Tag:Nick Aliotti
Posted on: December 30, 2011 4:30 pm
 

Keys to the game: Rose Bowl

Posted by Bryan Fischer

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: The Badgers make their way to Pasadena with a solid, experienced defense - sixth in the country in scoring, allowing just 17 points per game - but they haven't seen anything like the Ducks' fast-paced attack that has been putting up points and yards quicker than you can say "quack." The team played in the Rose Bowl last year against a good team that had some speed but Oregon certainly runs a different style and will mix in plenty of zone-read with between the tackles running. While the big front seven will have to be in shape and prepared to fill their gaps, the secondary will also have to be on alert - not just for LaMichael James or De'Anthony Thomas breaking a big run but for quarterback Darron Thomas, who has been passing the ball more than last year.

On offense, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball have put up some eye-popping numbers and will need to continue their efficient play in the Rose Bowl. Oregon's defense isn't anything to write home about but is very opportunistic. Nick Aliotti is a very good coordinator and has shut down plenty of high powered offenses before as well. The size difference between the lines will be something everybody will point to but the real thing to keep an eye on is if the Wisconsin o-line can have success blocking at the second level to spring Ball for some big gains. This should be a great match up with a team set on coming home with the trophy this year.

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks come into this game looking to prove that they're an elite team by winning, for a change, a BCS game. The only way they do that is to limit turnovers and, most importantly, convert on third downs. Oregon has had issues with drops and penalties when trying to convert and pick up a first down and has to come out sharp or they'll get a repeat of other games where they've had plenty of time off but came up flat. Getting James, Kenjon Barner or Thomas in space is the priority and hopefully Chip Kelly will have a better game plan than he has had in the past two BCS games. The wide receiver corps has to come through with a good game and avoid the drops that they've had all season long too.

Defensively, this team has faced similarly built teams during the regular season such as Stanford and USC. They won against the Cardinal by forcing turnovers and came back against the Trojans in a similar manner. If they can create penetration and put some pressure on Wilson, the iffy secondary should do just fine against the Wisconsin receivers. There's no doubt the unit will take a pounding but still should be fine. Special teams is one area that the layoff could lend improvement too. The kick return unit has taken a few back but the punt returns definitely need work. Bottom line, if Oregon wants to win the Rose Bowl, it all comes down to execution and the Ducks have to do a better job at the little things than they have in the past.

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X-FACTOR: Both teams are coming off wins in their respective conferences' first ever championship game. While the defenses have done well, it's the offenses that are the reason Oregon and Wisconsin are in Pasadena and will likely determine the winner as well. With the Ducks' offense, Wisconsin will likely try to hold onto the ball but that likely won't matter given how quickly they can score. On the flip side, the Badgers can set up play action passes that could be very effective. Oregon will have to focus on sustaining drives and creating big plays while trying to be aggressive but sound on defense. Should be a fun game that might end up coming down to who can give their offense the best field position on special teams.



Posted on: November 14, 2011 11:50 am
Edited on: November 14, 2011 11:55 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 11



Posted by Bryan Fischer


The build up wasn't quite as big as that tussle down in Tuscaloosa but there was no denying that Saturday's game between Oregon and Stanford was the biggest conference game in years. Two top six teams, a packed crowd at Stanford Stadium, a visit from GameDay, and even an appearance by the new Pac-12 championship trophy.

People who normally wouldn't be caught dead at a Stanford football game showed up in droves and ticket scalpers were quite desperate to talk to anyone who had tickets. Duck fans brought plenty of kegs and the Cardinal fans opened up a few more bottles of wine than they normally do. The atmosphere wasn't Autzen or Husky Stadium or the Coliseum but there was a noticeable buzz in Palo Alto.

And then Oregon came in and unleashed their familiar blitzkrieg on offense and literally and figuratively ran away from Stanford in a final score, 52-31, remarkably similar to last season's game in Eugene. Say what you want about Chip Kelly's struggles in bowl games or non-conference match ups but he owns the Pac-12 in a way that not even Pete Carroll did, winning his 19th consecutive conference game - all but three by double-digits.

The storyline Saturday during the game was the play of the Ducks' defense, who forced Andrew Luck to be a mere mortal by throwing into coverage most of the night, fumbling and tossing a pick-six. Credit longtime coordinator Nick Aliotti for several weeks of great game plans, shutting down Washington's offense with six sacks and two picks the game before. Breaking in several new starters this year, it took awhile for the unit to gel in the first half of the season but they've come on strong as of late. The secret to their success lies in part on the offense, who are so quick scoring that it forces opposing offenses to wear themselves out trying to play catch up. Mix in some pressure from the front seven, which Aliotti loves to do, and Oregon has more than a solid defense.

