Mailbag: Oregon just a 'system' team?

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Leif from San Francisco writes: Ted-I got home from work tonight and went through my nightly ritual of obsessively reading all available media on this Saturday's Oregon @ USC game. Being a Duck fan I am prone to be defensive (rationally or not) about uninformed attacks on the Ducks in general, but especially their style of play. So you can imagine the chagrin that met this little number from Lane Kiffin in the OC Register.

Kiffin then had an interesting take on Oregon’s offense and how certain programs across the country are successful and defined by the system they stick to.

“We run a pro-style system because we believe that helps us go anywhere in the country and give us a chance to recruit the best players in the country, regardless of positions that they’re in,” he said. “That system that they run is a great system. At times, it doesn’t allow them to go recruit nationally certain positions because guys realize the effect it’s going to have on them with their draft status.

“Like I’ve said all along, it’s a phenomenal college system and it’s very hard to defense obviously by the numbers.”

Is this just propaganda, or do you believe this to be true? Does USC really have this edge, or or do they just get players because they are USC?

Ted Miller: There's some substance and bunk to what Kiffin is saying.

Substance in general: USC is USC. It's a traditional brand located in one of the nation's best recruiting hotbeds. That means USC is typically going to get more elite prospects, nationally and locally, than Oregon. It can go after the best guys locally and then cherry pick nationally with its iconic brand. Further, many prospects who are willing to play away from home -- far from home, in fact -- can be wowed by the prospect of playing in Los Angeles.

And, yes, part of USC's sales pitch is its success producing NFL players, which is mostly rooted in it being a traditional power in a recruiting hotbed and not about its schemes.

The Ducks home state doesn't produce very many FBS prospects, which means Oregon is limited to almost exclusively recruiting guys who are willing to play away from home. And, by the way, to recruit nationally, Oregon often has to convince kids to leave warm weather for the drizzly chill of the Northwest. Even LaMichael James, a Texas product, could be provoked into grousing about the weather in Eugene at times.

Substance on "system": Oregon is not going to sign a quarterback like Matt Barkley -- or any other prototypical drop-back passers. Ducks coach Chip Kelly expects his quarterbacks to be athletes who can pose a running threat. So, Kiffin and Kelly are unlikely to go earnestly head-to-head on a quarterback.

That said, if the second-coming of Andrew Luck, an outstanding athlete who just happens to be a drop-back passer, wanted to play for Oregon, Kelly and his extremely large brain could figure out a way to make it work. Kelly isn't married to a scheme. He's married to scoring points in bunches. And winning.

Oregon's track record with the NFL is solid. If you are a skilled and a motivated high school player at any position, you will have a very good opportunity to get to the NFL after playing for Oregon. Even at quarterback.

The same can be said, by the way, for every Pac-12 program. Everybody in the NFL knows we play big boy football out here.

If you are Haloti Ngata and you choose to go to Oregon instead of USC -- or Alabama for that matter -- you still get picked in the first round of the draft and get to become a super-elite player. Why? Because you are Haloti Ngata.

Why have none of Kelly's quarterbacks done well in the NFL? Well, because they were Dennis Dixon, Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas. They had inherent limits to their ability. If I were a betting man, I'd guess that Marcus Mariota is going to have an NFL career. Why? There aren't as many limits to his ability.

The "system" critique of Oregon has lost some legs over the past couple of seasons. For one, you might notice that NFL coaches, such as Bill Belichick, have adopted many elements of Kelly's system.

And, by the way, there's something to be said for this: Probably a third of the NFL would trade their present head coach for Chip Kelly... right the freak now.

Not sure if you liked that last bit, Leif, as much as the paragraphs that preceded it.

Dennis from Baltimore writes: One overlooked development this year is that, with USC's eary losses, Oregon is squarely in the driver's seat to host the Pac-12 title game again this year. At the start of the year it looked like the winner of this weekend's game in LA would have the home field advantage in the Championship game. Now, regardless of who wins Saturday, it looks like any potential rematch would be in Eugene. Thats a big deal. Right?

Ted Miller: Yes. If Oregon loses to USC on Saturday but still wins the North Division and still owns a better conference record than the eventual South Division champion, it will host the Pac-12 title game, even if that's USC with its head-to-head win.

And, yes, playing in Autzen Stadium is a big deal. It's the toughest road environment in the conference.

That said, Oregon has won 12 straight road games, the longest active road winning streak in the nation. The last time the Ducks lost a true road game was in 2009 against Stanford (bowl games and the neutral site game with LSU in 2011 don't count as true road games). So the Ducks are pretty good, regardless of the building.

And if you are fascinated by tiebreaking procedures of all types, go here.

Mark from Garden Grove, Calif., writes: If Arizona and USC both win out, Arizona will be 5-0 in the South and still behind the 4-1 Trojans. Records vs the North are meaningless in any situation other than a tiebreaker; especially considering that Arizona would've played a tougher North schedule.

Ted Miller: If USC wins out, it wins the South Division outright with a 7-2 Pac-12 record. Every other South team will have at least three losses in that scenario.

