The U Oregon Ducks are ranked #1 in college football, after a decisive win over USC yesterday (highlights). Even the NYTimes has taken notice :-)
NYTimes: ... To combat the notion that U.S.C. is down in talent, Kelly pointed out that on the Trojans’ 44-man depth chart they had 12 five-star recruits and 26 four-star recruits. Kelly then countered that Oregon has zero five-star recruits and 11 four-star recruits.
“They’re still living in the glory days from when Bush was here,” Oregon cornerback Cliff Harris said after the game, referring to Reggie Bush. “They get all these recruits. They thought their talent and five-star recruits was going to beat our hard work. Talent doesn’t beat hard work.”
[See related post: Success vs Ability. I used to love the Nebraska teams of the 80s and early 90s -- few blue chip recruits, but an amazing work ethic that transformed walk ons into top players.]
... What Kelly hints at, but never directly says, is that Oregon’s system has put it ahead of everyone else right now. The Ducks practice only two hours a day without running wind sprints, relying on a tempo so frenetic that it has enabled the Ducks to get into better condition than everyone else. The result? To slow down Oregon’s tempo and get substitutions in the game, teams like Arizona State and Stanford resorted to faking injuries.
One impressed bystander to Oregon’s blurring rise to the top of college football has been Tony Dungy, the former N.F.L. coach whose son Eric is a reserve freshman receiver for the Ducks.
“It’s more mental conditioning,” said Tony Dungy, now an analyst for NBC. “It puts such a strain on you, like Georgetown back when John Thompson was there and they were pressuring and attacking you. At some point, you say, ‘I need a break for a couple of minutes.’ Mentally, teams fatigue more than physically.”
In the back row of Kelly’s news conference under a makeshift tent at the Coliseum, an impressed observer sat stoically, wearing a black Oregon hat and a stylish sport coat. The man, Phil Knight, a Nike co-founder who knows a thing or two about innovation and leaving the competition behind, beamed as Kelly deflected query after query. Knight is Oregon’s chief booster and benefactor, who smiled broadly as he recalled the public address announcer at Oregon’s Autzen Stadium saying he had waited 43 years to introduce the Ducks as the country’s No. 1-ranked team.