The 2012 season has brought about several surprising developments for the Pac-12.
First and foremost for Arizona State fans, the Sun Devils lead the Pac-12 South at the halfway mark. Utah is terrible, UCLA is good, and USC is very good but not great. In the North, Mike Leach hasn't made Washington State relevant, and Oregon State is in the Top 10. Weird.
One thing that comes as no surprise is that Oregon is highly ranked (No. 2 in both polls), scoring tons of points, running for most of their yards, all while wearing hideous uniform combinations.
Some things never change.
Oregon's Season to Date: With no SEC team on the early schedule, Oregon has rolled mostly unopposed through their first six games, winning each by an average score of 52-20. After a nondescript non-conference schedule, they blew out then No. 22 Arizona 49-0 before hanging over 50 on each of the Washington schools.
Oregon's Last Game: The Ducks are coming off a bye week and were last in action on October 6th when they hosted then No. 23 Washington. Quarterback Marcus Mariota threw three of his four touchdown passes in the first half as the Ducks raced to a 35-7 halftime lead and never looked back en route to a 52-12 win.
Oregon's Statistical Leaders:
- Rushing: Kenjon Barner - 727 yards, 6.3 ypc, 9 TD
- Passing: Marcus Mariota - 1,301 yards, 67.9 completion %, 15 TD, 5 INT, 156.4 rating
- Receiving: De'Anthony Thomas - 20 receptions, 205 yards, 3 TD
- Tackles: Kiko Alonso - 36
- Sacks: Taylor Hart - 4.0
Oregon's National Ranks (Among 124 FBS Teams):
- Rushing Offense: 4th (302.2 yards-per-game)
- Passing Offense: 56th (239.3 yards-per-game)
- Scoring Offense: 2nd (52.3 points-per-game)
- Rushing Defense: 37th (126.8 yards-per-game)
- Passing Defense: 70th (233.0 yards-per-game)
- Scoring Defense: 31st (20.0 points-per-game)
Oregon on Offense: Yep, Oregon still uses their run-first, speedy spread option offense better than just about everyone in the nation. While the names on the back of their neon jerseys continue to change, their effectiveness does not.
Redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota has taken over at quarterback this year, beating Bryan Bennett in the offseason competition, and has been excellent. Like all Oregon quarterbacks, he's a very effective runner, already with 221 yards, but his passing has been his most impressive attribute. He's completing over 67-percent of his passes, with 15 touchdown passes and ranks 21st in the nation in passing efficiency. That ability through the air has made the Oregon offense that much better this year.
Of course, the Ducks are built on the ground, and after years of being the nation's top backup running backs, Kenjon Barner is now among the nation's top starters. The senior has the same game-breaking explosiveness as every other star Oregon back, and is 12th in the nation with 121 yards-per-game. Joining him in the backfield is perhaps the nation's most dynamic player in De'Anthony Thomas. Like ASU's D.J. Foster, Thomas is a home run threat anytime he touches the ball and sees plenty of time as both a running back and wide receiver. He leads the team with 20 receptions and averages over 9.5 yards every time he touches the ball, and is an electrifying return man. As if they weren't enough backfield talent, four-star recruit Byron Marshall—Cameron's little brother—has been great as well, running for 258 yards and three touchdowns.
The Ducks possess a stable of young pass catchers that have stepped up this year after the top two targets last year moved on. After Thomas, freshman Bralon Addison is next up with 16 catches and 196, and Keanon Lowe has 13 for 133. Junior Josh Huff has missed some time with a knee injury, but has great tools. At tight end, Colt Lyerla has become a dangerous weapon with his speed and size at 6-foot-5, 246 pounds, and leads the team with four touchdown receptions.
The offensive line replaced two starters from last year, and lost guard Carson York earlier this season due to injury, but has not missed a beat. The Ducks never have elite talent along the line, but they are always supremely effective as a unit. Led by center Hroniss Gronsu and tackle Jake Fisher, the Ducks are excellent run blockers and swift enough in pass protection.
Oregon on Defense: When your offense puts up 50 points every week, your defense really just needs to be "good enough", and the Ducks are often more than up to the task. Oregon runs a base 4-3, but like many teams around the nation, use a lot of 3-4 looks as well. Much like their offense, the Duck defense is loaded with speedy playmakers.
Up front, they are led by defensive end Dion Jordan, a very talented playmaker who was an All-Pac-12 first teamer a year ago. A 6-foot-7, 241-pounder, Jordan is a terrific pass rusher thanks to his huge wingspan and quickness. Taylor Hart, the other end, is no slouch either and leads the team with four sacks. ASU may catch a break up the middle, as Oregon starting defensive tackle Isaac Remington has been suspended indefinitely following a traffic incident on Friday.
Even with having to replace two key starters, the Oregon linebacker group is still stout. Kiko Alonso was the Rose Bowl's Defensive MVP and leads the team with 36 tackles, seven for loss, and has two interceptions. The lone returning starter from a year ago, Michael Clay is a lot like his weakside linebacker counterpart on ASU Brandon Magee. Both are very athletic, can cover a lot of ground, and are sound tacklers.
Given that they always have the lead, opposing teams have passed on the Ducks a lot, helping to lead to their pedestrian ranking as the nation's 70th best pass defense. Another factor was losing their top player in free safety John Boyett for the year after just one game. Avery Patterson has filled in well, making 28 tackles and two interceptions. The Ducks have a solid cornerback tandem in sohpmores Terrence Mitchell and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Mitchell is a more physical corner at 6-foot, 185 pounds with Ekpre-Olomu has better technique.