The Oregon Ducks put on a show late Saturday night, pulling away from the Arizona Wildcats at home 49-0 to improve to 4-0 on the season. The blowout win propelled the Ducks to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll on Sunday, leapfrogging the LSU Tigers who won close, 12-10, on the road against the Auburn Tigers.
But did the Ducks deserve to jump LSU?
As everyone knows, a win is a win is a win, except in college football when it comes to the human polls. When the pollsters are asked to rank the best 25 teams in the country, the way a team wins becomes just as important as the final score.
In that vein, the Ducks delivered. Arizona was a hot team with high aspirations heading into Autzen Stadium, and the Ducks dismantled them piece by piece. Not only did the Ducks’ offense score their points, but the defense stepped up and dominated the game, pitching a shutout and scoring a pair of touchdowns of their own.
In short, it was as complete a win as anyone could have asked from Oregon. They even faced some adversity, scoring just 13 points in the first half with a single touchdown, and responded in the second half by pouring on 36 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter. Arizona looked like they had the blur offense bottled up, but then the Ducks took it to another level, as championship teams do.
LSU on the other hand, stumbled to the win over an Auburn team that has been far from excellent this season. Both sides were stymied by the defense of the other team, with only a field goal for LSU to account for the scoring of the second half. Luckily for Les Miles, that field goal just happened to put his team up by two and give them the win.
While the LSU defense is as good as ever, that offense is still limited at times which hurts the Tigers in the polls. The offense cost this team the national championship last season when they were blanked by the Alabama Crimson Tide 21-0. A similar shortcoming this season has already forced LSU down in the polls and could keep them from another national title.
But is this loss really that bad? Auburn is a talented team that hasn’t played up to its potential this season and is just one season removed from a national title run of their own. Wins on the road are hard to come by in college football, and that goes double in the vaunted SEC. When was the last time that a team was penalized for winning at Auburn?
So did LSU play like the nation’s best team on Saturday? No. Was Oregon much more impressive with their blowout win of Arizona at home? Definitely. Was it enough to jump the Ducks over the Tigers? Apparently so.
But its important to note that championships aren’t handed out in September. A No. 2 ranking for Oregon now means nothing if they don’t take care of business in the Pac 12 and run the table. Alternately, nobody will remember that LSU was No. 3 if they come up with wins over the four top-25 programs they face over their next five games, including No. 1 Alabama on November 3.
In short, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. But for one week, at least, the Ducks are flying just a little bit higher than LSU, and they earned it.