Cascadia Sports Network consists of ex-SB Nation writers, younger aspiring journalists, and — more than anything else — die-hard fans of Cascadia-region sports teams.
Calm down, Pac-12 fans. Just because the Big Ten has decided to get its football season started doesn’t mean we’ll be following suit here on the West Coast. How could we? With wildfires taking place up and down the Pacific coast, how on Earth could we even begin to think about fall sports coming back so soon.
Take the two conferences and place them side by side for comparison and the only similarity you’ll see is that both (as are all conferences, obviously) are having to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But that’s where the similarities end. And that’s why a decision for one conference is in no way as easy to make in the other.
The states of California and Oregon each have their own government hoops to jump through just to be able to practice, in addition to any guidelines put in place by the Pac-12 or individual university. As if dealing with organizational guidelines wasn’t hard enough, half of the conference members must get permission from state officials. If you’re familiar with any sort of government process, you know this will present its own challenges and likely eat up a considerable amount of time.
But, let’s be completely honest with ourselves. The West Coast is burning at an alarming rate. The air quality in our region is ranking among the worst (if not THE worst) in the world. THE WORLD. Professional baseball games were postponed today due to the unhealthy air quality. Unlike the Big Ten members, the Pac-12 just isn’t in any position to start their sports again. It’s unfair to compare the two and demand the Pac-12 start football, just because the other conference voted in favor.
The risk is too great and the reward too small for the Pac-12 to push for a season to start sooner than recently decided. And, if a spring season isn’t possible, we must simply do without until next fall. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s the right prescription in this case.
On the third episode of the Quacked Out Pod, we give our complete thoughts on where the Ducks stand at every position going into next season. We talk about the offense. We talk about the defense. Yes, we even talk about special teams. For any player that is likely to see meaningful playing time, you can expect to hear our thoughts on them in this pod.
The following is a thorough recap of the entire game. If you want the AP’s 4-minute headline-churner, you won’t find it here. This is for those who want to rewatch the game without a recording. If you’re like me, a memorable game does not exist for the storylines; it simply exists as a perfect whole.
Ready? Let’s dive in. Feel free to follow along with the full game here.
My thought process regarding this game begins with a flashback. Way back in Week 8 (Hate Week), I came across Tom Fornelli’s Six Pack, where he said the wrong team was favored (Oregon by 3). The Ducks won and covered in Seattle.
Although Fornelli was wrong, I couldn’t help but feel the same way about this game at kickoff. Even though we wouldn’t have Jaylon Redd for the game, Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship win over Utah was so dominant! We’re wearing 2012 tribute helmets! How could the Badgers be favored?!? The wrong team is favored.
- Side note: Fornelli still predicted a 1-point Oregon victory in his Week 8 article. Spooky…
Onto the game, which began with three Oregon runs for 15 yards. This opened up a 16-yard pass to Juwan Johnson. On 3rd & 4 at the Wisconsin 38 yard-line, Mycah Pittman caught his first pass for 9 yards. Hunter Kampmoyer atoned for his dropped pass earlier in the drive with catches of 9 and 15, putting the Ducks at the 4. Justin Herbert punched it in on a QB-keeper that Oregon fans have been waiting for all year, capping a near-flawless opening drive by the Eugenian.
Needless to say, I was fully convinced we would win this game after the opening drive. Herbert’s poise and confident score made it look like we were unbeatable. I had zero doubt in our ability to exploit Wisconsin’s defense.
Then disaster struck. Wisconsin did one of the only things I thought they wouldn’t: break off a big play. Aron Cruickshank’s return gave me a serious case of the jitters.
Those jitters didn’t cease when Herbert opened the next drive with an improbable interception that gifted the ball to the Badgers with a short field ahead of them.
I highlighted this series because Wisconsin could have easily taken complete command of this game within the first eighth of it. This was also the first three plays for Wisconsin’s offense and Oregon’s defense. The stellar defensive effort was enough to calm my jitters, but only temporarily. (Side note: I genuinely thought this kick went wide when I first saw it.)
Shades of De’Anthony Thomas appeared on the ensuing kickoff return, but not in a good way. Mykael Wright wanted to return it, then stopped, then wanted to go again, then stopped again. Thomas did this in almost the exact same spot seven years ago, except his indecision ended up costing Wisconsin a second-half timeout. As you probably already know, the quirky parallels between this game and the last against Wisconsin did not end there—but more on that later.
Oregon’s drive consisted of a failed check-down to Cyrus Habibi-Likio, a dropped pass by Sean Dollars, and a failed misdirection screen to Juwan Johnson after Wisconsin’s encroachment. At least Blake Maimone’s punt put Wisconsin back at their own 24.
The Ducks forced a nice six-yard 3-and-out of their own and retained possession 78 yards from glory, even though KT was probably millimeters away from blocking another punt.
A four-play drive ended with another great job by the punt team. Wisconsin got the ball at their own 18.
This marked one of the many points in the game where I was on the edge of my seat for no conceivable reason. The only phase of the game that we’d looked dominant in was on defense, and I guess I was just eager to make sure the Ducks continued that trend.
At first glance, they did not. Wisconsin picked up two seemingly effortless first downs as they moved across midfield in just a few plays.
