Reliability is Oregon's question mark
What a difference 12 months has made for the University of Oregon football team and its loyal fanbase.
Last year, Oregon prepped for a run at the national championship fueled by the steady, reliable play of Marcus Mariota, who eventually led the team to the title game and won the Heisman Trophy. That led to him being selected second in the NFL Draft.
A year later, the Ducks feature a free-agent quarterback who already has fans worried about his reliability due to … college classwork (imagine that). Vernon Adams.
What a thrill ride Oregon fans are basically set up for this season.
Maybe we all need that, too.
Oregon football has become somewhat tame, leading to the program signing payday games – for their opponent – in two of the three non-conference slots annually. This week Oregon announced it would play North Dakota State of the second-tier FCS in 2020 at Autzen Stadium. Awesome.
Wouldn't a game against, say, Iowa State be better? North Dakota State beat Iowa State last season, but what really matters there is ISU is from the Big 12. Why does Oregon play teams like North Dakota State, Georgia State, UC Davis, and beyond? To win big and pad stats for its players.
So, maybe Vernon Adams is this season's path to adventure. He gets a game against his former school – Eastern Washington - in his first game at Autzen. Then, off to Michigan State, which is just jonesing for retribution for its loss at Oregon last season, a loss that unhinged its national title hopes.
Adams and the Ducks play at Arizona State and host USC of the Pac-12 South this season as well, so the conference schedule has some sauce.
Adams is a big unknown as the season starts, primarily because he didn't take care of school business as had been promoted in spring. Only in August did he get clearance to actually suit up for the football team after passing a math test.
But, again, that might be good for Oregon fans. The Ducks are rarely an underdog, but Adams has made the season scary by just being an outsider from the Oregon culture. A free-agent. That's becoming quite a thing in college athletics, especially basketball. Now, it is likely to spread to football, potentially keeping programs like North Dakota State from becoming dynasties because their top players might move to programs like Iowa State to improve them and show off their skills to NFL teams.
So, buckle up Oregon fans. It's going to be a … fun season of not relying on reliability that's been established from previous seasons. That didn't actually have such a downside for Ohio State last season, which played the final month with a freshman quarterback who started the season No. 3 on the depth chart. Maybe Oregon will play its way to a national title with a free-agent quarterback who had everyone in the state wondering about his reliability right up until he needed to show off his skills in the classroom and on the field.