Originally posted on WSU Football Blog  |  Last updated 1/4/13
Hello Followers.  Hope you’ve had a great week. Today, we take a few moments to tip our proverbial caps to our feathered friends to the South—especially their leader of men, Chip Kelly.  For more on that, as well as a few observations about the Cougs and the Pac-12 North in 2013, read on. ++++ Followers, in case you missed last night’s game, the Quack outlasted, out-gutted, and outran the Kansas State Wildcates 35-17 in last night’s Fiesta Bowl.  And in so doing, appeared to put the nail in the coffin on the Chip Kelly era at Oregon. Couple of quick thoughts on the game, its outcome, and the implications of Oregon’s win moving forward….. First:  The Oregon teams of old would have lost last night’s game.  In previous years, whenever Oregon couldn’t throw the ball in a bowl game, they lost.  And last night, for all of his great play throughout the year as a passer, I thought Mariota was marginal last night—at least with respect to what one would expect out of a QB of an elite and balanced offense.  I also thought that for much of the game, the Oregon wide-outs lacked the toughness needed to gain separation downfield, and I also thought they were marginal blocking on the edge for much of the game, especially the first half. But as the game progressed, Mariota became increasingly BRILLIANT running the football on designed quarterback keepers.  AND, the Ducks were once again able to establish their lightning fast offensive tempo in the second half en route to outrunning a Kansas State team that was as perseverant as they were physical.  And then there was the Oregon D—a defense that was arguably tops among the most underrated units in the country: They just hammered at Collin Klein all night.  holding a KSU offense that averaged over 40 point s per game to a measly 17 points on the night. But, ultimately, in spite of Oregon’s quite dominance, the game felt a bit hollow to me.  And all of that emptiness could be traced to the pending departure of Chip Kelly—a coach that I think has done more for Pac-12 football nationally than anyone in recent memory.  And when you think about what Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh did at USC and Stanford, respectively, well, that says a whole lot.  I guess what feels the  most funky to me is that while Harbaugh and Carroll had systems that seemed to fit so well with the NFL, Kelly’s “system” seems tailored perfectly for college football. As Jim Rome tweeted last night, “Chip Kelly and Oregon are must watch TV, Chip Kelly and the Cleveland Browns, not so much.” And so, count me in as a guy that is hoping to wake up on Sunday or Monday morning to hear that Chip Kelly is staying at Oregon. ++++ Although Kelly appears to be on his way to the NFL, this hardly seems to be the end of the Oregon Ducks.  Because of Phil Knight and all the flash and dash of Duck Nation, Oregon is now solidified as a national power.  So, in addition to the fact that Mark Helfrich, the Oregon Offensive Coordinator, can flat out coach, you can bet that Oregon will have no problem continuing with the same system with the same level of uber-fast track star athletes. In other words, they’re here to stay as a top 5, top 10 program. And then there’s Stanford, a team that has won a shocking 11 games or more each of the last three years.   With a defensive unit that returns almost everyone as well as an offensive unit that just redshirted a couple of FIVE STAR offensive linemen, well, you can pencil them in as a pre-season top 10 team as well.  (And I can’t wait to see if Barry Sanders Jr. plays like his old man..) Then there’s Oregon State.  While I think the loss of Poyner and Wheaton is anything but trivial for them (think about how the WRs played early during that 6-0 start), most folks believe that the Beavs will make a run at the top 10 again next year. And then, finally, there are the evil Infidels from the west.  While I’ll write about the Mutts season a bit next week, keep in mind that they entertain a 5-4 conference home-away split next year.  They also figure to have just about everyone back on both sides of the ball as well as a top 10 or 15 recruiting class.  So, they too should muster a host of top 25 votes in the 2013 pre-season poll. In other words, if you think that the SEC East is tough, the Pac12 North stands just to its right as its closest rival.  And where our Cougies are concerned, we’ll have the “fortune” of playing three out of those four teams at sites that are NOT Martin Stadium.  And when you add Auburn—a team that I think will be in the Top 25 by season’s end—to that slate of road games, you have FOUR potential top 20 road games for a team that hasn’t cracked the four win barrier since 2007. So, as we look forward to the 2013 campaign, we should all do so with lots of excitement, but also a heavy dose of caution.  Indeed, not since 2001 have we seen the group of Pac12 North schools as potentially loaded as the group we’ll see in 2013—and that doesn’t even factor in what CAL could be if they find a quarterback.   It’s going to be dicey folks, but if the Hair Raid defense can mature a bit, if we can add a corner or two, this group should be really fun to watch in 2013. All for now.  Go Cougs!
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