Riding a two-game losing streak, Oregon (3-2) still controlled its destiny to win the Pac-12 North and qualify for a second-consecutive Pac-12 Championship appearance. All that stood in the way was Washington (3-1), who Oregon would host at Autzen Stadium.
But then the game was ruled a no-contest due to Washington having an insufficient amount of scholarship players. As the result, the Huskies won the Pac-12 North and were going to return to the conference title game. Oregon was set to play Colorado in a matchup of division runner ups, until Monday.
Washington still could not field a team due to COVID-19 protocols and the Ducks were chosen to replace them as the participant from the North.
The Ducks have had a disappointing season, there's no denying that after second-half collapses against Oregon State and Cal, but all that will be long forgotten with a win Friday in the Pac-12 Championship against USC (5-0).
Oregon has plenty of critics. Many national pundits have stated the Trojans should be named the Pac-12 Champion without a championship being played and others have openly questioned if the Ducks deserve to be in the title game in the first place.
What does Isaac Slade-Matautia have to say to Oregon's critics?
"Just watch us on Friday," said the senior linebacker. "We're going to have to play USC and... kind of build off what we did last year in the [Pac-12] Championship and prove all our doubters wrong."
Oregon defeated then-No. 5 Utah 37-15 in the 2019 Pac-12 Championship.
Now, against the Trojans, the Ducks can repeat on the national stage in the biggest game of the season and they cannot wait.
"It's a wonderful opportunity," said Tyler Shough. "This is what you work for your entire life just to get into this thing but we know the work is yet to be finished. We still have a long way to go. We still have a couple more days left and we're really thankful for the opportunity."
Slade-Matautia added that based on the Ducks' struggles this season, the Trojans will enter the contest confident. USC has the leading passing attack in the Pac-12 with 319.2 yards per game and the league's second-highest scoring offense (35.2).
"[USC] probably thinks they can run the ball and throw all over us because of the mishaps we had in previous games," said the linebacker. "We're just going to come and keep our head down, play hard. Play our game we know we can play. Be physical at the line of scrimmage and we'll go off from there."
However, Oregon's confident in the abilities of their own and fired up to show the nation what it can do, as Shough explained to the media Tuesday evening.
"We're fired up for it... The circumstance of who we're playing, where we're playing? It doesn't matter to us," explained the quarterback. "We're just excited to get down and play some ball."
The Trojans are not the end of who the Ducks want to prove wrong. Oregon clearly hears the skepticism coming from the outside, including from the Oregon faithful.
"Just prove everybody wrong whether it be your own fans or... the opposing team," added Slade-Matautia.
Oregon will get its shot on national television in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday, December 18th at 5:00 p.m. PT.