The overall conference record is the first measure, not the divisional record. Then, in the event of a tie, head-to-head.

Mark from Greenville, S.C., writes: you knowingly dodged Brad from Atlanta's question in the chat, and distorted what he was actually stating. The SEC fan made no reference to Oregon's defense against Auburn's offense. Instead, he wanted to know how if Oregon was held to 19 points - with 7 of those set up by a turnover forced by the Oregon defense - by Auburn's bad (especially against the pass) defense, then how would Oregon fare against Alabama's much better defense? If Nick Fairley and a bunch of average to above average guys around them were able to get consistent penetration up the middle, seal off the edges and eliminate big plays in the running game, what are the future NFL guys in Alabama's front 7 going to do? And Alabama is not going to yield 360 passing yards like Auburn did. It was a fair question, which is why you totally dodged it.

Ted Miller: Here's the exchange:

Ted, I am an SEC fan and am curious as to the differences between the Oregon team from this year vs. the 2011 team that lost to an Auburn team with a sub-par defense. I understand they are an offensive juggernaut and the D is improved, but what makes this team seem more capable of beating a time like Bama with a superior defense?

Ted Miller (4:00 PM) This is an interesting question, because it demonstrates a disconnect with reality Pac-12 folks see with SEC folks. Go back and look at the national title game. How many SEC teams held Auburn to 22 points? Oregon had a good defense in 2010, and this one looks like it's better. A bit bigger up front, while still being fast.

Yikes. I partially misunderstood the question. That's even worse than "knowingly dodging" it. It wasn't gamesmanship. It was lunkheadedness. Bad, Pac-12 blog. Bad!

So this was more about Oregon's offense against an SEC defense, seeing that Auburn's defense wasn't even an A-list SEC defense.

My first response is each season and, really, each game is a distinct entity, and bowl games often take on a life of their own simply because of all the preparation time. More than a few folks would tell you that extra time to prepare for Oregon's misdirection is a big benefit for an opposing defense. Just as Oregon's extra prep time surely helped the Ducks force Cam Newton into a mostly mediocre game, which no other SEC defense had done.

Not sure what happened in the Auburn-Oregon national title game two years ago would have any relevance to what might happen in an Oregon-Alabama national title game in January.

But what often happens in these Pac-12-SEC showdowns is what happened with LSU-Oregon to start the 2011 season: A great defense will slow down a great offense. And a great offense will do better against a great defense than a mediocre offense.

Go look at LSU in 2011. I'll wait here. What I'm sure you noticed is that Oregon and West Virginia, two great non-SEC offenses, turned in the season's best performances against LSU. And if Oregon didn't lose the turnover battle 4-1, who knows what might have happened?

If Alabama and Oregon play for the national title, Oregon will not score 40 points. But it will present a frenzy of outrageous speed, tempo and playcalling the likes of which Alabama has not seen because it plays in a conference with bad, mostly uncreative offenses (other than Alabama itself), at least since the departure of Bobby Petrino.

I'd guess Oregon would score about 24-to-28 points.

The question then will be how Oregon's improved defense would do against quarterback AJ McCarron and the nation's best offensive line.

My guess today is Alabama would score 25-29. But the Ducks might yet win me over to 23 to 27.

Michael from Afghanistan/Ft. Lewis, Wash., writes: I'm currently overseas in the Army. This upcoming April i will separate from the army after 4 years and begin my college career. Sadly, i don't know what i want to go to school for. Sports is my passion, playing, watching, talking about with friends. I was hoping that you could give me some insight or advice on pursuing this career. Anything you could tell me would be greatly appreciated. If you can't find time to reply that's okay.

Ted Miller: Michael, thanks for your service. Stay safe.

As for college, just keep in mind that there is no hurry to arrive at your ultimate life direction. Take a lot of different classes. Become well read. Absolutely take economics -- macro and micro. That way we'll have one less person saying stupid things during an election year.

Take art and music appreciation and a few literature classes. It will help your dating life to know things. Trust me. Become broadly educated in anticipation of being the life of a future Manhattan cocktail party.

During this process of becoming a renaissance man, ask yourself what you like to do. Do you like to write? Do you want to be on TV? Or radio? What about play-by-play? Or do you want to be a "behind-the-scenes" guy? Do you want to work in professional or college sports? Concentrate on one sport over cover them all?

Maybe the physical training or medical side interests you. Maybe being an agent sounds intriguing. You probably need a law degree to become one, and know that negotiating contracts and aggressive salesmanship will be your life.

Or is business your thing? Lots of opportunities in sports marketing -- might want to check this out.

Things you could do in college to get a head start: Work in the sports information department. Offer your services to the athletic department in whatever capacity they'll have you. Or write for the student newspaper. Find people who seem to be doing what you'd like to do and ask them how the heck they started doing that.

Most important, have a bit of fun. Be social. You've earned it. Do things other than watch TV, play video games and drink beer, though you most certainly should do some of that, too. Consider your longterm goals, but focus on the process, not the outcome.

First things first: Get home safely.