Pac-12 Title

Oregon football drops out of CFP top 10: So, Rose Bowl?

Oregon football drops out of CFP top 10: So, Rose Bowl?

Oregon is no longer a contender for the College Football Playoff. The Ducks have fallen from No. 6 to No. 14 in the CFP rankings after being upset by Arizona State. Barring an insane amount of surprises over the final two weekends of college football, the Ducks are out of the final four.

So, Rose Bowl?     

The Pac-12 North Division champion Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl by winning the Pac-12 title game on December 6th in Santa Clara, California. Oregon will face either Utah or USC in the Pac-12 Championship. If Utah loses to Colorado, USC will be the Pac-12 South champions. If the Utes beat the Buffaloes, Utah takes the crown.

Another route to roses… If the Ducks lose the Pac-12 title game to Utah and the Utes get into the playoff, Oregon could still go to the Rose Bowl, as the conference’s next best team.

Although, Oregon’s drop out of the top-10 severely hurts Utah’s resume as contenders.

The Rose Bowl is played vs. a Big Ten opponent in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. Possible Big Ten opponents: Minnesota, Wisconsin or Ohio State.

What is the next best-case scenarios for rest the 2019 season?

If Oregon beats Oregon State, loses the Pac-12 Title game which sends Utah to the Rose Bowl, the Ducks are looking at two options: an at-large bid to the Cotton Bowl or the Pac-12’s No. 2 bowl tie-in, the Alamo Bowl.

The Cotton Bowl is played vs. an at-large bid in Arlington, Texas at 10 a.m. (PT) on December 28, 2019. Possible Cotton Bowl opponents: Alabama, Boise State, Florida.

The Alamo Bowl is played vs. the Big 12’s No. 2 team in San Antonio, Texas at 4:30 p.m. (PT) on December 31, 2019. Likely Big 12 opponent: Baylor.

Worst-case scenario?

If Oregon loses to Oregon State and in the Pac-12 Title game, the Holiday Bowl would be the Ducks’ likely destination.

The Holiday Bowl is vs. Big Ten opponent in San Diego, California at 5 p.m. (PT) on December 27, 2019.  

Oregon is one win away from its first 10-win season since 2014 with a chance to be crowed Pac-12 Champions. Now that the national title is out of the picture, senior quarterback Justin Herbert said, “It means everything,” to learn from the ASU loss and refocus on finishing the season strong.

What happens in Tempe, needs to stay in Tempe

What happens in Tempe, needs to stay in Tempe

TEMPE, ARIZONA- Wide receiver Johnny Johnson paced the Oregon sideline with his fists clenched as the clock winded down and the reality sank in. Despite the junior’s late heroics in front of his home crowd, including 40 family members and friends, Arizona State upset Oregon, 31-28. 

The loss killed all hopes of a College Football Playoff berth and marked Oregon’s first loss in Pac-12 Conference play. It was ugly, even cringeworthy at times, displaying a Duck defense repeatedly getting burned, allowing long passing plays and an offense incapable of coming through in the clutch.

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert threw two interceptions. The Duck defense gave up the most passing yards allowed since 2015. Those are uncharacteristic anomalies, not the norm. There is still plenty to play for in 2019… but for the Ducks to find more success, what happened in Tempe must stay in Tempe.

In other words, one loss cannot turn into two losses like in did in 2018 when Oregon lost to Washington State and then Arizona the following week.

Senior linebacker Troy Dye added further perspective when giving advice to long-faced freshman after the defeat,

“You gotta keep moving forward. I mean, I lost seven straight my freshman year (2016), so it could be worse.”

The 2019 team is not the 2018 team and certainly not the 2016 team; they’ve already proven they can bounce back. After losing their season opener to Auburn, the Ducks rattled off nine-straight victories.

A bright spot, Johnson III set career-highs with 207 receiving yards, 10 catches and two touchdowns. Half of Herbert’s completions were to Johnson III, who became the first Duck to surpass 200 receiving yards this season. However, much of that production came in the fourth quarter, after Oregon trailed 24-7.

The sparks came too late for Oregon, ensuing literal fireworks of victory above Sun Devil Stadium as the fans stormed the field stomping on the Ducks’ highest goal.

