Oregon is on pace to wipe out Pac-10 scoring record.
Last week, Washington was coming off an abysmal effort against Stanford and its pride was at stake. Oregon was off a boffo, three-touchdown victory at USC and figured still to be in the clouds.
So I did the logical thing and picked Washington with the 35 points.
I was right. Uh, no, wait a minute, I was wrong.
That’s the way it often goes these days with the Ducks, who cover their mistakes with speed, tempo and waves of capable bodies. They turned an 18-13 game well into the third quarter into a 53-16 blowout. Never has a team looked so good playing so badly.
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They covered the spread again, which they’ve done six times in eight games (missing against WSU and matching the 11-point number at Arizona State, depending on when you got it).
“It seems like we can’t get it high enough for Oregon,” said Jeff Stoneback, manager of the Mirage sportsbook in Las Vegas.
“The last time we had a situation similar to this was a couple of years ago. The Patriots went undefeated (until the Super Bowl). They were 20-point favorites in the NFL, which is unheard-of. It does make it kind of hard to make a line.”
Not only are the Ducks bending the old standards in Nevada, they’re assaulting the Pac-10 record book.
The league mark for points in a season is 638, set by the Matt Leinart-Reggie Bush-LenDale White USC team of 2005. Oregon is already at 492, so the Ducks need only average 36.5 over their last three games against California, Arizona and Oregon State, plus a bowl game, to tie.
Given their gasoline-tanker-fire standard, that seems eminently within reach.
Tuesday, neither USC’s Lane Kiffin, nor Washington’s Steve Sarkisian — the offensive braintrust on that ’05 Trojans team — discouraged the comparison of this Oregon team to that one.
“There’s a lot of similarities,” Kiffin said. “People kind of hang around awhile, and they wear them out.”
Sarkisian pointed to the balance at Oregon, but also saw something intangible last week in Eugene.
“There’s a real sense of confidence, a real sense of belief,” he said. “They make their plays; it’s normal to them. They just really believe in what they’re doing.”
That USC team averaged 49.1 points. Oregon scores a staggering 54.7 a game. For the history-minded, the No. 2 and 3 teams on the Pac-10 list, by average, are the Jake Plummer-fueled Arizona State team of 1996 (42.8) and UCLA’s 1973 club (42.7), which ran the wishbone.
There is a sober note in Eugene, though. Backup quarterback Nate Costa — who must have the worst luck with knees in college history — just suffered his fourth knee injury and is done. That means Darron Thomas goes it alone and the Ducks hope they don’t have to use 6-foot-2, 183-pound true freshman Bryan Bennett of Encino, Calif.
Oregon has said it wants to redshirt Bennett, but that might not be the wisest choice now. What if, say, Thomas sustains an ankle sprain that keeps him out for a game and a half? Does it want to throw an untried quarterback into a game with a national-championship berth at stake?
“You can’t manufacture things,” said Oregon coach Chip Kelly. “If we’re in a close game with Cal, I’m not going to be thinking, ‘I’ve got to get the backup quarterback experience.’ We’ll just take it as it comes and see how it comes out.”
Given those 492 points scored by the Ducks, this is the more likely scenario: Oregon isn’t in a close game with Cal. Then what?
And what’s more …
• The game-winning, 51-yard field goal by Kai Forbath that beat Oregon State was No. 83 in his UCLA career, four short of the NCAA record.
• If Arizona State misses out on a bowl game, it might look back to a late blocked extra point at USC. The kick was blocked by Tyron Smith, normally an offensive tackle, who shot the “A” gap and snuffed the kick. A teammate ran the ball all the way back for two points in a 34-33 USC victory.
• DE Cameron Jordan‘s game at WSU the other day went somewhat unnoticed, but not by Cal coaches. He had 12 tackles, rare for a defensive lineman, three for losses.
• Perspective on WSU’s long slog without a bye, which ends after its date at OSU this week: Six other FBS teams have their first bye the same day as WSU; eight more have their first Nov. 27.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org