Wisconsin has the ball on the Oregon 29. The score is still 10-7 and the Badgers are looking to extend their lead at the beginning of the second quarter.
- 1st & 10: Jonathan Taylor rips a first down run down the right, but the play is called back for offensive holding.
- 1st & 20: Coan throws his receiver the wrong way on a drag and Isaac Slade-Matautia makes a great open-field tackle.
- 2nd & 16: Screen pass to the open right side of the field is sniffed out by Thomas Graham Jr., who makes a great tackle for a loss of 3.
- 3rd & 19: Coan checks down to his running back, who is corralled by Troy Dye at the series’ original line of scrimmage.
These three defensive plays may not seem like much at first glance. I didn’t think much of them until a second watch, assuming the penalty had simply killed the drive. In reality, though, these were three incredibly important clinical open-field tackles that highlight Oregon’s yearlong theme of team defense. Great teams make these routine plays every single time, and the consistency paid off.
Dye’s final tackle set up a 47-yard field goal that was missed by Wisconsin. A yard closer and that one might go in. One missed tackle out of the three, and It’s almost a guaranteed three points—if not a first down to continue the drive.
I’m gonna speed through this part: Oregon ball on the 29…two yards in two Verdell runs…Herbert misses Johnny Johnson high…Maimone barely gets the punt off…Wisconsin ball from their 28…Taylor runs for 10 yards…Taylor up the middle for four yards and TROY DYE STRIPS THE BALL RIGHT OUT OF TAYLOR’S ARMS! LENOIR PICKS IT UP!!
Oregon ball, and the Ducks are in business in Wisconsin territory. We’ve gotta score now, right? This is where we use our momentum to take back the lead and swing the game in our favor before halftime, right? Quick 7-yard strike to Johnny Johnson; this is where we open up the playbook and get a big play, right? Right?
Herbert keeps it for 1 yard, Verdell gets half a yard on 3rd down and is stuffed on 4th and 1. Welp. This drive could have been huge for Oregon, but a golden opportunity is wasted.
But Wisconsin’s offense wasn’t done giving the Ducks big gifts. Coan was pressured by KT again (yes, it’s still the second quarter) and threw the ball right to Thomas Graham. Just like that, the offense lit up. From the Wisconsin 32, it was BANG, 15 yards to Juwan; BANG, Verdell for 13 yards; BANG, Herbert stiff-arming his way into the end zone on 1st and Goal. 14-10 Ducks and feeling good.
Oregon controlled the lead with 3 minutes remaining in the half, but the Badgers still had a chance to drive, especially after Cruickshank returned the kickoff three yards shy of midfield. Gains of 3, 7, 9, 0, and 2 followed; and with 33 yards and 52 seconds to go, it looked like the Badgers’ drive might fizzle out.
Then, out of nowhere, Coan’s deep ball found Quintez Cephus. In the heat of the moment, I took severe issue with the defensive pass interference call on this play; in hindsight, I still think it’s a harsh call, but there is pushing both ways. I think letting them play would have been the best call there. Regardless, what looked like a catch wasn’t a catch, but Cephus struck again on 3rd & 3 from the 11 to cap the drive and give Wisconsin the 17-14 lead going into the half.
Ah, halftime. Time for bathroom breaks, Twitter overreactions, band performances, and switching bars to get away from the dude who bet on Wisconsin and is already drunk. At this point, I wasn’t feeling great, but I knew this was a game we could still definitely win.
The second half began with an odd possession for Wisconsin. The Badgers rushed the ball once, followed by two completions to Cephus netting 21 yards, then three straight incompletions. On the ensuing punt, Badgers punter Anthony Liotti inexplicably dropped the ball, handing safety (and former Central Catholic Ram) Brady Breeze a touchdown.
This play was so mind-bendingly random that it almost felt like the Ducks had to go on and win. We were gifted a touchdown; now we had to make it count. But what I felt most after this strange, strange play was not joy or confusion; it was a relief. I could finally get my mind off Quintez Cephus extending the lead for five seconds, and it felt just dandy.
Wisconsin’s next drive began at their own 35. They methodically spat their way down the field with several single-digit yardage gains, interrupted only by a 34-yard flick outside to Jonathan Taylor on 4th & 1. Wisconsin proceeded to cap-off a very Wisconsin-like drive with a very Wisconsin-like touchdown: a fullback dive to Mason Stokke from less than 2 yards out. 24-21 Badgers.
Oregon’s 3-and-out really got my blood pumping. Wisconsin had another chance to extend their lead and it appeared likely that they would go up two scores.
As the fourth quarter appeared, Wisconsin had marched 39 yards in five plays and held the ball at the cusp of the red zone. A few plays later they faced 2nd & 5 from the Oregon 11.
At this point, I want to highlight the next play as one of the most important in the entire game. This 1-yard gain didn’t look like much on the surface, but let’s take a closer look:
Wisconsin sets up in a 4-wide single back set, looking more like something Oregon might have used a few years ago. Even though it’s only 2nd 5, this isn’t too uncommon of a look.
[Screenshots from Matthew Loves Ball on Youtube]
Before this play, the Ducks had been getting torched on jet sweeps, giving up gains of 7, 15, 3, and 4 (the latter on a crucial 4th & 1) on this drive alone. The near-side slot receiver, #20 Isaac Guerendo, motions and receives the ball on yet another sweep.
