Originally written on The Duck Stops Here  |  Last updated 11/16/14

 Even without John Boyett and Carson York, the Ducks have enough talent and experience to compete for a national championship this season. They have the nation's attention with a top 3 ranking and De'Anthony Thomas on the cover of Sports Illustrated. If they keep winning, they'll be invited to Miami, and Thomas to New York.

But right now they have a lot more to overcome than the SI cover jinx. They have the national exposure, but do they have the will, focus and commitment?

 If the Ducks play their PAC-12 schedule the way they played Tennessee Tech, Fresno State and Arkansas State, they'll lose at least three games this season, including a very disappointing bowl.

Sure, they racked up three big wins against soft competition. But watch those games closely, and you'll see a litany of self-inflicted wounds and unforced errors, glaring signs of inattention, hot dogging and overconfidence.

photo right: College football's most rock-and-roll team makes the cover of the football version of The Rolling Stone. But the cover that really matters comes in January.

Against the Golden Eagles alone, there were these:

  • DAT wanders up to a punt he has no business returning, lets it hit him on the hand, and TT gets a gift possession at the 23.
  • Thomas races 49 yards with a swing pass, starts slowboating at the three yard line (was he going to go into a Heisman Pose?) and a Golden Eagle player strips the ball. Luckily it bounces to Jake Fisher in the end zone and the Ducks get a td instead instead of a touchback.
  • Marcus Mariota fires an interception throwing to a double-covered receiver. The previous week, he had two fumbles carrying the ball like a loaf of bread.
  • A ball bounces off the back of a Tech player into the arms of Kiko Alonso. He has a convoy of five blockers, but no one blocks the quarterback, who makes a one-on-five tackle.
  • Dior Mathis makes a nifty interception, and untouched, steps out at the four yard line.
  • On his first pass, backup quarterback Bryan Bennett heaves it fives yards over the head of his receiver. His second is right in the chest--of an opposing linebacker.
  • For the game, against an opponent they beat by 49, the Ducks commit three turnovers and 105 yards in penalties, including four late hits and roughing-the-passers

These were enough unforced errors to lose a game against a better opponent. And they are all signs of a team that has been reading its own magazine articles.

That's the real power of the Sports Illustrated Cover jinx. Players start believing their own hype. They soak up the praise and forget the hard work and effort that made it possible.

Like the USC Trojans, for instance. Stanford's physical beatdown and domination of SC should be a wake-up call for the Oregon Ducks.

Chip Kelly doesn't believe in circling games, but you'd better believe the Ducks are circled 9 times in opponent's locker rooms this year. Everybody wants to knock them off. They're tired of the praise, the uniforms and the big reputation. They want a piece of that for themselves. They keep hearing how great Oregon is.

Just this week, Arizona cornerback Jonathan McKnight told the Oregonian's Aaron Fentress, "They are always exciting to watch on TV because of the type of offense they run but their team can be beat," he said. "We just have to play really hard against them." 

Every team remaining on Oregon's schedule will play hard against them, and if the Ducks display the same casualness and entitlement they brought to their marshmallow-soft nonconference schedule, they're in for a shock.

Bet that every team on the schedule is devoting at least two practice periods to the rip-and-strip drill. Thomas and Mariota are going to get a steady diet of forearm clubs across the football until they prove they can hold on to it.

If The Black Momba makes two costly, boneheaded errors like those against Arizona, Washington, USC or Stanford, that's the clip they'll play leading up to the Heisman balloting. And Oregon will lose a game they should have won, in an agonizing fashion.

Across the country, Alabama has dominated Michigan and Arkansas this year. In their 52-0 win over the Razorbacks, they allowed just 137 yards of offense, had no turnovers, and committed 7 penalties for 74 yards. In the season opener they held Heisman trophy hopeful Denard Robinson to 27 yards on 10 carries while limiting the Wolverines to 11 first downs in a 49-14 drubbing. The Crimson Tide had only one fumble and 55 yards in penalties.

While the Ducks and their fans are busy congratulating themselves on a 3-0 record versus a Pillsbury Doughboy schedule, the Tide is dominating a Top 25 schedule with discipline and ferocity.

Oregon isn't even close to ready for that kind of competition. Right now, their record and their ranking is as airbrushed as a magazine cover.

MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Marshall: Bears need to gel and do some kumbaya

Ray McDonald investigated for possible sexual assault

Red Sox appear content with rotation despite lack of true ace

Iguodala gets technical for mocking Conley travel

Bo Pelini takes shot at Nebraska during introductory presser

Belichick: Patriots need to play better against the Jets

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Rex Ryan doesn't want to get in trouble talking about Revis

Bears Conte willing to shorten lifespan for NFL career

Former NFLer Simeon Rice: I was sexually abused as a child

Jets owner favorites tweet about firing John Idzik

Mike Ditka turned Bears game off in first half

Report: Padres, Rays talking Wil Myers trade

Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson lead in 2014 athlete Google searches

Molding the market: All eyes on Max Scherzer

Another "Fire John Idzik' plane flies at Jets practice

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

Report: Some Browns shunned Manziel during pregame

Making an attempt to understand Celtics' priorities

Gronk makes awkward sausage joke on 'Top Chef'

Walmart ripped for confusing Anthony/Lin doll

RG3 taking sabbatical from social media for rest of season

David Robinson's son to walk-on at Duke next year

The Most Valuable Player of each NFL division

5 NFL players who must step up in Week 16

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Four can't-miss match-ups in NFL's Week 16

RG3 quits social media for season

Each NFL division’s MVP

5 NFLers who must step up in Week 16

Most impressive college hoops teams

Five reasons why FSU is going to win the CFB Playoff

Boxer admits to dive in Rourke bout

FCC heard about Brady's swearing?

Embracing the hate of the Eagles-Cowboys Rivalry

DeSean Jackson mocks Eagles

Andrew Hawkins defends shirt

NFC South rising; keep playoffs as-is

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.