oregon football

Pac-12 Playoff snub is ... no big deal, yet

Tue, 11/24/2020 - 9:02pm
Cliff Pfenning
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The College Football Playoffs initial rankings hit the world Tuesday, and the No. 9 Oregon Ducks (AP Media Poll) were only No. 15 to the big guns getting ready to make the four-team call in just a few weeks.

Oregon, 3-0, got a fairly dismal ranking likely mimicking the sentiment of a lot of its own fans following the 38-35 win over UCLA Saturday - maybe the Ducks aren't that good. And, they were just three spots ahead of USC (3-0) at No. 18, having moved up from 19 in the AP Poll.

Only BYU really got snubbed more in the first rankings, dropping from No. 8 to No. 14 despite having a 9-0 record.

The CFP rankings feature three teams with two losses ranked ahead of the Ducks (and Cougars), according to the selection team of mostly athletic directors.

Only four teams will qualify for the playoffs, which Oregon did following the 2014 season. 

Oregon is already in something of a similar situation to last year when it was on the outside of the playoff bracket in spite of having won the Pac-12 title. The other four Big 5 conference champions were involved, so the Ducks really didn't have much to complain about in that they had two losses.

Actually, for all the chatter about a second-place team from a conference being added to the CFP, it's only happened once in six tries. And, the team that did get added: Alabama, which lost to SEC champ Georgia in division play; won both of its playoff games to become national champion.

The big question for Duck fans already is that if Oregon is 7-0 and Pac-12 Champion, are we going to get squeezed out of a spot in the semis in favor of a one-loss Texas A&M, which sits at No. 5 in the CFP rankings having lost only to No. 1 Alabama.

No. 7 Cincinnati is another interesting team in that it's likely to win the All-American Conference without having really played anyone. A lot of people might say that about Oregon.

Having looked over the rankings, it's pretty clear that without some huge upsets, and a number of them, the Ducks simply do not have a chance to make the CFP. Except maybe they do. It comes in the form of the Big 12, which is led by No. 11 Oklahoma at 6-2. No. 13 Iowa State is 6-2 as well. Those teams are likely to play for their conference title with the winner having nine wins.

If the Ducks can continue to improve and win impressively, then they'd be heading to the CFP voters with the whole Pacific Coast on their side, sorta just like last year until the disasterous loss at Arizona State.

 

Oregon survives against UCLA

Ducks win nervous outing, 38-35, at Autzen
Staff Report

EUGENE - The 11th-ranked Oregon football team overcame a spuncky opponent playing with a back-up quarterback, to post a 38-35 win in Pac-12 Conference play Saturday at Autzen Stadium.

Sophomore Tyler Shough threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns and the Ducks created four turnovers on the way to improving to 3-0 on the season.

One of the turnovers turned into a touchdown on the final play of the first half, giving Oregon a 24-21 lead.

Oregon, which had not created a turnover in its first two games, ended with a 4-1 edge in turnovers, although it's lone turnover was turned into a touchdown return by UCLA.

The Bruins dropped to 1-2 on the season. UCLA had the ball inside the Oregn 40 yard line in the final minute of play, but could not move further. The Bruins ran for 267 yards - 167 by Demetric Felton. 

Freshman Chase Griffin, making his first start, was 19-of-31 for 1954 yards and one touchdown. UCLA set up for a Hail Mary to close out the first half, but Griffin's arm was hit and the ensuing jump ball went only 10 yards before being caught by Oregon linebacker Jordan Happle, who ran 58 yards for a touchdown.

Shough was 19-of-30 on the day. Oregon ran for just 88 yards on 34 carries.

The Ducks return to action Friday against Oregon State in Corvallis.

 

Can Ducks beat the spread?

Oregon's line to beat UCLA has blossomed to 17
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

One of the biggest questions for University of Oregon football fans heading into this weekend's game with UCLA probably isn't whether the Ducks can beat the Bruins at Autzen Stadium, but can they beat them by 17 or more points?

And, that's just Friday morning.

The betting line for the Oregon win in Saturday's 12:30 p.m. game on ESPN2 was 13.5 at the start of the week, but it's grown by more than a field goal since. Oregon enters the game at 2-0 and ranked No. 11, while UCLA is 1-1 and unranked.

Oregon is coming off a 43-29 win over Washington State, and won its season-opener 35-14 over Stanford.

UCLA lost 48-42 at Colorado in its opener, then throttled Cal 34-10 on Sunday in a game that was invented after it's scheduled game Friday with Utah was cancelled due to Covid the day before. So, UCLA had just two days to prepare for the Bears, who had their game with Arizona State wiped out to Covid, too.

Obviously, those in the know and with money in hand that says they know what's what, think the Ducks are set to throttle the Bruins and continue their march to the College Football Playoffs.