The Ducks are confident they will let go of this loss to re-establish their mentality to go “1-0”. UO gets a chance to win the Pac-12 Title for the first time since 2014, which would earn an automatic berth to the Rose Bowl. Now that the national title is out of the picture, how important is it for Oregon to aim their ambitions to smell roses?

“It means everything,” Herbert said. “We are coming up on the end of our senior year and playing football here has been the best four years of my life. I’d do anything to have a couple more games. I know we are going to do everything we can this week to get better, learn from it and do our best to get ready for Oregon State.”

Looming is a date with rival Oregon State on senior night and an opportunity to prove Oregon can overcome adversity with a lot left to prove this season.

Well, the Oregon Ducks weren't going to win the national title anyway

Well, the Oregon Ducks weren't going to win the national title anyway

It was all turning around. The Ducks were about to flip the script on Arizona State Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

After pulling to within 24-21, Oregon had the Sun Devils pinned back in their own territory, facing a third-and-16 with five minutes to go. But ASU freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels slung an 81-yard touchdown pass to effectively snuff out any hope that the Ducks could play their way into the College Football Playoff.

But teams with hopes of winning a national championship don’t allow touchdowns on plays like that when they’re in great position to stage a terrific comeback. They don’t allow another one of those OK-but-not-great Pac-12 teams to beat them in a game they had to have.

And if they couldn’t beat Arizona State, which has lost five conference games this season, I have a difficult time believing they could whip LSU or Ohio State.

That’s the cold, hard truth.

And there are other truths that were exposed in the desert Saturday night.

For one thing, the Ducks aren’t as physical as they think they are. On either side of the ball. They could have gotten more pressure on Daniels all night and protected Justin Herbert better. And an even deeper truth is that Pac-12 physical isn’t the same as national-championship physical.

Oregon has a ways to go in that department.

And I think Oregon’s offense this season was trying to go two different directions at once. I believe the head coach was torn between being a run-first, conservative offense and cutting loose his soon-to-be-NFL quarterback. The result was a team that never seemed to find its identity on offense and didn’t function at full throttle in all its games.

The Ducks’ passing attack was not worthy of an All-America caliber quarterback – neither sophisticated nor diverse. I just never thought there was a real commitment to the passing game.

But it matters not. Oregon still has a Civil War game to win and that doesn’t look as easy as it usually is. After that, there is a chance to recover some swag in the conference championship game.

But a national title? It wasn’t going to happen, anyway.

In search of his own legacy, Justin Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Marcus Mariota in the house

In search of his own legacy, Justin Herbert has one of his biggest nights with Marcus Mariota in the house

The No. 6 Oregon Ducks are Pac-12 Conference North Division Champions, contenders for the College Football Playoff, on a nine-game winning streak and have their first 7-0 start to Pac-12 Conference play since 2012.

In a 34-6 victory over Arizona, official King of the North quarterback Justin Herbert demonstrated how he helped lead Oregon (9-1, 7-0 Pac-12) to those massive accomplishments.

“Magical” is how teammate senior linebacker Troy Dye described Herbert’s performance.

“You get the ball in (number)10’s hands and it’s ridiculous, anything can happen,” Dye continued. “He’s a magician with the ball…I’ll tell you what, he makes throws even crazier in practice.”

Herbert’s 333 passing yards marks his most this season and fourth most in his Oregon career. He became just the second player in Oregon history to surpass 10,000 total career yards and 100 total career touchdowns, sharing the milestone with former Oregon quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.  

Witnessing from the sideline donning an Oregon-clad baseball hat pulled down, was Mariota. Despite his efforts to remain incognito, the camera found him, which brought 54,219 Ducks fans to their feet in a standing ovation. He took his hat off and bowed to the crowd in appreciation.

“I can always tell when he’s in town because it’s the loudest the crowd ever gets,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said of Mariota. “There is nothing like being a player and seeing not only all the greats, former Oregon Ducks coming back and being around the program…I love it, will continue to invite them and want to see it happen much more.”

Cristobal stressed the top priority to bring the “Men of Oregon” back to strengthen the Duck legacy and “Oregon family.” He continued to share that when he was a player at Miami, meeting alumni was one of his favorite aspects of the game. Crisobal emphasized that it brings a perspective that the current Ducks are “borrowing the jerseys” and apart of something bigger.