The defensive line gets a great push, forcing Guerendo all the way back behind the 15 before he can cut.
This gives Guerendo a lot of downhill speed as he passes the line of scrimmage, but he’s met with a crash by both Jevon Holland and Troy Dye and is pushed out at the 9.
In the next five seconds, Guerendo will make one of the biggest mistakes of his life.
Stepping over Troy Dye just doesn’t seem like a good idea, does it? This act of dominance created a mild shoving match between the teams (which, unfortunately, cannot be found on YouTube right now). While it didn’t draw any flags, this dust-up gave Oregon’s defense a reason to be pissed off.
But the real idiocy in this small act of dominance lies in what it represents. Wisconsin felt like they were on top, that they truly had the upper hand, that they deserved to win. Keep in mind, this was Guerendo’s only carry of the game. One incompletion later, Wisconsin scored its final points of the game on a 27-yard Collin Larsh field goal.
The scuffling continued after Mykael Wright was tackled at the 32 on the kick return. Half of me wanted to join in and the other half was reluctant to talk while trailing six points. Oregon continued to trail six points as a drive fizzled out around midfield.
Any security provided by Maimone’s punt being downed by Daewood Davis inside the 5 was quickly erased with Taylor’s 18-yard carry that included five missed tackles and seven yards of Oregon going for the strip instead of tackling.
Remember that jet sweep to the right that Wisconsin kept pounding Oregon’s defense with? And do you remember when I said the parallels from the 2012 Rose Bowl weren’t done? Well, when Wisconsin ran a sweep from their own 26 with 8 minutes to go, it was Oregon’s Breeze that made the play. Breeze put his helmet on the ball, jarring it loose and giving Ducks fans a familiar memory.
Sometimes fate works in weird ways.
On the next play from scrimmage…
Camden Lewis‘ extra point gave the Ducks the thin 28-27 advantage midway through the 4th.
Wisconsin’s next drive went like this:
(7:41 on the clock)
- Taylor runs for 2
- False start on left tackle Cole Van Lanen goes uncalled, Coan overthrows Cephus
- Garrett Groshek converts a first down with 9 yards after the catch
- Dropped pass on an out route
- 3-yard run
- Danny Davis III, who fumbled earlier, slips at the break in his route and Coan’s pass is incomplete. Time to punt.
Then came Oregon’s:
- Verdell rushes for 7
- Herbert drops the snap, falls on it
- Kampmoyer drops a 1st down
- Haki Woods lays out the punt returner at the 24
Not a great job of clock-killing with this 3-and-out. I suddenly had to pee for the fourth time in as many commercial breaks.
- Pass breakup by Graham
- 4-yd rush for Taylor
- Offensive pass interference creates 3rd & 20
- Coan deep ball nearly picked by Nick Pickett, incomplete
So close, and yet so very, very far from glory.
- Verdell 1-yd run
- Ducks go 5-wide, Herbert delivers to Pittman for 12
- Verdell 6-yd run
- Verdell 1-yd run
- Herbert throws on 3rd & 3 to Juwan JOHNSON WHO GETS THE FIRST DOWN AND RUNS DOWN THE SIDELINE! NO MORE TIMEOUTS! THE GAME IS OVER! WE DIDN’T BLOW IT! WE ACTUALLY WON THIS GAME! WE WON THE ROSE BOWL!!!!!!
Oregon won the Rose Bowl with the least number of passing attempts (21), passing yards (138), first downs (13), and yards of total offense (204) all season. Go figure.
It wasn’t pretty; it was beautiful. How poetic that a season marked by unfortunate events late in games avenged itself with extremely fortunate events late in the game. The gaul by Cristobal & Co. to dial-up passes on the final drive; the relentless effort of Oregon players to secure the win; the sunset helmets; the rage of vertical-striped overall-wearers; it was all unbelievably satisfying.
On November 26th, 2016 I watched Oregon fall to Oregon State in what can only be described as a miserable day at Reser Stadium. It marked the end of the worst Oregon Football season of my lifetime. I hope it stays that way, and I’m glad some of the young men that endured that lowest low were able to bring the program back to the peak of the conference.
In a school that’s often jokingly referred to as “UC-Eugene,” I’m most proud of the Oregonians on this roster. Over the last four years, Justin Herbert and La’Mar Winston stick out to me as role models. I had the privilege of watching Winston and Breeze in high school, and I can’t wait to see what the latter grows into next season.
To all the practice squad guys whose names struggle to be seen outside an official roster, thank you. As my CYO football coach used to say—greatness requires the attitude and effort of an entire team.
I couldn’t be more excited to see the future of Oregon Football.
The 13th-ranked Oregon Ducks (10-2, 1st in Pac-12 North) will face the No. 5 Utah Utes (11-1, 1st in Pac-12 South) in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday, December 5th at 5:00 p.m. PT at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA.
This game has College Football Playoff implications for the Utes, who find themselves in prime position to jump No. 4 Georgia should the Bulldogs lose to No. 1 LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday. Let’s take a look at Oregon’s possible bowl game matchups.