There is plenty of concern, though, for those who've watched Oregon's two wins, which have concluded with the team having five more turnovers on their side that the opposition's side. Were it not for Stanford's four missed field goals, and that incredibly blown coverage at the end of the first half of the Washington State game, the outcome of both wins might have been drastically different.

It's not hard to think the Ducks could fairly easily be 0-2 entering Saturday's game.

Probably the best thing for fans entering the weekend is that the Ducks won, they simply won regardless of the point outcome. That's the most promising sign for a team of destiny - winning the crappy games. Far too often in the past five years, Oregon has lost those games, and to those specific teams: Stanford and WSU. Who doesn't remember first-and-goal at the one against Stanford and the snap three feet over Justin Herbert's head that turned into a 99-yard fumble return? And, then a loss.

Oregon has played like an Aloha Bowl team for much of its two wins. If Stanford had made all four of its field goals, the Cardinal would have been trailing just 28-26 in the fourth quarter. But, the Ducks also missed a field goal, so there's also points that don't show.

And, Oregon trailed 19-7 with 20 seconds left in the first half against WSU when quarterback Tyler Shough hooked up with wideout Jaylon Redd for a 57-yard pass to the WSU 3. CJ Verdell promptly ran for a short touchdown and that bumped the score to 19-14.

Oregon got the second-half kickoff and drove down the field for a touchdown and a 21-19 lead ... oh wait, the Ducks drove to the WSU 19, but missed a field goal.

The next four drives, though, were touchdowns, and it's that string of scores that likely is still resting in bettors' heads.

UCLA's win Sunday included an impressive stretch of four touchdowns on five drives. But, that was in the first half, which ended 27-10. In the second half the Bruins had one touchdown, two punts and two turnovers on downs. Their second half went the opposite of Oregon's.

So, the line was 17 on Friday. Morning. Can Oregon beat UCLA by 18? Maybe they'll have to win by more by the time kickoff arrives.

 

 

Oregon might very well be a playoff team

Mon, 11/09/2020 - 10:25am
Cliff Pfenning
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College athletics have been affected significantly this year by the global pandemic known as COVID-19, but Saturday showed off the college football world hasn’t changed much: the South and East Coast still run the world and Oregon fans can pretty much just hold their breath in relations to getting a spot in the four-team College Football Playoffs.

No. 1 Clemson lost to No. 4 Notre Dame in double overtime, but, of course, Clemson didn’t have its normal starter - Heisman candidate Trevor Lawrence due to pandemic protocol - so Clemson should still be a candidate for that top four teams if he were back in the line-up.

The second-best team in the Southeastern Conference, or, in this case the Atlantic Coast Conference, is always going to be better than the champion from the Pac-12. That’s how the weekend worked.

At least, that’s how this weekend worked. The Pac-12 wasn’t even going to play a season a month ago, then decided to give it a whack. So much is uncertain these days. But, the SEC and Clemson/Notre Dame commitment, that’s gold.

So, Oregon has some work to do if it hopes/expects a chance to compete for the national championship. And, why else play, of course, if you have a $100 million practice facility?

The Ducks did a fairly good job of showcasing their talents in the 35-14 win over Stanford Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Actually, very good starting with quarterback Tyler Shough, who ran for 85 yards on just 11 carries. His decision-making on hand-offs up the middle that turned into runs around the left end looked like national championship-caliber material.

Running back CJ Verdell’s ability to squeeze through small holes looks impressive, and the Ducks’ cadre of receivers led by DJ Johnson and Jaylon Redd did great work as well. On offense, Oregon looked great.

On defense, holding the Cardinal to 14 points was a good effort, although that was solely because of four missed field goals. Ouch. The Ducks gave up more than 400 yards of total offense, and forced only two punts. The team has just three tackles for loss. Stanford had a 32-28 edge in time of possession.

There’s work to do on defense, although it can be argued when the pressure hit the D did force those field-goal attempts.

Overall, it was a good win, setting up another chance for a good win at a potentially-pesky Washington State squad, and so on to the conference championship game - hopefully against USC and the Los Angeles media market, on Dec. 18 - primetime, a day ahead of the major conference title game bonanaza the following day.

All five of the major conferences have title games, so the idea that only conference champion teams should be among the four will be hyped-up this year in that there’s fewer games and weeks to promote some second-place division team such as often does within the SEC.

Oregon has a pathway to the College Football Playoffs, it just needs to play its way there by winning seven consecutive games, basically in the manner it did with Stanford on Saturday.

 

Oregon ready for season to start

Ducks face always-tough Stanford in opener Saturday
By Cliff Pfenning, oregonsports.com

Once the Oregon football team selects a starting quarterback, everything will fall into place for coach Mario Cristobal.

Right.

