First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now

First Herbert, then Ionescu: The time for Oregon Duck titles is now

“Loss fatigue”… Have you heard of it? Some Oregon Ducks fans may be currently experiencing it like a persistent cold after Oregon women’s basketball came * this close * to a chance at its first national title. After missing 11 of their final 12 baskets, Oregon was inches away from beating top-overall seeded Baylor, who advanced to beat Notre Dame to claim the crown.

Sigh.

No doubt the Ducks community is very proud of the women’s team, who appeared in the program's first Final Four. However, * this close * doesn’t equal a national championship trophy. The University of Oregon hasn’t won a national championship in a sport besides track and field, cross country or golf since 1939 when men’s basketball won the first-ever NCAA Tournament.

Always the shiny (green, yellow, white, chrome, etc) contenders, never the champs?

2019 is the year that gives Oregon fans an excuse to dream of rings.

Two Oregon star athletes passed on the opportunity to turn professional and earn a paycheck because they thought the opportunities at Oregon were greater. It takes a certain player mold to take that risk and the Ducks are blessed with two elite athletes who could lead their teams to great success.

Yes, the paychecks were vastly different amounts, but guard Sabrina Ionescu and quarterback Justin Herbert both decided to walk away from the money on the table with the hope to accomplish more in Eugene, Oregon.

Projected to be the No. 1 pick in WNBA draft, Ionescu had 24 hours following Oregon’s loss to declare for the draft. The junior is chasing her own records already; holding the NCAA record for career triple-doubles with 18 and earning back-to-back Pac-12 Conference player of the year and first-team All-American honors.

Smashing goals is what she does. Her goal when she signed with Oregon as ESPN’s No. 4 ranked recruit was to change the program. The 5-foot-11 guard dreamed the Ducks would sell out Matthew Knight Arena and battle with the NCAA’s best on a national stage. She’s checked both those boxes.

With one more accolade in mind, the Oregon star opted to stay at Oregon.

“I think she’s left her mark,” twin brother Eddy Ionescu said. “Now her only goal is to win an NCAA championship for her team and the university."

With Ionescu’s return, Oregon has certainly cemented its foothold in the national spotlight and could enter the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll.

Her influence is larger than rankings and she is one-of-a-kind in the Oregon community. Her relatability is palpable and personality vibrant; kids, men and women wait after Oregon games for autographs and photos.

Those who chanted “One more year!” to Ionescu as the Ducks cut the nets in the Moda Center after winning the Portland Regional, got their wish.

“We have unfinished business. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” Ionescu wrote in the Players Tribune. “My teammates and I, our coaches, our fans, this program — we’re not going on a ‘run,’ you know what I mean?? We’re not doing one of those things where, like, a team appears out of the blue, on the backs of a few good players, and then makes some noise for a season or two before heading back underground.

“Nah. This isn’t that. We’re building something special in Eugene.”

Ionescu’s return solidifies that the Oregon women’s basketball program has elevated it’s standard and discarded its “newbie” title among the nation’s elite. The Ducks return most of their team and a very determined Ionescu… The countdown to next season is on.

The countdown to watch Herbert, the 6-foot-6, 235-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels, is much shorter.

As a projected top 10 draft pick, why resist the NFL and give up literally millions of dollars? As Herbert said, “Nothing could pull me away from the opportunities that we have in front of us.”

Herbert took a risk by returning. The 2019 quarterback class is viewed as relatively weak and Herbert’s measurables alone would have made him one of the first quarterbacks off the board. However, there may be some reward for his risk, as some teams are already pondering if it’s worth it to wait to draft a quarterback in 2020.

Freakishly fast and athletic, returning for his senior season gives Herbert the opportunity to further develop his decision-making, accuracy and improve as an NFL prospect. 

The Eugene-native has a chance to play with his younger brother Patrick Herbert, a four-star tight end. At 6-foot-5, 225-pounds, freshman Patrick Herbert’s strength is catching the ball in traffic. You could be hearing a lot of “Herbert to Herbert” ringing through Autzen Stadium.

[READ: Takeaways from Oregon football Hillsboro scrimmage: changed physiques, freshmen highlights and Duck “celebrities”]

Herbert’s decision to return provides him a chance to lead the Ducks back to national prominence and change the course of his legacy. A once dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate, he wasn’t even an All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick in 2018.

Oregon is likely be the favorite in the north division and the conference for 2019. The Ducks enter year two under head coach Mario Cristobal with a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, an influx of young talent at receiver, eight returning starters on defense and a few extraordinary freshman who could make instant impacts. Oregon's leading tacker each of the last three seasons, inside linebacker Troy Dye, will also return for his senior season. 