The attention shifted back to the other sneaky-quick quarterback with an elite arm.

Herbert’s show started right away. On the second play of the game, he launched a 73-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Johnson III, the longest pass play of his season. The highlights continued with a reverse flea flicker 53-yard touchdown toss to an extended Juwan Johnson, worthy of a SportsCenter Top 10 nod. Herbert whipped his third touchdown with a back-shoulder bullet to Spencer Webb for 24 yards. Herbert’s fourth touchdown went to Travis Dye on a perfectly-timed 33-yard screen pass, extending Oregon’s comfortable lead before turning the reins over to back-up quarterback Tyler Shough.

Picking the best moment would be challenging. Good thing it’s not necessary. What is mandatory, however, is keeping the offensive momentum as the Ducks finish their two remaining Pac-12 games and beyond. Arizona’s defense is the worst in the conference and looming is a title game against the stout No. 7 Utah Utes.

It'll be the first time Oregon competes for the conference title since 2014 during Mariota's final season. When Mariota is in town, his legacy is loud enough to hurt an eardrum. Now, it’s Herbert’s opportunity to establish his own.

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Flashback to a beautifully crisp winter day and Oregon’s win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Junior Troy Dye hoisted his defensive MVP trophy in the air as fans congratulated Oregon’s leading tackler for three-straight seasons on possibly his last victory in a Ducks uniform.

It wasn’t. Despite gaining traction as a “freak athlete” in NFL circles with an opportunity to make major money in the 2019 NFL draft, Dye chose to stay at Oregon for his senior season. 

317 days later, Dye is still leading No. 6 Oregon in tackles, has jumped up to a projected first round 2020 NFL draft selection and has the opportunity to be hoisting a more prestigious trophy in the air in his actual final season.

Through eight games, Dye’s senior tour has featured 42 tackles with 6.5 for a loss including a sack, three pass breakups and an interception on one of Oregon’s strongest defenses in program history.

His highlights are stunning:

  • In his final home opener, the smiling linebacker danced alone to the familiar tune of “Shout” letting loose and pumping up the rowdy crowd in a moment that will go down in history.
  • Dye recorded a career-high 15 tackles and the most in a season opener in Oregon history vs. Auburn.
  • Dye performed a snow angel in the middle of the W at Husky Stadium after overcoming the largest second-half deficit since 2008.
  • Back in his home of southern California, Dye jumped into the stands after handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The Ducks are undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play, one win from claiming the North Division and contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

On a scale from 1-10, how much fun is Dye having?

“I’m at a 12. I’m having a blast. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, I come here (to practice) with a smile on my face and I’m going to leave with a smile on my face.”

The most telling moment of his season may have come from suffering a broken thumb and gutting it out at Washington. The injury kept him on the sideline against Washington State, snapping his consecutive start streak at 40 games and bringing a reality that it takes only one snap for a football season, or career, to be over. In a cast the size of a club, Dye returned one game later to beat up on the Trojans and show the truth of his character.

“That’s a significant injury that a lot of people would have probably waited to be fully healed and then go and play,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “But what he chose to do is different. When guys like Troy speak, those are strong, powerful and impactful words. This (season) means a lot to him and it shows in the way he approaches practice and everything he does. I can’t say enough great things about him, I think he’s as good as it gets in the country.”

His words impacted Oregon's home opener, in which the Ducks trailed Cal 7-0 at halftime. Dye’s halftime speech eloquently made it clear the Ducks needed to play to their standard. The sentiment was echoed and the Ducks overcame their slow start to beat the Bears 17-7.

His actions speak louder than his words. Since returning and still in a cast for his thumb, the linebacker has hit a new level with three conference games left to play.

“He’s done a tremendous job over the course of the season but you really see it now, down the stretch,” Oregon Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos said. “In my opinion, I think he’s turned it up in practice, since the injury. It made him want it even more.”

Troy Dye agrees that he has hit a new intensity.

“I realized that it can be taken from you. Within a snap, it can be gone,” Dye said. “I’m super fortunate to be able to come back and play with my brothers and end the season how I want to end it. I’m happy, I’m having fun with it and enjoying my time here.”