Where are we going? Who will we play?
For the Ducks, the goal is simple: win this game, and an automatic Rose Bowl berth awaits as winners of the Pac-12. Lose and the options open up a bit: If Utah ends up in the Playoff, Oregon would still go to the Rose Bowl as the next-best Pac-12 team. If Utah beats Oregon but doesn’t make the Playoff—maybe Georgia wins and keeps their No. 4 spot or the Utes are passed by Oklahoma or Baylor—then Kyle Wittingham’s squad would be headed to Pasadena and the Ducks would find themselves in the Alamo Bowl.
The Rose Bowl opponent would be the best Big Ten (stylized: B1G) team available. Since current No. 1 Ohio State is a lock for the Playoff if they win the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin, the bid would go to the next-highest-ranked B1G team. That’s currently No. 8 Wisconsin, although the Badgers may drop below No. 10 Penn State with a loss to Ohio State. Of course, a win in that game would put the two-loss Badgers in the Rose Bowl. At this point, I’d say the most likely Rose Bowl opponent would be Penn State.
Should Oregon go to the Alamo Bowl, they would face an team from the Big 12 (B12). The B12’s bowl priorities are the Playoff, then Sugar, then Alamo. If the winner of the Oklahoma-Baylor conference championship leaps Utah for the Playoff, the Ducks would play the third-best B12 team, which is currently No. 25 Oklahoma State. If Georgia or Utah takes the final playoff spot, the loser of Oklahoma-Baylor would go to the Alamo and the winner would go to the Sugar Bowl.
Review: Oregon’s (realistic) bowl matchups
- Rose vs Penn State
- Rose vs Wisconsin
- Alamo vs Oklahoma
- Alamo vs Baylor
- Alamo vs Oklahoma State
Still with me? Need a bathroom break? Glass of water? Ok, let’s continue.
Conference Championship Games: Who do we want to win?
Here’s a guide for who to root for in all the other Power 5 conference championship games, in order of occurrence. All times are Pacific.
Big 12: #6 Oklahoma vs #7 Baylor – Saturday at 9 a.m. on ABC – Arlington, TX
Ducks won? Root for Baylor. If Utah’s out of the playoff, we don’t really care who takes their place, but we’d prefer it isn’t Oklahoma, who has a better shot than Baylor (based on pedigree and quality of loss). We don’t want a B12 team in the playoff so that the Utes play one of these two teams in the Alamo.
Ducks lost? Root for Baylor. The Bears are less likely to jump Utah, and if Oregon loses to Utah we want a Pac-12 team in the playoff so we can go to the Rose Bowl. If we get stuck in the Alamo Bowl, I’d rather play one of these teams in a competitive game than Oklahoma State.
SEC: #2 LSU vs #4 Georgia – Saturday at 1 p.m. on CBS – Atlanta, GA
Ducks won? Root for UGA. A Georgia win would most likely keep the Bulldogs in the playoff over the B12 champion. If we knock out Utah, they will be in the Alamo Bowl, and it’s better for the conference if they’re facing Oklahoma or Baylor.
Ducks lost? Root for LSU. If we lose, we want Utah in the playoff, and they won’t leap a potential SEC-champion-Georgia. Having Utah is good for the conference and puts us in the Rose Bowl.
ACC: #3 Clemson vs #23 Virginia – Saturday at 4:30 p.m. on ABC – Charlotte, NC
Ducks won? Root for Clemson. Following the same logic as the SEC matchup: if we eliminate Utah, we want the playoff solidified to cause more enticing Alamo Bowl matchups. I know it’s hard rooting against the underdogs, but in all seriousness, this is what’s best for us.
Ducks lost? Root for Virginia. Clemson is a four-touchdown favorite in this one, but on the off-chance they lose, it would open up the playoff picture and give us a better shot at the Rose Bowl.
BIG 10: #1 Ohio State vs #8 Wisconsin (Saturday at 5:00 p.m. on FOX)
Ducks won? Root for Ohio State. Again, I know it’s hard to root for Ohio State, but we want the Pac-12’s best to prove themselves this bowl season. Our hypothetical Rose Bowl opponent will be a good team, whether that’s Wisconsin or Penn State.
Ducks lost? Root for Ohio State. Utah’s not getting in over a 0- or 1-loss Ohio State, but a B12-champion Oklahoma might!
Let’s just beat Utah
…and go to the Rose Bowl! Regardless of what happens on Friday, though, this has already been a successful season. Of course I don’t wanna end up in the Alamo Bowl, but 10 wins is something to be proud of.
Did I miss anything? Do you agree with my reasoning that we should play the best team we can? I definitely believe we would compete with any team listed in the options above. What matchup would you like to see most? Maybe a Danny O’Neil Rose Bowl against Penn State? Wisconsin part 2? Give me your opinion in the comments or on Twitter (@folkestad3).
As always, thanks for reading and GO DUCKS!
The 11th-ranked Oregon Ducks (6-1) lost to the No. 8 Gonzaga Bulldogs (7-0) in overtime at the Battle 4 Atlantis Semifinals in the Bahamas at 1 p.m. PT on Thursday, November 28. On Wednesday, the Ducks came back from down 19 points in the second half to beat No. 13 Seton Hall and advance. Gonzaga beat Southern Mississippi by 25 in their quarterfinal matchup.
