If the University of Oregon Ducks have ever been guilty of football quackery, they don't appear to be this year. As a legitimate contender in the Pacific 10 Conference race, Oregon looks like the real McCoy, not just a decoy.
Of course, it's still very early. Oregon has only played two Pac-10 teams, but in beating both California and Arizona, the Ducks (3-3 overall) have grabbed a share of the league lead with Washington. The 2-0 conference start is the school's best since 1958, when it played in what was known as the Pacific Coast Conference.
History buffs may recall Oregon going to the Rose Bowl following the 1957 season. One key to a long-awaited repeat visit is certainly this Saturday's game against Washington in Eugene, where the first sellout in three years is expected. Ironically, Oregon hasn't beaten the Huskies at home since 1973, but it manhandled them 34-10 three years ago in Seattle - and that was a Rose Bowl squad.
Oregon appeared on the verge of a big breakthrough that year, since it also beat UCLA and tied Southern California. The last few seasons, though, various sanctions and a probation put the program in reverse. In fact, Oregon produced just 11 touchdowns in 1982, when the team turned in a 2-8-1 record.
With just two first-stringers returning to the defense, hardly anyone expected much from this year's squad. But UCLA and USC are both off to slow 2-3 -1 starts, opening the door for a school like Oregon to make its move. Coach Rich Brooks employed a couple of trick plays in orchestrating the 24-17 upset of Cal, and last week the defense rose up to halt highly toutedArizona, holding the Wildcats to about half their normal offensive output in a 19-10 victory. Duke's eclipsed star
Duke has pushed very hard to garner attention for quarterback Ben Bennett, an All-America candidate who was the 1982 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. All the drum-beating may be for nought, however, since the Blue Devils are winless after six games.
Last week, in another losing effort, Bennett helped Duke stage a valiant comeback against Clemson, completing 34 of 53 passes for 367 yards. But the performance, which moved Ben into fifth place on the NCAA career passing list with 8,160 yards, wasn't quite enough as Duke lost 38-31. Mountaineers TV regulars
As one of the hottest teams of the current season, West Virginia has drawn regular TV attention, receiving some form of live coverage the last four weekends, with this Saturday's game against resurgent Penn State to be shown on a delayed basis by the USA Cable Network Sunday evening.
The Mountaineers' game with Maryland was carried by WTBS, the Atlanta superstation, while the Boston College, Pittsburgh, and Virginia Tech games were picked up as regional telecasts on ABC and CBS. The athletic department made $1 .25 million in the process and gained untold publicity for the school and the state. Athletic director Fred Schaus decided to share the new-found wealth, forking over $250,000 to the university.
Under the NCAA television plan, the only school unavailable to make anymore non-scheduled, regular-season TV appearances this season is Texas, which has seen further exposure possibilities exhausted by ABC's commitment to carry the Texas-Texas A&M game on Nov. 26.
A school may appear six times in two years, or once regionally and twice nationally on both ABC and CBS. This formula does not govern bowl telecasts. Nebraska and high scores
Nebraska is being touted as one of the best teams to ever play the game, but some critics have questioned the Corn-huskers' ability to let up on the accelerator. Until coming up against Oklahoma State and squeezing out a 14-10 victory, Nebraska had rung up some mighty big numbers, scoring 44, 56, 84, 42, and 63 points against their first five overmatched opponents.
Other schools have registered blowouts too. Nebraska, however, is the current leader in lopsided scores.
In the Huskers' defense, it's not always easy to keep things respectable when the defense keeps giving the offense good field position. And with the travel squad limited to 60 players, Coach Tom Osborne can't clear the bench the way he does at home, where as many as 92 athletes have seen action. Then, too, when the frisky reserves enter the game, they naturally want to show what they can do rather than just sit on the ball.
Even so, one must question putting the first string back in the 84-13 Minnesota debacle after the second and third units got tired. The first team would remain on the field in a close game, and the reserves should be able to cope with fatigue as well.
How UPI rates the football teams
The United Press International Board of Coaches Top 20 1983 college football ratings, with first-place votes in parentheses (total points based on 15 points for first place, 14 for second, etc.). 1. Nebraska (38) (7-0) 626 2. Texas (4) (5-0) 590 3. North Carolina (7-0) 518 4. West Virginia (6-0) 504 5. Auburn (5-1) 383 6. Florida (5-0-1) 375 7. Georgia (5-0-1) 362 8. Southern Methodist (5-0) 306 9. Miami (Fla.) (6-1) 271 10. Michigan (5-1) 244 11. Illinois (5-1) 209 12. Iowa (5-1) 178 13. Maryland (5-1) 101 14. Arizona State (4-0-1) 100 15. Washington (5-1) 84 16. Brigham Young (5-1) 63 17. Oklahoma (4-2) 41 18. Ohio State (4-2) 24 19. Pittsburgh (4-2) 18 20.(tie) Alabama (4-2) 11 20.(tie) Boston College (5-1) 11
Note: By agreement with the American Football Coaches Association, teams on probation by the NCAA are ineligible for the Top 20 and national championship consideration by the UPI Board of Coaches. The teams currently on probation are Clemson, Southern California, Arizona, Wichita State and Southern Mississippi.