His teammates couldn’t be happier for him, either. True freshman Mase Funa beams when he details all the tips he’s learned from Dye. Junior Thomas Graham loves to see Dye prosper after witnessing him help change the program from a 4-8 team (2016) to a team on an eight-game winning streak with the biggest goals, a conference title and playoff berth, still possible.

What’s it like for Cristobal to witness Dye live his best life this season?

“I’m jealous. I want to go back to college and do it like he’s doing it,” Cristobal said.

In his final season, the future opportunities are ever-present for Dye. Every Oregon game, more and more NFL scouts grace the media press box. Dye accepted a Senior Bowl invite, where he can show off his elite agility and lateral quickness.

But before all of that, the Ducks need their leader to finish a potentially history-making season, which is exactly the kind of season a junior hopes to return for.

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

The College Football Playoff committee released its second rankings and Oregon jumped from No. 7 to No. 6.

The Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) were idle this weekend but moved up one spot to No. 6 in the Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll because of shakeups in the college football landscape. This jump generated anticipation that the same would hold true in the rankings that matter: the CFB Playoff rankings. Those hopes were realized.

After Alabama’s loss to No. 1 LSU the Crimson Tide dropped to No. 5. Then, Minnesota rose to No. 8 after upsetting Penn State (who fell to No. 9). That created space for Oregon to grab the No. 6 spot.

It’s important to remember that today’s rankings are largely for entertainment value, considering how much football is yet to be played. While they do set the tone, the important playoff rankings will be released in a month. I’ve already detailed why Oregon’s current spot doesn’t matter.

It’s going to take patience for Oregon to break into the top four spots. A Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. But that won’t be enough to move the needle. Neither will victories over Arizona State or Oregon State.

The streaking Ducks can make a real case on December 6th in Levi’s Stadium. A Pac-12 Title and a win over a high ranked Utah team would be the resume piece to make it interesting on the committee. Utah is currently ranked No. 7 in the CFB Playoff Poll.

The first three playoff spots seem likely concrete: the SEC champion, the Big Ten champion and a 13–0 Clemson winning the Atlantic Coast Conference. The fourth spot? A Pac-12 champion Oregon team with a 12-1 record and a “good loss” to No. 12 Auburn, would certainly get a good shot.

The CFB Playoff committee’s protocol is mostly based on eye test and places an emphasis on four things if teams are comparable: 1. Championships won. 2. Strength of schedule. 3. Head-to-head competition (if it occurred). 4. Outcomes against common opponents.

My advice? Cheer for the Ducks to win out and ignore these rankings until Selection Sunday on December, 8th. Patience is a virtue.


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Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Oregon’s No. 7 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll this season keeps the Ducks’ National Championship dreams alive and makes their next four games extremely relevant. Whether you are freaking out (good or bad) or calm as a cucumber like Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal (who watched Oregon’s basketball game at Matthew Knight Arena during the debut rankings release), here is an ideal scenario that’d help the Ducks get into the top four.

First and foremost, it’s essential the Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) cruise through Pac-12 Conference play undefeated. The Ducks are the second highest ranked one-loss team, behind No. 6 Georgia.

The slight against the Ducks is their best wins are against Washington and USC, a pair of unranked 5-4 teams. The combined record of the FBS opponents Oregon has beaten this is season is 30-30. Oregon’s saving grace could be a possible Top 10 showdown with No. 8 Utah (8-1, 5-1) in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A one-loss Pac-12 champion would certainly be in the discussion for one of the four spots.

[READ: "Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks]

Root for Utah… Until the championship game, of course

It’d help Oregon’s chances if Utah excelled in the committee’s “eye test” for the remainder of their conference games. Root for the Utes to destroy UCLA, Arizona and Colorado to finish the season 11-1 in dominating fashion. Then, root for a convincing Oregon victory against a strong Utah team in the Pac-12 title game.

Root for Washington to beat Oregon State in Reser Stadium, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Oregon State is still in the race for the divisional title and is the only team Oregon has not beaten in the Pac-12 North. The Beavers (4-4, 3-2) are second in the Pac-12 North standings and are trending upwards, winning three of their last four.

Ducks fans should root for the Huskies, who are coming off a loss to No. 8 Utah. If the Beavers top Washington, the Civil War would be a pivotal rivalry matchup with the potential for a disaster upset for the Ducks.  