The first half was not ideal for Oregon. The Ducks were getting decent looks but only shot 5/14 from behind the arc. They were also out-rebounded 20-8 (yes, you read that right) and committed eight fouls to Gonzaga’s three. Mark Few’s men jumped out to a 24-7 lead before Dana Altman drilled his guys into closing out on threes—specifically from sharpshooter Corey Kispert (17pts, 7reb on 6/12 FG).
Oregon senior guard Payton Pritchard (17pts, 6reb, 4ast on 7/23 FG) started the game rough, scoring sparingly but still earning steals and hustle points on defense.
Oregon brought needed rebounding and defensive energy after halftime. CJ Walker (12pts, 4orb) was one of the catalysts for these improvements throughout the game, but he was forced to sit with 10 minutes left after picking up his fourth foul. Pritchard certainly heated up in the second half too. He gave the Ducks the first lead of the game at 51-50 at the 11:48 mark with a deep 3-point bomb.
Down the Stretch
With 90 seconds left, Kispert put Gonzaga up by four with a clutch three before Pritchard responded with a finish at the rim. On the next inbound pass, he drilled another open three.
But Pritchard responded again with a deep contested three of his own from about 5-6 feet behind the arc. At 66-64 with 54 seconds left, the Ducks came up with a huge defensive stop. Pritchard’s help for Will Richardson on Filip Petrusev (18pts, 14reb) caused some chaos and the Zags weren’t able to get a shot off before the buzzer.
Chris Duarte (16pts, 9reb) drew a foul by driving on Killian Tillie (7pts, 5reb) with 7.3 seconds to go. Out of the timeout, Duarte sunk both free throws and Tillie bricked a deep triple to send the game to overtime at 66-all.
Walker came back in and made an instant impact on the offensive glass. He grabbed three offensive rebounds in OT and earned two trips to the line off of them.
Both teams battled back and forth in overtime, but Oregon couldn’t produce a shot on the final possession. They did, however, show that they have the talent to hang with the big dogs. It’ll be interesting to see how they match up against the Tar Heels tomorrow morning.
Gonzaga will face the Michigan Wolverines in the final on Friday, November 29 at 11 a.m. PT. Oregon plays North Carolina at 8:30 a.m. in the third-place game that has the firepower to be a final.
Being a Duck is fun. It’s unique. We win a lot (this century). But it comes with a cost, albeit small: Everyone hates us. Well, now it’s my turn to hate back.
This ranking will cover every program in the Pac-12, from 11 (the most likable) to 1 (the most detestable). I have taken everything I know about the program—its fans, history, coaches, players, whatever—into account. Sometimes my reasoning is short or flawed, but explanations are provided for each selection.
I really can’t find a reason to hate Utah. Yes, they destroyed us in Autzen a few years back, but that’s as much our fault as it is theirs. Almost everything I hear about their setting with Rice-Eccles Stadium and the Muss is positive, and I have a huge amount of respect for Kyle Whittingham.
Cal doesn’t really have die-hard fans, and that makes them a lot less hateable. They have given the Ducks a few sour moments in the past, such as the 2007 touchback debacle or faking injuries to slow down our offense in 2010, but overall they’re pretty much just another conference opponent. The Bay is cool, too.
Boulder and Eugene have very similar “vibes” as far as campuses and student go. Many students who attend one also consider the other. From what I know, Colorado is a very beautiful place. Being mediocre will also help a program’s case on this list, and Colorado is usually not much more than that. I really liked Mike MacIntyre when he was there, too. Even if they look like Duracell batteries on the field, I usually don’t find myself rooting against the Buffs.
If you hate UCLA because of Chip Kelly, I can only tell you that you’re a miserable, vengeful person (nothing personal). Chip didn’t leave us to coach them (like Willie Taggart did at Florida State). He bounced out of the NFL and landed on his feet in L.A. I can, however, hate UCLA because it’s in LA, and LA is annoying. See also: Neuheisel, Richard.
7. Arizona State
Maybe this comes with being the biggest college in the country, but Arizona State’s travelling fans are incredibly annoying. In the handful of ASU games I’ve been to at Autzen, Sun Devils fans were rude, loud, and angry (probably because they were losing). On the field, though, ASU hasn’t beaten us in consecutive years since I was 4 years old. Not much to hate there. I also like Herm Edwards a lot and find myself rooting for the Sun Devils to beat up on fellow Pac-12 North teams.
6. Washington State
The Cougs land this high almost solely because they are in the Pacific Northwest. Ducks and Cougs have a common enemy in UW, and only recently have they become competitive, taking a nice 11-year break from winning records (2004-2014) in my lifetime. Mike Leach is hilarious and although their Air Raid offense makes games last forever, it’s pretty entertaining.
In my mind, Arizona fans will forever be remembered for storming the field too early in 2009. You just hate to see it. However, they have given the Ducks some stinging results in recent history, and seeing Mike Stoops in action was exhausting. Also, they injured Dennis Dixon and ruined our season in 2007.