The storyline after the game (or, at least, beginning in the middle of the third quarter) was the sudden emergence of the Ducks back in the national title race. For all the talk of an Alabama-LSU rematch in New Orleans, suddenly that wasn't the only possible one on the table. As Dennis Dodd wrote after the game, for pure entertainment value it has to be the Ducks.

"I feel we should have a chance to play LSU again," speedster DeAnthony Thomas said.

Thomas, no doubt, wants some measure of redemption against the Tigers after fumbling in the opener and contributing to the lopsided 40-27 score. Were the Ducks closer than that margin indicated? Sure. The margin is what it is however and a great deal more than Alabama's three point loss in overtime.

As Kelly made his way to the post-game set for a television hit, plenty of Oregon fans had gathered in the section of stands near him to celebrate their beloved "Big Balls Chip." Euphoric after beating the Cardinal, everybody clad in green (or yellow or silver or lighting yellow or black…) was excited about the possibility - albeit slim if examined closely - of a rematch with LSU in the national title game.

Column after column was filed from the press box bringing up the same point. Plenty of Oregon fans on Twitter began discussing their resume. With the South division a mess, the win essentially gave Oregon the the conference title in what was the defacto Pac-12 Championship game.

Yet all anybody could talk about was the possibility of another trip to the title game. Two words I didn't hear from anybody affiliated with Oregon: Rose Bowl. Everybody and their mother were putting the cart before the horse or, to be more apt in this case, the Rose before the Mardi Gras beads.

Sure, everybody wants to play for the national championship. Ducks fans not only want a shot of redemption against LSU, but want one in response to the agonizing last second loss to Auburn in Glendale. Still, it's hard to fathom that no one is excited over playing THE bowl game against the weakest Big Ten opponent in years. Beating Stanford established Oregon as a likely double-digit favorite in the granddaddy of them all and yet that wasn't on anybody's mind this weekend.

Color me confused, especially when you consider the school has only been to 24 bowl games total and has a 9-15 record in them. Oregon has been to Pasadena only twice in 50 years and have just one trophy from the game - from 1917.

When USC went on their run under Carroll, there was plenty of talk coming out of Troy about being disappointed playing in "another" Rose Bowl. It seems like Ducks fans have the same mentality despite the lack of trips to the game or the wins.

BCS proponents often state, every week in the college football season is a playoff. The Ducks playoff game? They lost it. The Crimson Tide's playoff game? They lost it. The talk of a rematch needs to be saved for another day.

Is the Rose Bowl technically an exhibition/consolation prize? Yes, but it's the best consolation prize in college football. So forget about a rematch, Oregon should be excited about the possibility of a Rose Bowl win at the end of the year, not arguing their worthiness for the title game. That's the takeaway from Saturday's win people need to focus on.

Stat of the week

Vanderbilt's 38-8 win over Kentucky was the school's most decisive SEC win in four decades. The Commodores are now three point favorites over Tennessee, who they beat seemingly once a century. Strange times.

Stats of the week

- Every SEC team has scored a defensive touchdown this season. South Carolina has five alone while Alabama leads the country in all major defensive categories.

- Quarterback Connor Halliday set a Washington State freshman record after throwing for 494 yards and four touchdowns against Arizona State. The mark was the sixth most yards the Sun Devils have ever given up.

- Just some amazing numbers with Boise State's loss to TCU this weekend. The Broncos are college football's winningest team over the past four years (46-3) and all of their losses are by a combined five points (1, 3 and 1). The loss to the Horned Frogs was Chris Petersen's first at home as head coach and the team's first home conference loss since 1998. According to Brian Murphy, the last home conference loss was to Idaho, 36-35 on a 2-point conversion. Boise State lost to TCU 36-35 thanks to a 2-point conversion.

- Missouri held Texas to single digits for the first time since 2006, a span of 61 games. The last time the Longhorns scored just five points was a 5-6 loss to Sewanee in 1911.

- South Carolina held Florida to fewer than 14 points for the first time since 1939.

Tweet of the week

"We just had a marriage proposal at midfield during halftime. So at least one Red Raider is going to score today."

- Aaron Dickens, editor of RedRaiderSports.com during Tech's 66-6 loss to Oklahoma State. The Red Raiders have been outscored 159-33 in three losses following their upset of Oklahoma.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Oklahoma State

3. Alabama

4. Oregon

5. Oklahoma

6. Arkansas

7. Stanford

8. Boise State

9. Clemson

10. Georgia

Where we'll be this week

Columnist Gregg Doyel will be in Columbus to see Ohio State's final home game against Penn State while Dennis Dodd will see Oregon again as USC travels up to Eugene. Brett McMurphy will be in Houston as SMU comes in with hopes of pulling a BCS-sized upset.

