Back in the top 10; concerns for the Cougs


Oregon didn't even have to take the field to crack the top 10.

The Ducks, who were idle last weekend, jumped from No. 14 to No. 9 in the polls, helped by upsets of Kentucky, Wisconsin and, of course, USC.

It is the first time Oregon has been in the elite 10 since Dec. 5, 2005, when the Ducks were No. 6 heading to the Holiday Bowl.

Oregon, which fell to California 31-24 on Sept. 29, joins the Golden Bears (No. 2) and Arizona State (No. 14) as the league's representatives in the Top 25. Cal, also idle after Oregon, jumped up from No. 3.

Coming off their break, the Ducks (4-1, 1-1) host Washington State (2-4, 0-3) on Saturday.

The ranking means Oregon is on everyone's radar, cornerback Jairus rd said.

"I think there's a heightened determination, but I would call it more of an awareness. There's more of a target on our backs. There's a heightened awareness because you know everyone's after you, they're gunning for you. We just gotta stay on our toes and worry about us, not anyone else," he said.

Boosted by the bye week in the poll, Oregon could be helped against the Cougars by history.

Oregon is 12-1 following byes under Mike Bellotti, including a streak of 11 straight wins.

It was the first of two byes for the Ducks this season. After hosting Arizona State on Nov. 3, Oregon gets 12 days off before a Thursday night game at Arizona.

Cougs on alert

What has the Cougars concerned about this Saturday's game at Autzen? It's that Oregon offense.

And, with the numbers Oregon is putting up offensively, Washington State is right to be mindful.

Oregon is ranked sixth nationally in total offense, averaging nearly 529 yards. The rushing offense ranks fourth with an average of 278 yards.

As for the individuals, Dennis Dixon is ranked fourth in passing efficiency (169.0), and he's racking up about 309 yards in offense a game. The only QB in the Pac-10 with more is Washington State's Alex Brink, who is averaging about 316 yards.

Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart is ranked 10th nationally with about 124 rushing yards a game.

Washington State ranks near the bottom of the Pac-10 in total defense.

Cougars coach Bill Doba called Dixon a "doggone good quarterback who runs really well. "

Keeping up with Joey

Former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington's rocky ride in the NFL continues.

Falcons coach Bobby Petrino insisted Monday that he's staying with Harrington as the team's starter, despite a dismal performance in Atlanta's 20-13 loss to Tennessee over the weekend.

Harrington was yanked early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss at Tennessee after completing 16 of 31 passes for 87 yards. ron Leftwich, who could take over as starter any time, completed just 2 of 8 for 28 yards and tossed a crucial interception with less than — 1/2 minutes to go.

"Anytime you get pulled, it is frustrating," Harrington said. "Obviously, I want to be this team's starter. If coach makes the decision the other way, I am going to support this team. I have been through these situations before. I think I have played well enough up to this point to deserve a shot at it."

Harrington was thrust into the job as Atlanta's starter by the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal.

Extra points

It is homecoming weekend at Oregon. ... It will mark the 100th Pac-10 game for coach Mike Bellotti. ... Washington State quarterback Alex Brink is from Eugene and led Sheldon High to a state championship. He has never played with the Cougars at Autzen Stadium because of quirky scheduling.

Share This Story