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.