One week ago, the Oregon Ducks had just received news that the Washington Huskies had to cancel their upcoming game at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. The Huskies were unable to field a 53-man roster team due to COVID-related issues.
But that also meant the Huskies were crowned the Pac-12 North division champions by default. Without even playing.
The Ducks were crushed.
No rivalry game. No North title. And the preparation for facing the Colorado Buffalos began.
Until earlier this week when the Pac-12 conference announced that Oregon would face Colorado down in L.A. just in case Washington couldn’t field a team for the conference championship game, Oregon could be there to fill in if needed.
Shortly after, news broke of that situation coming to life and the Ducks began preparations to face the undefeated USC Trojans in Friday’s championship contest.
Five days later, and the Ducks were crowned Pac-12 champs after a 31-24 upset win over No. 13 USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
But that didn’t stop the criticism Oregon was getting all week and following the win, saying that Oregon couldn’t even win the North division and this shortened and sporadic season doesn’t even count anyways.
Don't tell that to the Oregon players.
Following the game, MVP of the Pac-12 title game Kayvon Thibodeaux was very honest about the outside noise on this “asterisk season.”
The Ducks had come into this title game coming off back-to-back brutal losses to Oregon State and Cal. But Thibodeaux took note of how both the Beavers and Golden Bears celebrated their win over Oregon. The Ducks were preseason favorites to win the Pac-12 again, have been recruiting at an untouchable level and had the best chances in the conference to potentially reach the CFP.
A win over this Oregon team was like winning the Super Bowl.
“It’s funny that you say that because, if you look back at the two games we lost, the teams that we played against celebrated, they loved it. It was the Super Bowl,” Thibodeaux told The Athletic’s Tyson Alger. “If I want to be honest, it feels like we supposed to do this. I couldn’t even tell you that I was excited that we won or couldn’t tell you I didn’t expect it, it’s just when we come to play, we come to play. We left it all on the field.
This Pac-12 football season has been full of surprises. From being the last Power-5 conference to have a plan in place for the season ahead, re-doing the regular season schedule three times, players opting out and back in, cancelling and scheduling new opponents within just a few days…
Some would argue that this particular season was even harder to win a conference title.
“We were just talking about it in the locker room,” said head coach Mario Cristobal after the game. “Back in March, we said whoever handles this pandemic the best is going to end up holding up that trophy. And I think it starts with that. We are really regimented and really get after them all day to the point where we’re rough to deal with sometimes, but they’ve managed to find a way to stay healthy, make it to every single game and sure enough found ourselves here in the Pac-12 Championship and got it done.
Oregon will now face an at-large opponent in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl on Saturday, January 2, 2021.