Leaning this way

Nebraska at Michigan

This an elimination game for the loser as both have an outside shot of going to the Big Ten championship game with a win and some help by Michigan State's opponents. Michigan has not been terribly sharp the past few games while Nebraska has been in back-to-back close games. This is at the Big House which might be the biggest advantage the Wolverines have.

SMU at Houston

A potential stumbling block for Houston as they continue to march their way to the Conference USA title game and a BCS berth. The best offense in the country has been rolling up points - 73 last week for the second time this season - but faces their stiffest competition yet with the Mustangs, who have one of the better defenses in the conference. Still, SMU isn't a special team and this should be a chance for Case Keenum to impress Heisman voters some more with a big spotlight game.

USC at Oregon

Is USC better equipped defensively to handle the Ducks? Yes. Do they have more talent on offense than anybody else Oregon has faced? Yes. But that still doesn't make up for the fact that the Trojans haven't won in the state of Oregon in years. Oregon continues their march to another conference championship in front of a raucous Autzen crowd.


Posted on: November 12, 2011 11:37 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Oregon 53 Stanford 30

Posted by Bryan Fischer

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The Game of the Century, West Edition, featured plenty of defensive plays, mistakes on special teams and one of the teams ready to press for a rematch in the BCS national championship game. The only difference between that tussle in Tuscaloosa last week and this defacto Pac-12 championship in the Bay Area? There were touchdowns. Plenty of them.

Oregon's speed went over, around and - at times - through Stanford's size as the Ducks ended the nation's longest winning streak with a 53-30 win over their division foe to take control of the conference title race. Both teams got off to their normal slow start in the first half but the Ducks, who are now 24-0 when leading at halftime under Chip Kelly, utilized big plays from Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, DeAnthony Thomas and Josh Huff to pull away from the Cardinal in the second half.

The most impressive performance of the night came from the Oregon defense that constantly put pressure on Andrew Luck and seemingly brought the Heisman Trophy front-runner back to the pack, of which James might have run his way back to. Without the team's top wide receiver (Chris Owusu) and top tight end (Zach Ertz), Luck was forced to throw into coverage often after his receiving corps could not create much separation, tossing two interceptions, one of which was a pick-six. Without a speed threat to guard against, Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti pressed his cornerbacks and used safety help over the top, limiting Stanford's bread and butter offense of quick short and intermediate throws.

That didn't mean Luck and company couldn't move the ball or get stops on defense. They just didn't do enough. It's not hard to argue that this was Stanford's biggest game in decades but they never could do enough to slow down Oregon, who proved that they're the Pac-12's best team and well on their way to their third straight conference title.

They even got a glimpse of the trophy, as commissioner Larry Scott officially presented it before the game in the press box. Given the way the South is playing out (UCLA lost, Arizona State and Utah are unranked, USC is ineligible), you wouldn't blame the Ducks' uber-booster Phil Knight for asking if he could take it home with him on his private jet.

He'll have to wait a few weeks to officially hoist the silver trophy for the first time ever but after Oregon settled things on the field Saturday night against #2 Stanford, it's a matter of when - not if - any more.

Quack.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:03 pm
 

Keys to the game: Oregon at Stanford

Posted by Bryan Fischer

OREGON WILL WIN IF: The Ducks will have to use their biggest advantage on both sides of the ball, speed, over the much more physical Cardinal team if they're going to come out of Palo Alto with a victory. The offense is close to being healthy with LaMichael James looking like his old self against Washington last week despite a bulky pad over his injured elbow. Unlike some teams, Oregon can run effectively between the tackles and then bounce it outside but only if the offensive line does a good job with the Stanford front four. It will be a test for the secondary against Andrew Luck and his big targets at tight end but something defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti adjusted to last year.

STANFORD WILL WIN IF: The Cardinal are a bit banged up but will receive a big boost with the return of starting safety Delano Howell, who will be key in providing support against both the passing and the running game. Oregon is 62nd in the country in total defense and Stanford should be able to move the ball effectively with running back Stepfan Taylor and the best player in college football in Luck. This game looks like it will turn into an old Pac-10 shootout so getting a key defensive stop or making a big play in special teams will likely be a determining factor in Stanford picking up a win. 

X-FACTOR: Battle in the trenches. Against Washington last week, Oregon's front seven did a great job of blitzing and getting penetration to shut down running lanes and pressure the quarterback. They'll face a stiffer test this week against one of the best offensive lines in college football, which has given up the fewest sacks in the country. On the other side, if Stanford's defensive line can make quarterback Darron Thomas uncomfortable, they could force him into making mistakes.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 6:25 pm
 

Pac-12 RapidReport Roundup: Stoops reactions

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Running down everything you need to know from the current news in the Pac-12, courtesy of our CBSSports.com RapidReporters (and others).