The Ducks have so many questions in their line-up on offense and defense it's amazing any betting line would set a point figure on their game at home with Stanford Saturday.

But, of course, money talks, and the Oregon program talks plenty in every nook and cranny of the Pac-12 Conference these days, making its way to being the lone conference school in the AP Top 12 at 12.

Not USC. Not UCLA or Stanford or Washington, but Oregon at 12.

Game time Saturday is 4:30 p.m.

Oregon is an eight-point favorite over the Cardinal, one of the most pesky schools in the Pac-12 as in having kept the Ducks from a national title game numerous times. The other team is Washington State, which beat Oregon four straight seasons - a streak ended last season.

For Cristobal, Saturday can't come soon enough. 

"Finally," he said Monday, "the game is here!"

Oregon, as with the rest of the conference, had its season postponed to spring back in July, then had it resurrected in September to start in the first week of November - Nov. 7. The season will last eight weeks, with the final one being a championship game preceeded by a day in which the other conference teams will play within each other one final time to round out their schedules.

Oregon has played in the Pac-12 Title game three times in the past nine years, since it began in 2011. (Stanford has played in it four times.)

 

Oregon, Oregon State open at home

The seven-game schedule begins Nov. 7, ends with Dec. 18 championship game
Staff Report

Oregon's two members of the Pac-12 will begin their football seasons at home, the conference announced Saturday.

Oregon will play host to Stanford, while Oregon State plays host to Washington State.

Whether fans will be allowed in their respective stadiums has not been revealed.

After cancelling the season in August, the conference voted last week to play a seven-game season and took a week to create a schedule. The annual Civil War is set for Nov. 27, midway through the schedule. Both schools are scheduled for just three home games.

The seventh game of the conference schedule includes the championship game, set for Dec. 18 - a Saturday. Teams that do not qualify for the title game will play their seventh game the preceeding Friday.

Oregon is the defending champion and lone team from the conference ranked in the Top 25 - at 14.

2020 SCHEDULE

NOV. 7

Stanford at Oregon

Washington State at Oregon State

NOV. 14

Oregon at Washington State

Oregon State at Washington

NOV. 20.

UCLA at Oregon

NOV. 21

Cal at Oregon State

NOV. 27

Oregon at Oregon State

DEC. 5

Oregon at Cal

Oregon State at Utah

DEC. 12

Oregon State at Stanford

Washington at Oregon

DEC. 18

Conference championship

Oregon is ripe for return to regular life

Mon, 10/12/2020 - 1:11pm
Cliff Pfenning
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After watching a bunch of college and pro football this weekend, it’s not hard for a sports fan, and average citizen for that matter, to wonder when is Oregon going to get back to living again.

Plenty of other parts of the county are getting back to the lifestyle that’s been driving America for decades. What about Oregon?

Especially as the college football season is upcoming here in the Beaver state. Or Duck state depending on your color scheme.

If you’re on Facebook and attached at all to the Portland Timbers fan groups, owner Merritt Paulson is a constant voice for getting fans back into Providence Park. It’s interesting to see the responses.

On Facebook, Paulson gets plenty of pushback. People are still focused on the numbers that get promoted through media relating to the coronavirus, aka COVID-19. But, on TV there were plenty of games with fans in the stands across the South and Central states, where COVID-19 is as prevalent as it is in Oregon. In fact, it’s far more prevalent there than in Oregon, but the leaders of the state are set on eliminating it before sending the all-clear for residents to return to living as usual.

It’s time for a hearty review of Oregon’s settings by governor Kate Brown.

Brown has been the leader of the state’s efforts to keep the pandemic at bay, and whether you agree with her plan or not, the state has tallied just 599 deaths according to its published records through Monday. That’s an incredibly low number considering Brown promoted, in March, the state would have 75,000 cases by May, and immediately secured a wharehouse in Salem with 250 beds to handle the expected onslaught of cases. It never happened.

A significant factor in avoiding cases and deaths was the decision to direct residents to stay at home, and then wear masks when they went into public spaces like stores and restaurants.

But, places like theaters and gyms and stadiums remain off-limits. This weekend bowling alleys across the state pushed back with public displays aimed at the Governor to undue the directives that keep people from gathering in places like ... bowling alleys and gyms and stadiums.

Professional sports have been played without fans since June when the NWSL opened a tournament in Orlando where players were restricted to a “bubble,” where all of the players and coaches would stay and not leave as a best-case for avoiding the virus. It worked for the NWSL and has worked for the NBA and NHL. Major League baseball has played at its home fields since July and done well with the virus considering how many players and coaches and staff are involved with every game. Only a couple dozen games were postponed or cancelled. The NFL, with similar challenges - even greater considering there are double the players and staff for each team - is performing well, too. It’s colleges where things get very interesting for Oregon, because plenty of other colleges and universities, with ever larger teams than the NFL, are comfortable with playing their seasons, and even inviting fans back into the stands - something NFL teams are slowly allowing.