Root for LSU to beat Alabama, 12:30 p.m. Saturday

If No. 2 LSU (8-0) badly routs No. 3 Alabama (8-0) in Saturday’s marquee matchup, it could raise major doubts about the Crimson Tide as playoff contenders (along with its soft non-conference schedule and resume).

Root for Auburn, particularly vs. Georgia (All Ducks fans roll eyes)

Yes,  No. 11 Auburn (7-2) beat Oregon in the season opener, which still stings for many Ducks fans. However, that last second loss will look better if the Tigers can win out down the stretch, specifically against No. 6 Georgia on November 16.

Penn State and Ohio State still play each other. Root for a blowout in that Big Ten clash, one convincing enough to raise serious doubts about the loser.

Root for Oklahoma to lose

Oklahoma (7-1) is ranked No. 9. Root for the Sooners to lose a game against remaining opponents Iowa State, Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma wins out and wins the Big 12 title game, the committee may have to decide between a one-loss Pac-12 champion and a one-loss Big 12 champion.

The poll that actually matters is released on December 8th and there is a lot of football left to be played. No. 1 Ohio State still has to play No. 4 Penn State and who knows, maybe No. 5 Clemson will get upset. However, don’t forget that for Oregon to be a strong candidate, it first must take care of its own business, which Cristobal recognizes.

“It won’t be tolerated here” Mario Cristobal is handling Oregon’s uncharacteristic penalty problem

“It won’t be tolerated here” Mario Cristobal is handling Oregon’s uncharacteristic penalty problem

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks totaled the highest amount of penalty yards in a game since 2005 in a heated game vs. USC last Saturday. After leading the Pac-12 Conference as the least penalized team, Oregon’s 12 penalties for 157 yards against the Trojans, tumbled the Ducks to the bottom of the Pac-12 and heated coach Mario Cristobal’s blood to a boil.

Defensive tackle Austin Faoliu was responsible for two unsportsmanlike penalties and an automatic ejection after a verbal altercation that led to pushing and shoving with a USC offensive lineman in the second quarter.

"That ain’t part of football and it’s been addressed bluntly, directly and with an edge to it because it ain’t us, it’s not going to be us," Cristobal said. "It won’t be tolerated here and the message is loud and clear. That doesn’t help anybody win and it certainly doesn’t make you tough. He knows how upset I am about it. That’s been clearly addressed."

Since taking over as head coach, Cristobal hyper-focused in on reducing penalties.

Remember when penalties plagued Oregon in 2017? Last season, the Ducks successfully improved from the most undisciplined and heavily penalized team in the country to fourth the Pac-12 Conference in penalty yards. Cristobal corrected UO's bad habits to dramatically improve from the FBS-worst 88.31 penalty yards per game to 47.92 penalty yards in 2018.

After a chippy win at USC, Oregon is averaging 70.33 penalty yards per game this season. The Ducks’ discipline has been trending worse as of late, totaling more than 100 penalty yards in three of their last four games.

In order to be taken seriously as a College Football Playoff contender, the Ducks can’t be held back by penalties. Oregon is No. 7 in the first CFB Playoff rankings and a path exists to the final field of four. Extending opponents drives with lack of discipline or creating a tougher situation for the offense, isn’t going to help the Ducks emerge undefeated from Pac-12 play.

Cristobal knows it. Now, he’s hoping the team can execute the discipline he’s coached.

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

"Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks

LOS ANGELES  - Under a hazy pink and purple sunset on the City of Angels, USC fans exited Memorial Coliseum with more than six minutes left in the third quarter as the No. 7 Oregon Ducks rolled to their eighth straight victory. The Ducks beat the Trojans, 56-24, handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The pivotal Pac-12 game, in the entertainment capital of the world, was quite the roller-coaster production.

Entering the second quarter, USC lead by 10 points and the Trojan band chanted “overrated” at the Ducks. Around the same time, I was searching an online thesaurus for more words for “ugly” and getting bombarded by “Justin Herbert is overrated” tweets.

After all, in the first half alone, the Ducks totaled 112 penalty yards compared to 113 yards of total offense.

