On Tuesday, the Oregon Ducks were ranked No. 15 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of this strange and weird 2020 college football season.
The Pac-12 conference’s only hope of seeing one of the twelve teams as one of the last four vying for a National Championship just received a lower ranking than anticipated coming into this season. But the reasoning was completely valid and was once again proven on Saturday.
The reasoning behind putting Oregon at No. 15 was unconvincing wins and it started with the Ducks defense.
Giving up 267 total rushing yards to the unranked UCLA Bruins last Saturday in Autzen Stadium wasn’t going to cut it. Bruins senior running back Demetric Felton rushed for 167 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries, but in the end, Oregon came away with the victory, 38-35. There was an opportunity to prove to the CFP committee that the performance was just a fluke against the rival Oregon State Beavers on Friday.
Containing arguably the best running back in the conference, Jermar Jefferson, would certainly put Oregon back in the mix, right? Wrong.
In the 124th chapter of the rivalry game, the Ducks defense gave up 226 yards and two touchdowns to Jefferson, who finished the game with the most yards by a Beavers running back in the history of the rivalry game.
It was going to take a long shot and some luck along the way, but that ran dry on a foggy Friday evening in Corvallis, Oregon. Now, the Ducks will flush this loss and move on, and with it, all hopes and dreams of a CFP spot.
Would this have been a different outcome if a few key pieces to Oregon's defense (Jevon Holland and Brady Breeze) chose to stay at Oregon this season instead of opting out? Perhaps. But in head coach Mario Cristobal's words, "no excuses." It's a rivalry game.
"I don't think you lean on any excuse. We could talk about the pandemic and all the other stuff, bottom line there has to be improvement in everything we do... Real deal competitors will let this sit in and burn and drive you and pull a team together. That's the only guys that we can have and that's the expectation. The expectation is to come in and get ready to improve and get prepared for our game next week."
“We’re still marinating with this loss but our heads are in bigger places,” said quarterback Tyler Shough. “We’re trying to do something and send out the seniors right because this whole year and this season was unprecedented and I’m really proud of our guys and the way we’ve worked to this point, but we know we got to step it up a whole lot better.
For the defense, it’s about accountability getting back to that 1-0 mentality this next week.
“It’s all about accountability,” said sophomore safety Verone McKinley III. “We got to look ourselves in the eyes and look at each other and realize what we need to be better at and what we need to emphasize. We can’t just put this on the coaches. They put us in position to make the plays and we got to execute. It’s all about execution at the end of the day, so we got to come together and realize that ‘Look, we’re not doing well here or we’re not doing well here,’ and emphasize the little things because the little things can turn into big things.
After the loss, the Ducks fell behind the Washington Huskies (2-0) in the Pac-12 North division.
Oregon (3-1) will now turn to the Cal Golden Bears (0-3) on Saturday, December 5 in Berkeley, CA.