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Defense will tell story of Ducks playoff options

OS College - Thu, 11/07/2019 - 2:48pm
Oregon needs to impress CFP voters to get a spot By Cliff Pfenning Oregon's defense forced three turnovers in win Saturday. Associated Press photo.

Offense wins games. Defense wins championships. This is what University of Oregon football fans should focus on for the final month of the season as the LSU at Alabama is set to play out Saturday.

With Oregon placed at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff rankings, winning out the final four games might seem to guarantee a spot in the Final Four due to so many teams ahead of it playing each other. Only three teams have a chance at going unbeaten and if the Ducks end up with one loss and the Pac-12 title, they should be a natural pick for that honor.

But, the selection committee is going to look at the actual resume of the teams involved, and the loser of Saturday’s game might be a more logical choice for the fourth CFP spot, simply because they might be a better team, at least to the naked eye. This is where defense comes in.

Oregon can score points. That’s not a question. But, keeping the opponent out of the end zone is where the Ducks will make the biggest impression in the next month. They absolutely need to destroy their remaining opponents: Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon State on defense. And, beat Utah. This is the way to pump up the Oregon resume and put some major pressure on the CFP voters to offer the West Coast at least a chance to win the title. Remember the Ducks are really just a few inches away - a fourth down on Auburn’s final drive - from being unbeaten. (Auburn, which lost 23-20 at LSU two weeks ago, plays Alabama at the close of the regular season and can be a wrench in this whole argument for a second time).

Oregon’s defense has been up to the challenge for most of the season, especially on Saturday even with giving up 24 points. The dominance of the USC offense as the game went on was huge in the outcome, regardless of the 56 points put up on the scoreboard. The Ducks need to ratchet that performance up a couple notches - and not just focus on winning. But, complete dominance, even after possibly trailing due to a first-quarter score (the Ducks have trailed in the first quarter or first half of its past three games, allowing an average of 32 points per game over that stretch. They need to do much better for the CFP to come calling. 

The CFP voters aren’t going to look at a record so much as it’s belief in a team being able to win. I’d be doing that, too, and currently don’t think the Ducks are a top-four team. Even with the current eight-game win streak, I felt that way throughout the Auburn game - notably with the Tigers starting a true freshman. Auburn won the game at the end with an 18-year-old making plays. The Ducks started a senior and didn’t make the key plays. But, that’s changed as the season has progressed, including a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat Washington State.

The final four weeks - a blowout in the Pac-12 final - will do a lot to convince me they can beat Alabama or Clemson or Ohio State, and that’s what will get the votes to actually have that chance. 

And, the defense is the key to that.

 

 

Wed, 12/31/1969 - 4:00pm
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