Brian Howell
Brian Howell

Does anything really faze the Oregon football team?

On Saturday, the Ducks played against California in a driving rain.

It was weather hardly suited for football, as Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said the only way his team could have prepared for it was to practice "in a washing machine or a dishwasher."

Nevertheless, the Ducks rolled to a 55-16 victory. It was 55-3 by early in the third quarter.

Very little has gotten in Oregon's way in recent years, and that just might be the most impressive part about its program.

The Ducks (4-0) will visit Boulder on Saturday to face Colorado (2-1) at Folsom Field. Despite a second coaching change in the past five years, Oregon might be the most well-oiled machine in college football.

Known for its high-tempo offense and plethora of uniform and helmet combinations, the secret to Oregon's success has been its remarkable focus on one thing: Oregon.

"That's just kind of our way," Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich said Tuesday on his weekly Pac-12 coaches teleconference.

Helfrich went on to say that of course the Ducks will prepare for certain opponents and study their strengths and weaknesses, but then they "just worry about our deal -- our preparation and our enthusiasm and our effort that goes into that. That's all you can do."

Oregon has been doing that for a while now.

In 1994, Rich Brooks, in his 18th year with the Ducks, led them to a 9-4 record and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Brooks left for the NFL after that season and handed the program to Mike Bellotti.

Bellotti coached the Ducks from 1995-2008, going 116-55 with four 10-win seasons.

Then came Chip Kelly, and the Ducks not only didn't miss a beat, they got better. Kelly went 46-7 from 2009-12.

It was under Kelly that Oregon really took the next step. The Ducks played in BCS bowl games all four years with Kelly, and their dominance hit a new level.

Since the start of 2009, the Ducks have lost to just one unranked team, a 51-42 defeat at Stanford in 2009. Stanford moved into the rankings the next day.

Oregon is 40-4 since the start of 2010, including 29-0 against unranked teams. All four losses came against Top 20 teams, with three of them coming by just three points. Of the 29 wins against unranked teams, 28 have come by at least 11 points.

Oregon is that rare team that never seems to play down to its competition. The Ducks play with the same intensity against Nicholls State as they do against Stanford.

That was true under Kelly, and it's true with Helfrich, who is in his first season as the head coach. The former CU offensive coordinator took over when Kelly left for the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles.

For anyone who thought Oregon would slip up a bit without Kelly, Saturday's win against Cal was the closest game the Ducks have had to this point.

The high-tempo offense, which has set the bar for speed in college football, is running at supersonic speed right now. The Ducks rank 122nd out of 123 schools in time of possession (23 minutes per game), yet rank second in scoring, with a stunning 59.8 points per game.

The train keeps rolling.

"If you take a deep breath and a sigh and a relaxing breath because you're playing a supposed team you're going to beat and then you have to ramp it up for a team that's supposedly better than you, you're not going to maximize your opportunities for success by doing that," said Helfrich, who was Kelly's offensive coordinator from 2009-2012. "That's just something we believe in."

No, the Ducks don't seem to be deterred by anything.

Road games don't bother them. Monsoons don't bother them. So, surely Helfrich isn't going to be fazed on Saturday when he walks back into Folsom Field, where he coached from 2006-08.

"It's always just a little awkward coming out of the visiting locker room at a place you worked," Helfrich said. "But, more or less, we just try to approach it like any other team."

That's how Oregon rolls, and that's why very few programs in the country can match their success.

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