ARIZONA. Obviously things are a bit different down in Tuscon with the ouster of head coach Mike Stoops. The bye week comes at a good time for the interim coach Tim Kish, who is changing up some of the staff duties, including giving offensive coordinator Seth Littrell complete autonomy on offense and possibly hiring another defensive assistant. Several other head coaches have weighed in on Stoops' midseason firing, from Mike Riley to Bo Pelini to Lane Kiffin.
 
ARIZONA STATE. Dennis Erickson says he always knew that things would work out despite a rough three-year stretch. Athletic director Lisa Love said this season was the one she and Erickson had been waiting for when she hired him. Also, cornerback Osahon Irabor might not play against the Oregon this week so Alden Darby could remain his replacement. Aderious Simmons is likely to start at right tackle. Quarterback Brock Osweiler says his team won't quit and it's Rose Bowl or bust.

CAL. The Bears will play USC at home on Thursday night but AT&T Park isn't exactly 'home' for the team yet, according to Jeff Tedford. He also is hoping that this week's game is not a repeat of last year's game, when the Trojans led 42-0 at halftime. Cornerback Stefan McClure will have the tough task of guarding wide receiver Robert Woods.

OREGON. Injured running back LaMichael James is working hard to get healthy but is unlikely to suit up against Arizona State this weekend. Freshman running back/all-around athlete De'Anthony Thomas will see his workload increase as a result, adding to an already impressive start for the Ducks. Chip Kelly is well aware of what ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict can do and has all eyes on him. Likewise, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti will be keeping tabs on Brock Osweiler, who might too short for his taste.

OREGON STATE. Head coach Mike Riley is using a bowl game as motivation for his squad and hopes to build off of the momentum of the program's first win. Things have improved in the Beavers' run defense and the offense is putting up more points but they'll still need to win five of seven. Starting wide receiver Jordan Bishop will have an MRI on his injured ankle and cornerback Brandon Hardin will have a checkup in a month on his shoulder injury. Running backs Jovan Stevenson and Malcolm Agnew will practice this week and both could return to action soon.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. Highly touted recruit George Farmer will make his debut at running back on Thursday, something quarterback Matt Barkley is looking forward to seeing. This week's game at Cal means head coach Lane Kiffin will be squaring off against his old mentor Jeff Tedford. Defensive tackle Armond Armstead will make the trip up even though he is redshirting, while linebacker Lamar Dawson and corner Torin Harris are questionable for the game. The game this week will be a big time match up between wide receivers on both sides.

UCLA. The Bruins get Arizona as their next opponent and even though they'll be without a head coach, they're still going to be a problem. No stranger to the hot seat himself, Rick Neuheisel certainly feels for Stoops and how he was fired. The offense does need a bit of a boost and could see freshman quarterback Brett Hundley get some reps this week. Wide receiver Randall Carroll could also see increased playing time based on the number of snaps he's received in practice.

Posted on: January 5, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Oregon, Auburn have different attitudes to curfew

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Today was the first media day at the BCS National Championship game, with Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti the star of the show after saying he was "sleeping like a baby. I wake up every two hours and cry." Cam Newton also clarified that his father would be in attendance at the game.

But maybe the most interesting development to come out of Phoenix since the teams arrived has been the consensus that Auburn has been the more relaxed, more happy-go-lucky team while Oregon (sometimes typecast as a laid-back West Coast program out of admittedly laid-back Eugene) has been much more business-like in their approach.

For maybe the best example of the difference between the two teams, look at the wide, wide variance in their respective curfew policies. When it comes to Auburn (emphasis added) ...
After Internet reports surfaced that star quarterback Cam Newton and some of his teammates were out at a club till almost 2 a.m., Newton was asked on Tuesday if any sort of curfew has been put in place for Auburn.

“I think that’s up to coach (Gene) Chizik,” Newton said. “If he said, ‘Lock it down’ I’m pretty sure we don’t have a choice about that … it wasn’t a lockdown last night . Just being around this program has been an excellent, excellent environment, not too much stress. Everybody’s just smiling and having a good time.”
Meanwhile, on the Oregon side , the Duck captains elected to have the players confined to the hotel by a 10 p.m. with a lights-out call by midnight. Linebacker Spencer Paysinger said that the Ducks were distracted at last year's Rose Bowl  by "a bunch of things going on" and that this year's bowl experience is "a business trip."

Auburn fans will no doubt say that the light-in-the-reins approach is the right one for a team that's seemed to thoroughly enjoy their 2010 ride, and that the Tigers will be ready to play a loose, nerve-free game next Monday. Oregon fans will no doubt say Auburn isn't taking things seriously enough and that the Ducks will see their sharper focus and better preparation pay off.

We'll find out who's right next Monday.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com