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Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Midseason review: Oregon

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

OREGON DUCKS

Record: 4-1, 2-0

Oregon took a hard punch, but it's still standing.

The Ducks opened with a 40-27 loss to LSU in Cowboys Stadium, which was undoubtedly deflating. A victory would have announced the Ducks as national title contenders for a second consecutive year. It also would have doused some stereotypes about Oregon and the Pac-12.

The Ducks had been freighted with a reputation: Good defenses with extra time to prepare could shut down the Ducks spread option. And the LSU loss, no matter the Ducks turnover, penalty numbers -- introducing just for tonight, leg whips! -- and statistical numbers, the defeat left a mark.

Since then, Oregon has been their old, dominant selves, though against second-rate competition.

They pounded Nevada, Missouri State, Arizona and California by significant margins. The offense looked like it was up to its old tricks. The defense appeared to be finding its rhythm.

But there are issues, starting with running back LaMichael James' dislocated elbow. While lots of Ducks fans are optimistic James will be back soon -- perhaps even Saturday against No. 18 Arizona State -- it's likely he'll be out for at least a few weeks. Also, the defense and the passing game haven't been consistent.

After the disappointing opener, there remain big tests ahead for the Ducks, starting Saturday against the Sun Devils. Then, on Nov. 5 and Nov. 12, the Ducks play Washington and Stanford on the road, back-to-back.

Here's a guess we'll get a good idea of who the Ducks are by then.

Offensive MVP: RB LaMichael James. James leads the nation with 170.4 yards per game. He's rushed for 852 yards with eight touchdowns. He's averaging nine yards per carry. Yeah, nine yards. He's also caught 11 passes for 159 yards with another touchdown.

Defensive MVP: FS John Boyett. Boyett leads the Ducks with 29 tackles. He also has two tackles for a loss and four pass breakups.