Then, it began to click for Oregon. Despite lacking composure at times, which made Coach Mario Cristobal turn red in the face, the Ducks responded to a double-digit deficit with clutch momentum shifting plays.

The Duck defense forced four turnovers. Freshman Mykael Wright scored on a 100-yard kickoff return. Junior Jaylon Redd muscled his way to score his ninth touchdown in the last eight games. Herbert’s efficiency shined: finishing 21-for-26 for 225 yards with three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.

The (literal) largest electric play came from wide receiver Juwan Johnson in his first start as a Duck. The Penn State graduate transfer became the first Oregon player to haul in three touchdown catches in a game since Bralon Addison in the 2015 Civil War. The 6-foot-6 pass catcher had seven catches for a career-high 106 yards and most importantly... a winning attitude.

“(Juwan) was electric tonight… One of the best things he did this week was text me in the middle of the night and ask to be on the kickoff team and ask to help with kickoff coverage,” Cristobal said. “When you have that kind of an attitude, good things happen.”

Fresh off a clutch performance against Washington State, it appears Johnson’s prominent role will only grow from here.

“Coming off some injuries, Juwan is a guy that I knew would step up big,” Herbert said. “I don’t think the public has seen his best yet. We knew all along he would be a special player.”

The Ducks’ third straight comeback victory keeps them on track to the Pac-12 title game. When the College Football Playoff Rankings are released on Tuesday, Oregon will be in the mix as contenders. Oregon’s smack down of USC will escalate the playoff talk.

"Without question," Cristobal said, "I feel we need to be in that conversation."

Entering Oregon’s bye week, the Ducks feel the best is yet to come.

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Oregon Ducks' mindset inspired by Tiger Woods

Post-season predictions season has arrived and is here to stay.

It’s likely the Oregon Ducks are headed to the Pac-12 title game, 99 percent likely to be exact. With zero conference losses, Oregon now holds the tiebreaker against every Pac-12 North opponent except for Oregon State.

In the national picture, the No. 7 Ducks are now the second-highest rated one-loss team in the AP Poll, trailing only one-loss Florida, who has a game looming against No. 8 Georgia.

With all the chatter about Oregon’s (hardly) alive College Football Playoff chances, Rose Bowl projections and conference game expectations… How do the Ducks mentally stay present?

“That’s always going to be the monster that we’re faced with, with our generation,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “I think you quickly acknowledge the fact that it’s there but you also acknowledge the fact that we are having success, we’re climbing, but we’re also climbing because other teams had some mishaps on Saturday. That’s the bottom line and that’s the truth.”

Cristobal is referencing the three top 10 teams that lost in week eight: then-No. 5 Oklahoma, No. 8 Notre Dame and No. 9 Auburn. He stressed the importance that Oregon sticks to its “simple” mindset that the most important game of the season is the next game.

While the Ducks are focused on the task at hand, they also lean on inspiration from other athletes. Every “Fast Friday” the coaching staff plays a video to set the mind of the team before their upcoming game.

Ahead of Oregon’s gutsy last minute triumph over Washington State, the video featured the roar of Tiger Woods’ return, which sincerely resonated with the team.

"It started off with Tiger Woods talking about how you never arrive. I think his first Master’s victory was 20-plus years ago… It really hit home with the team,” Cristobal said. “I don’t think you ever arrive. I think it’s a cardinal sin as it relates to sports and individual competitors to ever think that. I think ever since last year we have been learning how to sometimes grind out a tough win, sometimes jump on a team, sometimes be able to withstand a surge from the other team.”

Oregon is off to its first 5-0 start in Pac-12 play since 2013, taking a seven-game win streak to USC for a Saturday showdown at LA Coliseum. The Trojans are leading the Pac-12 South and brimming with talent.

“This year we’ve had a little bit more success up until this point in the season, but fully knowing that there are so many things we have to get better in in order to continue to have success,” Cristobal said. “Your margin for error becomes smaller and smaller, therefore technique and fundamentals really come into play at this time of year. Wanting to play hard and have a lot of passion, it’s awesome, it’s a major ingredient but the other ingredients have to matchup and those ingredients are technique and fundamentals.”

It may be prediction season for media and fans, but for Oregon it’s still regular season, with four tough conference teams looming.

[READ: Positive Oregon injury updates: The Dye Brothers vs. USC]