Ducks Smash Wazzu, 62- 38, but Claim Leach Ran Up the Score
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Enough indignance has already been registered in cyberspace about the unfiltered hypocrisy of Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti calling Washington State head coach Mike Leach "low class" for keeping his starters in to the bitter end of a long-determined game.
Yes, it's why unfiltered comments rarely see the light of day anymore.
He's already apologized, most likely under orders.
Aliotti may have made a stupid comment, but he's not a stupid guy. He's not socially challenged, either. And that's the real point.
Or should we say point spread?
The Duck DC was coy enough not to come out and say it, but it's not hard to infer that the real reason for his outburst was his complete grasp of the obvious.
Point spreads matter in how college football teams are ranked.
Maybe some East Coast pollsters flipped on their DVRs as they made their way out the door to enjoy a Saturday night about the same time Oregon and Wazzu kicked off, but it's clear Aliotti was concerned with what most of them would see when they woke up on Sunday morning -- the final score -- and frame their perceptions from there.
Now, it's entirely possible Mike Leach was thinking about that, too, when he had his starters play the entire game, even though they were hopelessly out of it. Yes, Connor Halladay -- whose in-game decision-making is possibly the prime reason for alcoholism in Wazzu Nation -- set a record for pass attempts, but passing first, second, and foremost is what a Leach offense does. When taking a longer view of how the Cougar coach approaches the game itself, it's just as clear he wanted his starters to have more 'teaching' moments, actual game-situation stuff that could still be broken down in video sessions.
So Aliotti saw his Ducks as being put between a rock and a hard place.
There's an unwritten comfort zone involved in running up the score. Too many points, and the perception is the winning team is a heartless collection of Neidermeyers from Omega House more worthy of scorn than accomplishment. Houston's 100-6 romp over Tulsa in 1968 is an extreme example, but the 'norm' for high end now seems to be in the 70s. Thus, Oregon appears to strive to hold its output to the 60s at most.
It's notable that the spread in this game was 38 points. Oregon only took its webbed foot off the gas early in the fourth quarter when Terrance Mitchell's 51-yard interception return made it 62-24. Yes, that's a 38-point difference. And yes, Mitchell is a starter.
To Duck head coach Mark Helfrich's credit, he didn't re-insert the starters to keep the margin at chalk. He most likely had other priorities, too, such as getting his reserves more game experience that would be vital if any starters went down with injury later in the season.
So, as Oregon finds itself on the outside looking in, being the No 3 team in the first BCS rankings, it's understandable that Aliotti knows the system too well and is unsettled by it. However, only twice have the top two teams in the first BCS ranking held on to meet in the title game.
Odds are Oregon simply needs to keep winning -- given its remaining schedule, that's challenge enough -- and it will play the final game of the year.