The Oregon ambush claims its latest victim, and the Pac-10 title
Oregon 48, Arizona 29. We usually think of Oregon's offense as a finely tuned Ferrari built for maximum speed at all times. But the better analogy might be to a snowball gathering steam downhill, as Arizona discovered in short order when its five-point halftime lead turned into a 26-point hole early in the fourth quarter. The Ducks scored touchdowns on five straight possessions to open the half, the final three expanding their lead from 27-22 to 48-22 in a span of three-and-a-half minutes.
That may qualify as a "slow start," but it should be clear by now that slow starts that suddenly overwhelm opponents in a manic flurry of destruction is the Ducks' standard M.O. At Tennessee, Oregon trailed 13-3 well into the second quarter, before rallying to tie it just before the half. At Arizona State, the Ducks were down 24-14 late in the second quarter, before reclaiming the halftime lead with a pair of late touchdowns just ahead of the break. Stanford roared in for a touchdown on each of its first four possessions on Oct. 2 and still looked unstoppable on offense with the halftime lead. USC had a narrow lead midway through the second quarter, and regained it, 32-29, with two quick touchdowns out of the locker room to start the third.
Including tonight, Oregon has outscored the Vols, Devils, Cardinal, Trojans and Wildcats by a grand total of 135 to 32 in the second half, leaving each to limp away from seemingly competitive efforts with demoralizing tread marks down their backs. Through 11 games, the Ducks have now ripped off at least three straight touchdowns in the second half of nine of them.
The speed of those assaults may be a result of defenses yielding to the same unrelenting tempo that compels them to buy time by faking injuries. It may be the Oregon staff taking its time to figure out the defense and adjust accordingly for a sudden outburst of big plays. It may be a switch going off when the Ducks feel themselves beginning to be backed into a corner. But for sheer, demoralizing firepower, it's unmatched by anything else in college football. And it's one victory away from taking the ambush to the biggest stage in Glendale, Ariz.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.