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Eugene Weekly : Sports : 12.29.11

Ducks running back LaMichael James. Photo by Todd Cooper

 

Why the Ducks will beat up the Badgers

 1. The snub. Nothing motivates college football players like being snubbed. The Heisman voters told running back LaMichael James (pictured) that he was worse this year than last year. The Pac-12 coaches decided that quarterback Darron Thomas did not merit even an honorable mention on the All-Pac-12 Team. Nobody seems to have heard of Lavasier Tuinei (he’s a receiver). If these guys and their Duck teammates get tired of being snubbed and decide the Rose Bowl is a good place to make a statement, watch out Wisconsin.

2. The whispers. Chip Kelly has run up an incredible 33-6 record in three years as Oregon’s head coach. But, against top-20 teams outside the Pac-12, Kelly’s teams are only 1-4. That’s not enough losses to cause real concern, but it’s enough to fuel whispers that Oregon is an over-uniformed, overrated program that feasts on weak conference opponents and can’t win big games. This group of Oregon Ducks should know there is only one way to silence those whispers for good — by thumping Wisconsin.

3. The forward pass. Badger backers say this Wisconsin team is not from the old Big Ten, where coaches thought a forward pass meant asking the barmaid out for bratwurst. That may be true, but these Badgers have not seen a passing game like Oregon’s. Darron Thomas has not been asked to win many games, but he may have to win the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin ranks as one of the best pass defenses in the country, but it rang up most of those numbers against weak passing teams. The Badgers got lit up twice by Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins. Wisconsin’s defensive backs are not as fast as Oregon’s receivers and the Badgers’ best cover guy — Antonio Fenelus — is 5-foot-9. Lavasier Tuinei goes 6-foot-5. Look for Lavasier and tight end David Paulson to catch balls and score points. 

4. Big and slow versus small and fast. Wisconsin’s starting offensive linemen average roughly 320 pounds each — bigger than most offensive lines in the NFL. Oregon’s defense is smaller but faster, with really quick linebackers. It’s a classic showdown — will the Badger blockers wear out from trying to chase down the faster Ducks, or will the Duck defenders wear out from getting leaned on by beefy Badgers? If Wisconsin scores first and can pound on the Ducks between the tackles, then it might be a long day for the Ducks and their fancy new uniforms. But if Oregon can score early and play the game out in open space with lots of passes, screens, options and sweeps, then the Ducks win. Remember — the dinosaurs were really big, and we all know what happened to them.

5. The pace. Since Chip Kelly started speeding up college football a few years ago, lots of teams have tried to turn up the tempo. But the Badgers have not seen anyone play with the frenetic urgency of the Ducks — who often are ready and waiting to snap the ball as soon as the officials let them. Oregon’s hyper-speed can wreak havoc with the Badgers, making it difficult for them to substitute defenders, call defenses or catch their breath. If Oregon can overcome television timeouts and the officials to get their hurry up rolling, they should score a lot of points and win. — Bern Johnson





Why the Badgers will chew up the Ducks

Wisconsin football fans who have hitched along for one or more of the team’s four visits to the Rose Bowl since 1994 report that the red-clad boosters have left Pasadena-area bartenders impressed and a little frightened. While the Badgers are 3-1 against their Pac-12 opponents in those Rose Bowl appearances, their fans are undefeated and barely challenged in the party arena leading up to the game, regularly drinking bars out of beer and anything else they’ve got.

Madison might be located more than twice as far from Pasadena as Eugene, but even Register-Guard sportswriter Rob Moseley admits (http://wkly.ws/15h) red will outnumber green — or whatever color the Ducks plan on wearing for the game — in the stands Monday. Moseley, clearly an intelligent man who knows his football, predicts a 28-24 victory for Wisconsin.

Will it be that close?

Sure, Oregon puts up some gaudy numbers, ranking third in total offense while Wisconsin is 12th. But the Ducks haven’t faced a running game like Wisconsin’s, which relies on an intimidating offensive line with a pair of All Americans and Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball at tailback. The Badgers average 5.5 yards per rush this season and more than 237 yards per game and Ball has scored 32 touchdowns this season, more than 45 Division I teams.

That running game helps set up the country’s second most efficient passing game. Wisconsin has completed over 70 percent of its passes this season and quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown just three interceptions. His 191.6 quarterback rating is second only to Heisman winner Robert Griffin III. 

Of course the football cliché dictates that defense wins championships, but it might be more accurate to say that turnovers lose them. Wisconsin shows up at number three in the country with a turnover margin of 16. Oregon is certainly respectable at 15th on the list, but its 12 fumbles lost will have Wisconsin linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor drooling, particularly when De’Anthony Thomas (five lost fumbles) touches the ball.

On to the intangibles! In the all-important area of parody Twitter accounts, @BeingBielema is pretty hard to beat. The faux coach’s feed is often raunchy, but includes such gems as ”If I get 3,000 followers by the Rose Bowl, I’ll maybe give away a prize (the prize may be herpes),” and “I just ate an entire package of almond bark. It tastes nothing like almonds or bark.” I was unable to find a credible fake Chip Kelly on Twitter.

And then there’s the issue of fan videos. Last season, UW students famously adapted Cali Swag District’s “Teach Me How to Dougie” to “Teach Me How to Bucky,” complete with a slick online video (http://youtu.be/oVAZXZfIlNk), setting in motion a craze that generated T-shirt sales and regular radio airplay. Oregon students quickly followed suit, coming up with “Teach Me How to Ducky.” (http://youtu.be/LS6Y2BrHAro). Cute, if unoriginal. Today, YouTube shows nearly 7,000 likes for the Bucky Badger tribute while dislikes on the Ducky vid outnumber likes by 1,115 to 807. — Jason Joyce