By Flint Wheeler
Days after Stanford’s big upset of Oregon, implications continue to be felt, including the prospect for help elsewhere for both teams’ big-bowl chances. Here’s another one worth exploring — the injury status of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. It underscores the need for a forward-thinking, league-mandated injury report each week.
On game day, there was some buzz about Mariota and a knee problem. He came out wearing a brace (as he had in his previous game), and he proceeded to play poorly. After the game, Oregon didn’t specifically acknowledge the injury, but between the lines, a couple of Ducks coaches and Mariota did.
As usual, the attempt of some weird cover up wasn’t known until after the fact. If there’s an Exhibit A for the purported value of concealing an injury, it ought to be this game. Did Stanford have any knowledge of Mariota’s problem? We may never know. But if it didn’t, it surely didn’t take a Fulbright scholar to figure out the Ducks tilted their game plan away from running Mariota, and Stanford is as bright as anybody.
As for the bigger issue — whether knowledge by Stanford would have endangered Mariota — it seems hard to make a case that Oregon’s policy of non-disclosure made him less vulnerable playing on a bad knee against an excellent defense.
What’s wrong with this picture? Thousands in attendance and millions of people watched that game knowing little or nothing about Mariota’s injury status. It’s those millions that fuel mammoth TV contracts that are pivotal in paying coaches multi-million-dollar salaries. It’s some of the same coaches who refuse to be part of a league-wide injury report, hiding behind things like HIPAA privacy laws that were never intended for such purposes.
The ACC has such an injury report. And it seems to work pretty well in the NFL. It’s time for some similar enlightenment for the Pac 12.
Some Pac 12 Inventory
Lane Kiffin looks worse by the day. USC interim coach Ed Orgeron moved to 4-1 since Kiffin was bounced with a 62-28 win at Cal in which the Trojans scored six touchdowns on plays of 30 or more yards.
How about recently fired Papa Kiffin, the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, who this week did their best to allow the New Orleans Saints to do whatever they felt like. Saints invented new ways to make the Cowboys look bad as they collectively looked bored on the way to a 49-17 trouncing of Jerry Jones lego set.
Ducks trouble swimming
Oregon has a Stanford problem. But you knew that. Rarely can a quality defense be so certain something is coming and yet be so powerless to stop it. Seven times in their game, the Cardinal faced a third-and-two or less, and seven times it ran Tyler Gaffney for a first down. Oregon is fast, fast, fast, but oh ya, not big or bad by any means. This repeated loss to larger, tough minded teams significantly hinders the argument if next year, Oregon is on the 4-Team Playoff bubble.
Washington visits UCLA Friday night in a game that will measure two programs’ seasons. Saturday’s best games are Stanford at USC and Oregon State’s drop-in at Arizona State, still the leader of the Pac-12 South. USC has seemingly found their stride so look for them to cover. ASU’s QB has been shopping NFL agent’s so look for him to light it up and an easy ASU cover.