You bet they can
The question at this point is hypothetical at best, but if both teams continue on the paths they’re currently treading, this mythical matchup may become a reality come January.
How would the Ducks stack up against the Tide? Just look at the matchups.
Much has been made about Oregon’s speed since Chip Kelly’s arrival—and before, to be honest—but do they really hold the advantage over Alabama in that department?
Quite simply, yes.
Alabama and the rest of the SEC is known far more for their size and strength than their speed. Their skill players are no slouches, but when it comes down to it, Oregon’s slowest participants remain faster than any opponent the Tide has seen up to this point in the year.
If the Ducks truly struggled to take advantage of their speed against the massive front line of Alabama, they have a new makeshift jumbo package using tight end Colt Lyerla at running back. If this package isn’t a preparation for bigger SEC competition, I don’t know what is.
When it comes to the Oregon Ducks, speed isn’t a one-way street anymore, either. The defense is top-25 this season, and it’s largely because of the speed and excitement that they have on that side of the ball.
Cornerback Avery Patterson and linebacker Kiko Alonso have proven they can interrupt the pass for big defensive plays, and while the defensive line would likely struggle to get up the middle, the men behind them would make it their goal to get on the outside and rattle A.J. McCarron from start to finish.
If the Oregon Ducks are known for anything around the country, it’s their fast-paced offense.
This team practices fast, plays fast and quite frankly, they don’t like to be slowed down when referees and first-down teams (the chain gang) can’t keep up.
There’s no deying that size is a huge advantage for a team like the Crimson Tide. The Ducks have done a good job recruiting size as of late, but they still don’t match up against what the big teams down South have to offer.
But if those big boys for Alabama can’t get into place, what good are they going to do? The Ducks have become notorious for snapping the ball before teams can get in place, and before they can make substitutions. Size helps, but only if you can get in position first.
Against Oregon, Alabama would struggle to keep up.
What’s the difference between speed and tempo? Just ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
Saban was recently quoted saying that fast-paced, no-huddle offenses are going to ruin the game of football at the collegiate level. He cited player safety and integrity of the game as his main points, but what he should have said was, “We simply can’t keep up.”
Saban never mentioned Oregon’s name once, but quite frankly, he didn’t have to. The Chip Kelly way of wearing down defenses and quickly snapping the ball is unique to the Ducks—although a handful of programs are slowing joining in.
Coach Kelly is in Saban’s head, and while the marquee matchup that Ducks fans have been dreaming about is still just a fantasy, the battle between the coaches would be as entertaining as any faceoff on the field.
Claim all you want that coach Kelly has put up poor offensive performances against the nation’s elite opponents, but don’t forget that the team has been missing one key ingredient throughout his biggest matchups.
When the Ducks went up against the Auburn Tigers in the 2011 BCS title game, De’Anthony Thomas was a high school senior. When the team faced off against the LSU Tigers, Thomas was playing in his first-ever college football game, where he admittedly made numerous freshman mistakes.
So where was Thomas against the 10th ranked Wisconsin Badgers last season? He was running the ball down the field for 155 yards and two touchdowns on just two carries.
Thomas may not be considered a secret at this point in his career, but having carried the ball just 41 times on the entire season, we still have yet to see exactly what the Black Mamba can do, and the same sentiment goes for Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
They’ve yet to see what he can really do.