Brown has yet to say whether Oregon and Oregon State should be allowed to have fans at their games, beginning Nov. 7 when both play at home.

 

Defense will tell story of Ducks playoff options

Oregon needs to impress CFP voters to get a spot
By Cliff Pfenning

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.

 

 

Oregon plays way right out of huge win

The Ducks are getting good at losing big games, too
By Cliff Pfenning

Following the Oregon football team’s season-opener against Auburn via radio in Central Oregon Saturday, the game played out as one fans have come to expect these days - the Ducks worked their way into a gut-wrenching loss.

And, it was gut-wrenching in terms of how they lost - they were right on the cusp of a huge win on a national stage, one that would have signaled the program is back as a elite-level power. But, that’s not where the propram is these days. 

Head coach Mario Cristobal deserves the credit for getting the program close to the elite level, but also the blame for just not being able to get there. But more than his game management, it’s his loyalty to offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo that’s a question mark on his program.

Oregon’s offense dictated the flow of games in its glory years. Not so Saturday night. Cristobal said as much after the loss in that Auburn’s defense kept quarterback Justin Herbert from throwing up the field. In fact, in one sequence, Herbert completed three consecutive passes, but they didn’t turn into 10 yards and the offense got stuffed on a fourth-down run that stopped what might have been a game-ending drive. 

The Ducks pretty-much gave up their running game in the second half, too, which just boggles the mind in that it was able to run in the first half, and just plain needs to be able to run to win big games in the future. Put that one on Cristobal and Arroyo. Oregon used to dictate games, and needs to again to get its fans into thinking these games will always turn into victories.

Beyond the coaches, though, it seemed like Herbert played his way out of the first round of the NFL Draft with such a spotty performance. The final score is all you have to look at to get that feel. Oregon’s senior quarterback lost to a freshman playing his first game. Bo Nix made the big plays that won the game not Herbert. Whatever you can think of that went wrong, Herbert had the shot at making them minor issues by converting a few more plays into successes. Instead, he fumbled while not handing the ball off in the first half, got called for intentional grounding in the second half, and the following possession took a 14-yard sack that stalled the drive that turned the ball over to Auburn for the game-winning drive.

Nix made the plays on the winning drive, including a dive for a first down that was measured in inches. Nix got beat in the scorebook by Herbert, but he won on the scoreboard and that’s what NFL scouts look at more than anything. Game leadership counts, and Herbert just has not had that in his career. He’s got 12 more games, including a bowl game, to change that and play his way back into the first round.

And, lastly, Oregon’s beloved play-by-play man Jerry Allen, might be at the end of his career, he made so many miscues during the game, including calling one long run moving from the 20 to the 10 to the 15 and then the five. It was had to know where the ball was on the field in stretches of the game. Hopefully, that won’t affect any more contests, and he’ll be calling the Ducks plays in a major bowl game in five months because the team will be playing in a major bowl game in five months.

 

 

Cristobal reflects on Alabama

New Oregon coach has plenty of experience with Saban
National Report

Oregon coach Mario Cristobol spent four years under Nick Saban as an assistant coach at Alabama.

To say he learned a lot in his time in Tuscaloosa would be an understatement.

Cristobol, who was named the Ducks head coach on Friday, was asked about Saban’s influence on his coaching career Sunday during an appearance on ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM.

“He’s a consummate professional,” Cristobal said. “He’s detailed, a wealth of knowledge. Whether it be in-season, off-season, regiments, structures, practice scheduling, recruiting, setting up a staff, there’s so many things that you learn in your time there. You get the chance to get your PhD in football. That’s what it is.”

Cristobal was officially promoted to head coach a year to the day after Willie Taggart was introduced as the coach at Florida State.

Cristobal -- the co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach -- was named interim coach for the Las Vegas Bowl. However, on Friday, that interim label was removed.

Before heading to Eugene, Oregon, Cristobal spent four seasons as offensive line coach at Alabama. He has six seasons of head coaching experience at Florida International, where he went 27-47, including 20-26 in conference, with two bowl appearances from 2007-12. He was also an assistant at Miami, his alma mater.

All of which shaped his career, he said on Sunday.

“But along the way, there’s no doubt, take a little bit of (Saban) and take a little bit of Jimmy Johnson,” he said. “Let’s not forget about ol’ boy down in Miami back in the day and the things that we were able to accomplish down there.”

Cristobal played his college ball at Miami, where he was an offensive tackle from 1989-92.

Oregon went 7-5 this season, including 1-4 in games without starting quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed time with a broken collarbone.

The Ducks face Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday, entering the game as a 6-point favorite.

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