Stats. They are the proof in sports. Much like DNA evidence or eyewitness testimony in a courtroom, stats are the substantiation for almost everything in college football. And in the stat book so far, the men in varying shades of green and yellow have impressed this season.
Yes, I agree Arkansas State and Fresno State aren’t the greatest opponents for Oregon to judge itself against, and Tennessee Tech, well, it was nice of them to visit. But all of this talk that Oregon football hasn’t looked as good as it could have against these mediocre foes is getting out of hand.
The fact that Oregon had to – gasp – punt the ball, and that the Ducks have turned the ball over and committed a few penalties is a bit of a bummer for fans who expect EA Sports video game numbers, but all in all the Ducks have played incredibly.
The proof isn’t in how the Ducks may look, but what is marked in the stat ledger.
A 42-25 final score of Fresno State seemed scary to some folks and allowing Arkansas State to put up 34 had people ragging on the Ducks defense, but lets look at this through the numbers lens.
Against Arkansas State the Ducks were up 50-3 after just 20 minutes of play. The Red Wolves were the 25th best defense out of 120 FBS schools last year, but in just a quarter of a half, the Ducks scored more than double what the Wolves averaged allowing for an entire game last season. It wasn’t until Oregon’s third string defense was in, while prolific Arkansas State passer Ryan Aplin hucked the ball every play, that the Ducks defense started bleeding points.
And the score at the half against Fresno State? 35-6. Yeah, the third quarter was a bit ugly for the Ducks, but they only gave up 10 points despite turning the ball over twice in that quarter. When it was time to close the game, Oregon went on a six-minute, 11-play, 77-yard scoring drive.
After an early mistake that sacrificed massive field position and a touchdown, Oregon went on a 63-7 scoring tear against Tennessee Tech. 63-7 people, what the hell are you worrying about?
Marcus Mariota is a freshman quarterback, and a learning curve is to be expected no matter the opponent. He obviously isn’t subscribing to that logic, as he currently ranks sixth in the nation in completion percentage (75.3%), while he has the country’s 11th best passer rating (180.5).
The Ducks rush attack is 4th in America, averaging 329 yards per game, just behind Air Force, Army and Georgia Tech, all who have offensive schemes that run the ball on seemingly every play.
As an offensive whole, the Ducks rank third in the country in touchdowns scored, with 23, trailing Oklahoma State’s 25 and Florida State’s 24. The Ducks are fifth overall with 54 points per game.
Oregon’s defense ranks 53rd in the country in yards allowed per game so far this season, while ranking 68th in points allowed, averaging 24.3 points per game. Both of these are in the middle of the pack, but one must consider the fact that opponents are throwing the ball virtually every play to make up for their, on average, 30-point deficit.
If Oregon continues their defensive prowess on third down for the rest of the season there should be less reason to worry, as the Ducks have allowed their opponents only seven third-down-conversions on an attempted 45.
The argument thus far has been that if the Ducks have not performed perfectly against weak opponents, they may struggle against stronger ones. There isn’t reason to worry much though, as the best defense the Ducks will face this season statistically speaking, is Stanford, who gave up 21.9 points per game last season, 30th-best in the nation. Arkansas State, who the Ducks put up 57 on, was ranked five spots better than Stanford, allowing only 20.8 per game.
So what are all these numbers telling us? They are saying to settle down. And the numbers don’t lie.