Published November 20, 2014
Where do you see yourself in five years?
If you would have asked Chip Kelly that question in 2007 when he came onboard in Eugene as the offensive coordinator of the Ducks, even the most confident response probably wouldn't have included three straight conference titles, two Rose Bowl berths and a a BCS National Championship Game appearance.
Still, that is the exact storyline that has played out for the University of Oregon and their now high profile head coach.
After getting acclimated to Oregon football in 2007 and 2008, Kelly was named Oregon's 30th head football coach in March 2009, implementing an offensive attack that can only be described as shock and awe and likened to the "Greatest Show on Turf" made famous by the NFL's St. Louis Rams.
The results speak for themselves. Kelly has amassed a 43-6 record in his three plus seasons in charge of the Ducks, including a remarkable 31-2 league ledger. He has won 87.7 percent of his games overall (best mark in school history) and 93.9 percent of his conference games (tops in league history).
Offense, offense and more offense is the mantra in Eugene, where Kelly has led Oregon to its only two 12-win seasons (2010 and 2011). Coming into this year, Kelly-led teams averaged 43.1 points, 489.4 total yards and 273.1 rushing yards per game.
The thought that those inflated offensive numbers could actually improve would have been absurd in August, but this season the Ducks have done just that. The team leads the nation in scoring (54.3 ppg), ranks second in rushing (341.2 ypg) and fourth in total offense (561.2 ypg).
It doesn't matter that names like Dennis Dixon, LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James and Darron Thomas are no longer suiting up for the Ducks, because there is an obvious conveyor belt of talent in Eugene. In 2012, it is players like tailback Kenjon Barner who have taken their rightful place in the spotlight.
Take over he has, as Barner has been getting better and better as the season wears on, culminating in last week's demolishing of the USC defense. Barner rushed for a school record 321 yards and five TDs against the Trojans. The Ducks needed everyone of those yards, as they survived a shootout with USC, 62-51.
Barner is joined by sophomore star De'Anthony Thomas and redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota to form an unstoppable triumvirate.
Thomas is an offensive lightning rod, with the ability to take it to the house as a rusher, receiver or return man (12 total touchdowns this season).
Mariota doesn't play like the youngster he is, completing over 70 percent of his passes, with 22 touchdowns against just five interception. He has also rushed for almost 500 yards with three more scores. Mariota's growing confidence under center can only aid Oregon down the stretch.
The scary thing about Kelly's offense is that he has made it a habit of pulling the starters when games get out of hand, something that has happened often this season.
Whether or not he can finish the task at hand and run the table in the Pac-12 remains to be seen. USC was the first big hurdle to get over in the month of November. California is on the docket next, followed by ranked foes in Stanford (in Eugene) and Oregon State (Corvallis), prior to a Pac-12 title matchup against what is shaping up to be either UCLA or USC.
Kelly's meteoric rise up the coaching ranks puts him in rarified air with the likes of Nick Saban, Bob Stoops and Urban Meyer. The only thing those other coaches have that Kelly doesn't is a BCS national title or two.
That is something Oregon's head man hopes to remedy this season.
The way the Ducks move up and down the field, it's a safe bet Kelly will get his chance.