LOS ANGELES -- We should start with the Oregon uniforms. They called Saturday night’s outfit White Vapor, and it made the Ducks easy to spot against the green field, which was helpful because dadgum if those guys don’t move fast --
FIRST QUARTER 13:55 Mariota 16 pass to Thomas 7-0 Oregon
-- so, like I was saying, all those USC fans packed into the L.A. Coliseum didn’t have time to get a hot dog or pee or breathe, really. Because every time you looked up, Oregon was eating big chunks of field, running simple read options and crossing patterns, nothing you haven’t seen, but everything with precision and speed, and you know what the Bible sort of says --
FIRST QUARTER 4:53 Mariota 21 pass to Huff 14-3 Oregon
-- that the race goes not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but if somebody’s swift AND strong, bet on that guy.
Kenjon Barner is swift and strong. He’s just 5-11 and 192, a bit small for a tailback, but there he went through the USC defense for seven yards, then eight, then 11, then 10, and remember, this is Monte Kiffin’s defense. He ran the Tampa Bay D when the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Now he’s in charge of the D for USC, working for his son, Lane, the head coach. And neither one of them had a clue how to stop Kenjon Barner, who would do a little shuffle-step at the line, then break wide, over and over again --
SECOND QUARTER 14:48 Barner 27 run 21-10 Oregon
-- and he was swifter than the strong guys and stronger than the swift guys.
You want stats? If you’re a USC fan, please sit down first, and keep your head between your knees until the spinning stops. Barner ran for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries. Let me say that again. The dude ran for 321 yards and five TDs, against an opponent in the Top 25.
Oregon had 730 yards of offense, and a radio guy after the game said that wasn’t a football stat, that was a credit rating. Yes, that was the most ever against USC, because in the old days there were laws against that sort of thing, and now there’s only one team that could do it against a team as proud as USC --
SECOND QUARTER 11:27 Barner 5 run (kick blocked) 27-10 Oregon
-- a team that, if you remember, was ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll. John Robinson, who coached the Trojans to a national title back in 1978, sat wide-eyed in the press box as Oregon raced down the field. By the end he had to laugh a little, the way I suspect Carl Lewis does when he sees Usain Bolt shave another tenth of a second off the world record. Oregon scores so fast that you wonder if its goal is a touchdown drive that goes back in time.
Before the game, USC ran orderly warm-up sprints, one firm line of players at a time toward their end zone. Oregon ran the same sprints, but all the players went at once, and it looked like some bizarre relay race where they made up the rules on the fly --
SECOND QUARTER 5:03 Mariota 14 pass to Hawkins 34-17 Oregon
-- and when the game started, Oregon played basically the same way.
The great thing was, USC was the dog that almost caught the car. The Trojans had two one-bomb drives, 75 and 76 yards and 12 seconds apiece. And early in the third, when Silas Redd ran it in from two yards out, it was suddenly just 34-31 and for the first time it felt as if USC had a shot.
So here’s what the Ducks did. They ran 11 plays, and they handed to Barner seven times, and they held the ball for nearly five minutes --
THIRD QUARTER 5:14 Barner 9 run 41-31 Oregon
-- and even though USC scored right away to make it 41-38, Barner ran three more times for 38 yards and then --
THIRD QUARTER 1:19 Mariota 36 pass to Huff 48-38 Oregon
-- and from there on out you could almost hear the Trojans saying GAHHHH WHITE VAPOR CAN’T BREATHE.
So Alabama escaped in Baton Rouge. That game was a Bergman film, and Oregon-USC was “Die Hard.” But it’s OK to like them both, and it’s OK to wonder if “Die Hard” might in its own way be a more perfect film, although most serious cinephiles would argue for “The Seventh Seal.” OK, we’ve wandered a bit off track here. The point is, now there’s a very good chance that Alabama and Oregon will play for the national title, and although the Crimson Tide will no doubt be the favorite because of the Nick Saban Laser Eyes Defense of Death, wouldn’t it be interesting if Oregon --
FOURTH QUARTER 9:15 Barner 5 run 55-38 Oregon
-- was up to the task?
What happens when those stonebreakers from Alabama hit little Kenjon Barner? I don’t know, but they have to catch him first. What about the Oregon defense? Maybe this team doesn’t need one. Maybe this team is fast enough to stay in front of every dog.
Cam Newton’s Auburn team won the national title two years ago with a similar offense, and beat both Alabama and Oregon along the way. This Alabama team is better than that Alabama team. But this Oregon team is better than that Oregon team, too.
Both teams have tests ahead -- Bama plays Texas A&M in a letdown special next week, and Oregon plays Stanford at home and Oregon State in Corvallis. The other two top unbeatens also won on Saturday -- Notre Dame pulled one out of their leprechaun to beat Pitt in triple-OT, and Kansas State handled Oklahoma State -- so there are understudies ready if Alabama and Oregon fall. But back before the season started, most people thought that the winners of Alabama-LSU and Oregon-USC would play for the national title. That now looks a lot more likely. And when you think about a night like Saturday, pointing to an even bigger game down the road --
FOURTH QUARTER 1:58 Barner 22 run 62-45 Oregon
-- could college football get much better than this?
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