EUGENE — Oregon’s Avery Patterson was incredulous when asked about the highly ranked Ducks looking beyond Colorado today and toward USC next weekend.
The Ducks’ junior safety echoed coach Chip Kelly’s insistence that every game is a Super Bowl for undefeated Oregon.
“Why wouldn’t you want your next game to be your best game? Why wouldn’t you want to improve? Why wouldn’t you want to do as best as you can?" Patterson asked.
Both Kelly and Colorado coach Jon Embree are keeping their teams focused on the immediate future for different reasons. Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) is angling for another national championship bid, while the Buffaloes (1-6, 1-3) are trying to remain positive against a high-profile opponent in the midst of a disappointing season.
“We’re determined, we’re not giving up. A lot of people may talk bad about us, just because of our record," Colorado freshman tight end Vincent Hobbs said. “Our record doesn’t speak for us, we think. We know what we’re doing, we know our game plan. We know we’re going to work hard."
But on the surface, it certainly does not look good for Colorado this afternoon at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon has won 10 straight games, second only to Alabama with 11 straight. The Ducks have scored at least 42 points in each of those wins.
Oregon is ranked eighth nationally in total offense, averaging 529.6 yards. The team is second nationally with an average of 51 points per game.
While their speedy spread offense gets the most attention, the Ducks’ defense also has been confounding opponents. Oregon is allowing foes just 20.1 points per game, and about 366.7 total yards.
Oregon is famous for heavily rotating players in and out on defense, quickly tiring opponents. This season, the Ducks have usually built such a lead at the half that the starters are given the rest of the game off.
“I think the thing that is the most impressive about Oregon, after watching all of their games, is their defense," Embree said. “I think their defense is outstanding. They have a tremendous personnel. Their linebackers have great size and range. They all can run. They are violent when they tackle you. I told our guys, they tackle through you, their secondary are ballhawks, so if you are not accurate, it is going to be an interception. We have to do well as far as protecting the ball."
Colorado’s overall defense is ranked 112th nationally, allowing an average of 489 yards per game. The Buffs are allowing 42.6 points per game, and they have given up at least 50 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1962.
Colorado has lost three straight games after their lone victory of the season, a 35-34 squeaker at Washington State. The Buffaloes are coming off a 50-6 loss to USC.
Embree said that for now he is sticking with junior quarterback Jordan Webb, who threw three interceptions against the Trojans and was replaced by Connor Woods. Webb, who transferred from Kansas, has passed for 1,351 yards this season, with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
“We have a great opportunity this week, we could shock the college football world, that’s how we have to look at it," Webb said. “The season hasn’t gone as planned, but we still have opportunities to have some great wins."
Oregon players say they do not have a chip on their shoulder about the BCS standings, although it is apparent on social media that many of their fans do. While the Ducks have remained at No. 2 in the AP Top 25, in the BCS standings they have dropped a spot to No. 4 this week.
Linebacker Michael Clay said the Ducks, at least the older ones, never speak about rankings.
“I kind of try to keep football where the football facility is," Clay said. “Even my parents, my dad tried talking football and I changed the topic. He knows he’s not allowed to talk to me about football when I’m not playing."
A victory against USC (currently No. 10 AP) would go a long way toward proving Oregon is worthy of higher standing. The Nov. 3 game at the Los Angeles Coliseum has been touted by many as the most important Pac-12 game of the season — or at least a preview of the conference championship game.
Last year the then-No. 18 Trojans came to Eugene and beat the Ducks 38-35, dropping Oregon from No. 4 to No. 9 in the polls and effectively dashing any Duck hopes for a national title bid. USC remains one of Oregon’s primary threats again this season.
But first the Ducks need to take care of Colorado.
“We take every game like a rivalry game," Oregon redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota said. “Coach Kelly always says that and this week is no different."