Stanford appears at #4 because they beat us when it mattered, including a championship-caliber Ducks squad in 2012. Simple as that. I respect the way they do things under David Shaw, and the only players of theirs I have disliked are all white linebackers for some reason (Shane Skov for being too good, Chase Thomas for the fake injury, and Owen Marecic for the fake hype). I can’t hate on the education or area very much, although I can (and have and will) clown on them for never filling their stadium.
Some call them the University of Spoiled Children. I call them barely-relevant since Pete Carroll left. USC acts like it will be a powerhouse every season, even when they lose to Fresno State (no disrespect to the Bulldogs, but come on Trojans). Their lack of consistency gives people a reason to discount the Pac-12 every year. Overall, USC is so high on this list because they used to beat up on us, and now they can’t even put on for the conference.
2. Oregon State
The top two on this list should have been obvious, but the order has changed in recent years. Oregon State hasn’t been to a bowl game since 2013, and the Beavers are without a 10-win season since 2006. Beaver fans are as bitter as ever and try to get a leg up on Ducks whenever they can (even if it means flaunting College Baseball success). At least they know and admit they’re currently inferior, unlike…
Washington fans complaining that “Phil Knight’s Nike money paid the refs!” pretty much sums it all up. Jealous of Oregon’s strong national brand, Husky fans have convinced themselves that winning two Pac-12 titles and losing their only playoff appearance amounts to some sort of superiority (despite losing 14 out of the last 16 matchups). Hate Week has returned to a trash-talking buffet, complete with everything from a new celebration to fake Twitter accounts. It’s good to have a competitive rivalry against a fanbase with a pulse again (sorry Stanford).
So, do you like my list? Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments. Go Ducks!
The Oregon Ducks (8-1, 1st in Pac-12 North) will host the Arizona Wildcats (4-5, 5th in Pac-12 South) on Saturday, November 15th at 7:30 p.m. PT at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR. The game will be broadcast on ESPN and streaming on the ESPN app and site.
A lot of talk this week surrounds how Oregon has put themselves in a great position to make it to the College Football Playoff. In order for this to happen, though, they’ll need some added help from fate. FiveThirtyEight’s College Football Predictions gives the Ducks the fourth-best chance of making the Playoff, although only at 35%. It’s safe to say that both the Ducks and Utah Utes need each other to win out before a meeting in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Consequently, Arizona plays both Oregon and Utah over the next two weeks. The Wildcats have the toughest remaining schedule in all of the conference with Arizona State looming in the Territorial Cup. They’re fighting for bowl eligibility, of course, but the chance to play spoiler is always an intriguing one. Winning the Territorial Cup might end up being Arizona’s biggest achievement this season, but we shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss their chances in either of these next two matchups.
Arizona employs a two-quarterback system of Senior Khalil Tate and Freshman Grant Gunnell. Duck fans will remember Tate for his role in upsetting a ranked Oregon in Tucson last year, but that’s not exactly a new trend. In the last three meetings between a ranked Oregon and unranked Arizona, the Wildcats have successfully played spoiler (2013, 2014, and 2018).
But back to Tate and Gunnell. Tate is the dual-threat guy, an established senior who’s been able to put up video-game numbers in some games. He’s a screen pass shy of 6,000 career passing yards right now and well over 2,000 rushing yards already. Despite Tate’s rushing threat (1400+ yds and 12 TDs on 9+ YPC in 2017), it was his backfield partner in crime—J.J. Taylor—who put up 228 yards and 2 TDs in Arizona’s 44-25 win over the Ducks last year.
Gunnell is a 6’6″, 225-lb freshman from Houston. Through six games he has 1,061 passing yards with 9 TDs and only 1 INT. He’s completing passes at a 66.4% clip. I’d imagine Arizona uses Gunnell and an Air Raid-style passing attack against Oregon as the Washington schools did. After all, they are the Pac-12 opponents who’ve had the greatest success against the Ducks so far. The flip side of this, of course, is the fact that the Ducks secondary has the most interceptions in the nation (17) and Autzen isn’t exactly the best place for a visiting freshman quarterback to shine. (I have a feeling we’ll be seeing more of him as Arizona’s QB of the future, though.)
Ok, so how could Arizona beat Oregon? How does a 4-5 team destined for a bowl-less season go on the road and defeat a playoff contender on an eight-game win streak?
The short answer is that they don’t. The longer answer is that either someone gets injured or the Ducks become completely unfocused over the bye week, which is highly unlikely with so many leaders on the team. I’m anticipating this will be the week everyone can turn #Pac12AfterDark off early, at least for this game.
Like I’ve said for the past eight games, Oregon knows they’re the better team. It all comes down to focus and execution. These are the games in which Mario Cristobal Co. needs to beat the spread, not just the team across from them.
The Ducks did so against Colorado and USC, but all other Pac-12 games have been tougher than expected, including those against clearly lesser opponents (Stanford, Cal, Wazzu). This Saturday’s spread is set at -27 for Oregon. I think that’s definitely a coverable spread and has been my personal goal for this game before I even looked it up.
I have to say, though, it’s kinda fun to be in competitive games sometimes. The 2010 days of steamrolling 90% of our schedule are over. This is a different program with a new identity. Instead of outrunning everyone to the end sone most of the time, we are a more balanced and physical squad. It may not be as appealing, but as long as it wins, it works for me.
