Kragthorpe: Oregon's offense on way to becoming Ducks' best ever
Oregon's high level of production has been standard practice for several seasons, so the offense's weekly numbers barely register anymore.
At some point, though, the current Ducks will deserve special notice for what they're doing. Genuine proof can come only after next month's meeting with the Stanford defense that shut down Oregon last November, but this just might be the Ducks' best offense ever.
Marcus Mariota is the reason. He's become a much more complete quarterback, with talents beyond those of the dynamic players who have manned the position for Oregon in recent years. Mariota has thrown 265 passes without an interception since that Stanford game and is equally effective as a runner. He's protected by an athletic offensive line and is surrounded by playmakers.
"They're very efficient," said UCLA coach Jim Mora, whose team visits Oregon this week. "You've got to be on point every single play or they're going to make you pay for it."
No kidding. The Ducks are averaging 57.6 points and 643.1 total yards through seven games, ranking No. 2 nationally behind Baylor in each category. If not for backing off in the fourth quarters of blowouts, Oregon easily would top 700 yards.
The Ducks always have plenty of speedy running backs and now they've added some capable receivers, making this "probably the most complete offense that we've seen out of Oregon," said Steve Sarkisian, who's 0-5 against the Ducks as Washington's coach.
California coach Sonny Dykes is new to the league, but he knows what distinguishes this Oregon offense from previous models. "They're throwing the ball so much better," Dykes said.
UCLA will take its turn against the Ducks. The teams have not met since the 2011 Pac-12 championship game, with Rick Neuheisel as UCLA's outgoing coach. So this is the first opportunity for Mora, a former NFL defensive coordinator and head coach, to go against Oregon's offense.
The Bruins held Utah to 20 offensive points while intercepting six passes and then allowed 24 points to Stanford in their first loss of the season after trailing 3-0 at halftime.
Oregon is likely to top those two teams' point total vs. UCLA, but the Ducks will have to do it against a more talented defense than they've faced so far. UCLA features linebacker Anthony Barr, a versatile defender. "The thing is, he's not the only one," said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich. "They play about six guys at linebacker that are like that. They're equipped to stop a lot of people."
Stopping the Ducks is asking a lot, though. Oregon won't hit its weekly averages against the Bruins, but should deliver more than enough offense to hand them another defeat.