearance in the national championship game to boot.

For Kelly though, this game presents yet another challenge to rise to the occasion and finally put Oregon over the top. He's lost just six games in three years running the team but, outside of a loss to USC this year, has found success fleeting against teams with weeks to prepare for the fast-paced offense that he signals in from the sidelines and is the biggest reason why they've been dominating Pac-12 conference play. Last season, Oregon was averaging 49 points per game but against Auburn's bend-but-don't-break defense they rushed for less than 100 yards and managed just 22 points. Boise State, Ohio State, LSU, the story seems to be a constant one. As much success as Kelly has had, it just hasn't come against teams with time to prepare.

When asked about that after the Pac-12 Championship game, Kelly noted that they were all pretty good teams Oregon faced. So is Wisconsin, with Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball and a top 10 defense. The Badgers won a down Big Ten this year but still will be a stiff test for the Ducks in Pasadena. They're big and physical and though it seems like the speed of the Oregon offense should be effective, history suggests that's no sure thing.

Kelly has plenty of weapons to use this game, with running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner able to score from anywhere on the field and freshman De'Anthony Thomas a dynamic playmaker in space. Darron Thomas has had to throw it more than Kelly probably likes but he can get the ball into the hands of his playmakers. For some reason, the head coach hasn't been able to figure out the adjustments opponents have made against what he does game-in and game-out. There's been plenty of success and big games with this program and it's up to Kelly to finally get them over the hump, regardless what Bielema and the Wisconsin defense throws at him.

Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Keys to the game: Rose Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: The Badgers make their way to Pasadena with a solid, experienced defense - sixth in the country in scoring, allowing just 17 points per game - but they haven't seen anything like the Ducks' fast-paced attack that has been putting up points and yards quicker than you can say "quack." The team played in the Rose Bowl last year against a good team that had some speed but Oregon certainly runs a different style and will mix in plenty of zone-read with between the tackles running. While the big front seven will have to be in shape and prepared to fill their gaps, the secondary will also have to be on alert - not just for LaMichael James or De'Anthony Thomas breaking a big run but for quarterback Darron Thomas, who has been passing the ball more than last year.

On offense, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball have put up some eye-popping numbers and will need to continue their efficient play in the Rose Bowl. Oregon's defense isn't anything to write home about but is very opportunistic. Nick Aliotti is a very good coordinator and has shut down plenty of high powered offenses before as well. The size difference between the lines will be something everybody will point to but the real thing to keep an eye on is if the Wisconsin o-line can have success blocking at the second level to spring Ball for some big gains. This should be a great match up with a team set on coming home with the trophy this year.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks come into this game looking to prove that they're an elite team by winning, for a change, a BCS game. The only way they do that is to limit turnovers and, most importantly, convert on third downs. Oregon has had issues with drops and penalties when trying to convert and pick up a first down and has to come out sharp or they'll get a repeat of other games where they've had plenty of time off but came up flat. Getting James, Kenjon Barner or Thomas in space is the priority and hopefully Chip Kelly will have a better game plan than he has had in the past two BCS games. The wide receiver corps has to come through with a good game and avoid the drops that they've had all season long too.

Defensively, this team has faced similarly built teams during the regular season such as Stanford and USC. They won against the Cardinal by forcing turnovers and came back against the Trojans in a similar manner. If they can create penetration and put some pressure on Wilson, the iffy secondary should do just fine against the Wisconsin receivers. There's no doubt the unit will take a pounding but still should be fine. Special teams is one area that the layoff could lend improvement too. The kick return unit has taken a few back but the punt returns definitely need work. Bottom line, if Oregon wants to win the Rose Bowl, it all comes down to execution and the Ducks have to do a better job at the little things than they have in the past.

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X-FACTOR: Both teams are coming off wins in their respective conferences' first ever championship game. While the defenses have done well, it's the offenses that are the reason Oregon and Wisconsin are in Pasadena and will likely determine the winner as well. With the Ducks' offense, Wisconsin will likely try to hold onto the ball but that likely won't matter given how quickly they can score. On the flip side, the Badgers can set up play action passes that could be very effective. Oregon will have to focus on sustaining drives and creating big plays while trying to be aggressive but sound on defense. Should be a fun game that might end up coming down to who can give their offense the best field position on special teams.



Posted on: December 14, 2011 6:36 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 7:20 am
 

Oregon's James denies report he is going pro

Posted by Tom Fornelli

UPDATE: LaMichael James has since denied the Oregonian report that he would be entering the NFL draft. 

James could have gone pro last season but instead decided to return to improve his draft stock, and did so by adding 15 pounds and returning punts.

Depending on who else will be declaring for the NFL draft, James is currently fifth in the CBSSports.com NFL draft rankings at running back.

Though he still has a game left in his career at the Rose Bowl against Wisconsin, James is already Oregon's all-time leading rusher with 4,923 yards and also has scored more rushing touchdowns than any other back in school history with 52.

James turning pro would be a big loss for Oregon but it's not as if the Ducks are hurting at the running back position. Kenjon Barner rushed for 909 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, and he's expected to return for his senior year. Then there's DeAnthony Thomas, who had 1,011 total yards and 14 touchdowns in his first season while being named the co-Freshman of the Year in the Pac-12.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com