Prediction: Ducks 59, Wildcats 17
The Oregon Ducks (3-0) beat the Memphis Tigers (2-1) 82-74 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon on Tuesday, November 12th. The game was part of Phil Knight’s “PK80” series and was followed by Oregon State vs Oklahoma.
Before the game all the talk was about Memphis’ 7’1” freshman center James Wiseman, who was ruled ineligible by the NCAA last Friday. Wiseman, along with longtime and current head coach Penny Hardaway are caught up in an NCAA scandal together. Wiseman played for the Tigers over the weekend after an ongoing legal dispute, and he started and played, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds. However, the freshman phenom was forced to the bench after picking up two fouls in the first five minutes.
The Ducks controlled the game early on, causing havoc and forcing miscues with head coach Dana Altman’s hybrid-zone defense. They got a big boost when Wiseman left for the bench, building a double-digit lead.
Oregon’s Chris Duarte left the game fifteen minutes in after bumping knees with a Memphis player. The Tigers immediately forced multiple Oregon turnovers with a full-court press. Shakur Juiston broke the Tigers’ run with an and-one putback off his own miss and the Ducks soon vaulted themselves back in front.
Both Duarte and Wiseman returned for the start of the second half.
The Ducks took a 41-35 lead going into halftime. Starting guard Anthony Mathis was leading the way with nine points for the Ducks (3-5 from three), while Memphis struggled to score without Wiseman on the floor. The biggest disparity between the two teams, as ESPN’s Jay Bilas noticed, was the points off turnovers category—Memphis racked up 20, while Oregon had only four.
The first few minutes of the second half made for some great entertainment. Memphis’ Lester Quinones brought the energy and gave Memphis the lead with a three, although most of the attention was still focused on his incredibly short shorts.
One big question coming into the game was the status of Ducks starting center Francis Okoro, who was hit by a car before the game against Boise State last week. Okoro started and finished with seven points and nine boards.
The Ducks seemed mostly in control, holding a single-digit lead for the bulk of the second half. Memphis hung in the game, though, and were only down by five before Pritchard hit a massive stepback three out of a timeout with 1:36 remaining. Memphis never climbed back into touching distance.
Notable performers for the Ducks include Payton Pritchard (17pts/4reb/5ast on 5-12 shooting) and Shakur Juiston (17pts/10reb on 8-15). Mathis added 12 points on 4-6 shooting (all from behind the arc).
Oregon will take on Texas Arlington at Matthew Knight Arena this Sunday.
The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 1st in Pac-12 North) will host the Washington State Cougars (4-3, 6th in Pac-12 North) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, October 26th, 2019 and be broadcast on ESPN (also streaming on espn.com and the ESPN App).
Like every remaining game, this matchup is crucial for Oregon to remain in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. If the Ducks win out, there is a good chance they’ll find themselves in the Playoff. Maybe more importantly, though, the Ducks can basically wrap up a Pac-12 North title with a win this week.
The Ducks will also be looking to purge one of their biggest demons this week: losing to Wazzu. This semi-rivalry has taken an odd turn, with the Cougars winning the last four matchups after the Ducks took eight straight wins from 2007-2014. Washington State hadn’t accomplished a comparable feat over the Ducks since the early ’80s.
|2018-10-20||Oregon (12)||@||Washington State (25)||Pac-12||L||20||34|
|2017-10-07||Oregon||Washington State (11)||Pac-12||L||10||33|
Last year’s downfall in the Palouse was especially frustrating. Oregon was coming off a fantastic overtime win against the Huskies and had moved up to #12 in the AP Poll (this was the only matchup of the four losses in which the Ducks were ranked). College Gameday was on hand in Pullman for the first time ever, and Wazzu seized victory after the Ducks were held scoreless in the first half.
There are a few more reasons why this streak has a good reason of ending this weekend, as well.
Oregon could win because…
The Cougars are not as good as we thought, and Oregon’s defense is better than we thought.
Entering this season, this was a major red-circle game for Oregon. it was promoted as the biggest home game of the year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if tickets sold as such. Wazzu was poised for a run at the Pac-12 title before one wild night in late September.
Since then, the Cougs have dropped two more games, but the second half of their schedule could do them some favors:
|Aug 31, 2019||(23) Washington State||New Mexico State||Ind||W||58||7|
|Sep 7, 2019||(22) Washington State||Northern Colorado||Non-Major||W||59||17|
|Sep 13, 2019||(20) Washington State||N||Houston||American||W||31||24|
|Sep 21, 2019||(19) Washington State||UCLA||Pac-12||L||63||67|
|Sep 28, 2019||Washington State||@||(19) Utah||Pac-12||L||13||38|
|Oct 12, 2019||Washington State||@||(18) Arizona State||Pac-12||L||34||38|
|Oct 19, 2019||Washington State||Colorado||Pac-12||W||41||10|
|Oct 26, 2019||Washington State||@||(11) Oregon||Pac-12|
|Nov 9, 2019||Washington State||@||California||Pac-12|
|Nov 16, 2019||Washington State||Stanford||Pac-12|
|Nov 23, 2019||Washington State||Oregon State||Pac-12|
|Nov 29, 2019||Washington State||@||Washington||Pac-12|
I’d say the Cougs can win at least three of those remaining games. They’re definitely Holiday Bowl contenders, but with three conference losses, anything better than that is out of their control by now.
The Ducks, meanwhile, have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12. Oregon’s secondary has allowed the fewest passing yards per game and caught the most interceptions per game in the conference. They have still given up only 11.9 points per game, .2 shy of Utah’s 11.7 (and one might argue that the Ducks have faced superior competition, too).
With all that being said, a streak still needs to be broken, and Oregon can’t have another Husky Hangover if they want to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Wazzu could win because…
Mike Leach is a great coach. Media room sarcasms and all, Leach knows what he’s doing.
His Air Raid offense has passed around, over, and through the Ducks in recent years. This fast-paced, pass-first attack forces entire opposing defenses to be aware of what’s going on at all times. It also opens up the run game, as well—Duck fans may remember the Cougs rushing for six touchdowns in their 2016 matchup. Sophomore running back Max Borghi leads the conference in yards from scrimmage (840) and yards per carry (7.3).
They don’t have Luke Falk (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/luke-falk-1.html” target=”_blank”>Luke Falk or Gardner Minshew (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/gardner-minshew-1.html” target=”_blank”>Gardner Minshew at quarterback anymore, but Junior Anthony Gordon is doing just fine in his first year as the starter. Gordon leads the Pac-12 in pass attempts (347), pass completions (246), passing yards (2,918), passing touchdowns (29), total yards (3,018), total touchdowns (29), total yards per play (8.2), and total plays (369).
The matchup between Washington State’s offense and Oregon’s defense will be most entertaining, but it’s on the Ducks to get their offense rolling. Said offense worked to perfection in crunch time against Washington last week, but it took a while to get there.
Tight end Jacob Breeland, Justin Herbert‘s favorite target, is out for the season with a knee injury. Backup tight end Cam McCormick is also out with an ankle injury. During the week, wide receiver Brenden Schooler entered the transfer portal unexpectedly, too.
Once again, this puts pressure on the rest of the receiving corps to step up. Mycah Pittman and Juwan Johnson are the obvious choices to do so, but Spencer Webb, Johnny Johnson III, and Jaylon Redd all stepped up with big catches last week. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean they are guaranteed to score or be productive. My point is that they have proven themselves. Doing it in last week’s environment is a major confidence-booster.
On defense, defensive end Gus Cumberlander is already out for the season with a knee injury. Defensive backs Deommodore Lenoir and Nick Pickett were both taken out of the Washington game at different points, but they will be expected to play, even if their roles are limited. The same goes for linebacker Troy Dye, who broke his hand during the game, taped it up, and continued to play.
Keys to the Game
Defending the middle of the field
Oregon trusts its cornerbacks to cover guys one-on-one. Sure, Thomas Graham Jr. got beat deep last week and Lenoir might be limited, but Oregon’s man coverage won the game last week and the coaching staff needs to keep faith in their DBs, because Leach will throw the kitchen sink at Oregon’s linebacking corps across the middle of the field. He is a master of fitting the right routes against different defenses. The phrase “bend, don’t break” was more of a Nick Aliotti philosophy than an Andy Avalos (opens in a new tab)” href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhPZ3aF1CAk” target=”_blank”>Andy Avalos one prior to last weekend, but Oregon has to be OK with quick, short gains to prevent the deep ball against Wazzu.
Limiting Eliminating turnovers
The Ducks forced zero turnovers last week, but they also conceded zero. The Ducks can’t afford to cough up valuable possessions against the Cougars—they’ve given up two or more turnovers in three of those last four losses to WSU. Turnovers are how favorites lose momentum and, more importantly, games.
Oregon’s offense scored a touchdown every time they crossed midfield against Washington (not including that gasping six-play drive at the end of the first half). The Ducks have to keep up that kind of production if they find themselves needing to outscore Washington State. This obviously boils down to playcalling, but execution is the real key.
Speaking of playcalling, I need to mention two specific plays that were simply fantastic.
The first was Spencer Webb’s touchdown catch on the opening drive. Check out the run fake and second-level blocking that freezes all three UW linebackers:
The second was Mycah Pittman’s touchdown catch on fourth down. An absolutely beautiful screen play that required perfect blocking:
Of course, Oregon’s playcalling has been under close scrutiny this year after the Auburn loss. However, last week showed us what can happen when the Ducks successfully establish the run game, which they undoubtedly did with Cyrus Habibi-Likio in the third quarter.
The spread is two touchdowns, and that’s been my prediction since before I even checked the line. I’m sticking with it. Both Leach and Cristobal are willing to sacrifice field goals for touchdown opportunities, and whatever #Pac12AfterDark does to this game will still result in a 35-21 Ducks victory.
Here’s one prediction I know will come true: people will leave early. Look, I know, I hate it too. As a student, I’m ashamed that half the section will be gone by the fourth quarter, but it’s a night game… on parents’ weekend… that the Ducks are double-digit favorites to win (knock on wood). It’s gonna happen. I’ll stay to the end because there’s no place I’d rather be, but I can’t speak for the rest of my colleagues, nor the countless adults that are guilty of leaving early. Go figure.