I’m not predicting that Oregon will win the National Championship next season, a Pac-12 title ring is much more likely. However, the urgency is on for Oregon football to take the next step and to make the most of Herbert’s senior season in the same way Oregon maximized Marcus Mariota’s return five years ago.

Mariota elected to stay for his redshirt junior season and subsequently won the program’s first Heisman Trophy, led Oregon to a Pac-12 title, a Rose Bowl victory and a trip to the National Championship game. Once again, the Ducks were * this close * to taking the first ever college football playoff crown.

Is 2019 the year Oregon loses * this close * from its vocabulary? Is 2019 the year Ducks fans can burn all the signs that have the “O” logo with “number of national championships” below it?

The answer is yes if you ask Ionescu or Herbert… and that is probably the cure to any “loss fatigue” you are feeling.

Does LaMichael James think the CFB Playoff should be expanded?

Does LaMichael James think the CFB Playoff should be expanded?

Oregon great LaMichael James added restaurant owner to his resume this week, opening a Killer Burger franchise.

I went to the grand opening and was impressed by the amount of Ducks fans there. The atmosphere was like an excellent backyard party: James passed out “perfect” burgers, "21" jerseys everywhere, cold beer in the glasses, good music, and Oregon sports paraphernalia on the walls (including signed jerseys by friends Damian Lillard, Russell Wilson, Jordan Bell and Jacquizz Rodgers).

I caught up with James about life after football (spoiler alert, his next Killer Burger location is Eugene!) and also asked his take on some hot current topics.

Who does James think will win the Super Bowl? Should the College Football Playoff be expanded? Of all the Ducks on the current roster, who does he love watching the most?

Watch the video above from the Brian Noe Show for more. 

 

Will Oregon football win its first national title next season? Odds are...

Will Oregon football win its first national title next season? Odds are...

I’m pretty sure Clemson’s orange and purple confetti was still falling after beating Alabama in the 2018-19 National Title game when college football playoff odds for next season were released.

Naturally, Alabama(5-to-2) and Clemson (9-5) are the favorites to win the CFP national title next season, according to Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas.

Do you think 2019 is Oregon’s year to contend for a Pac-12 title and trip to the playoff? If you want to put your money where your mouth is, Ducks fans, now is the time. Oregon has 30-to-1 odds to win the title, the 12th best odds in the nation.

The only other Pac-12 team given odds at SuperBook is Washington, slightly higher than Oregon, at 25-1.

Notably, Auburn’s odds to win it all are 50-1. It will be all eyes on the Ducks vs. Auburn on August 31 in Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium.

If you think 2019 is shaping up to be a special year for Oregon football, you aren’t alone. ESPN ranked the Ducks at No. 12 on its 2019 Way-Too-Early Top 25 and Athlon Sports named Oregon the favorite, over Washington, to win the Pac-12 in 2019.

Oregon has not won a Pac-12 title since 2014.

However, when quarterback Justin Herbert passed on the NFL, he put UO at the top of the Pac-12 pecking order. The Ducks bring back 10 starters on offense that ranked No. 2 in the Pac-12 in scoring. The running back duo of CJ Verdell and Travis Dye are just getting started, while the line, comprised for four seniors and 133 combined career starts, should be among the best in the nation.

After being rumored for a few head coaching jobs, defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt returns. The defense loses key components including safety Ugo Amadi, linebacker Justin Hollins and defensive end Jalen Jelks, but probably will retain its leading tackler, draft-eligible junior Troy Dye. After starting six sophomores in 2018, the 2019 defense could make an improvement. Not to be overlooked, the Ducks add incoming freshmen defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Mase Funa, who could make an impact right away.

The Ducks will have to overcome one of the hardest schedules in the nation. Yes, Oregon will have two bye weeks and no back-to-back road games but the slate is tough, playing on the road against Auburn, Stanford, Washington, USC and Arizona State.

The Ducks finished 2018 with a 9-4 record and unranked in the AP Poll, but did receive votes after beating Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl, landing them at No. 33 in the nation.

Are you confident in Oregon’s 30-1 odds to win it all? Bet $100 and win $3,000, oh, and Oregon football’s first ever national title.

It turns out that College Football Playoff just as messed up as BCS or polls

It turns out that College Football Playoff just as messed up as BCS or polls

It's fixed. It's all a setup.

College football set up a playoff system, ostensibly to fairly determine a national championship on the field, rather than by simply holding a beauty contest masking as a poll. But what we ended up with this weekend is another example of the sport being more concerned with TV ratings and ultimately cranking the money machine up even higher.

Ohio State meets Clemson in the first round. Alabama plays Washington. It's really all about trying to set up an Urban Meyer-Nick Saban matchup for the championship -- two superpowers and two supercoaches meeting in a ratings bonanza.

In a four-team playoff, Ohio State shouldn't even be in the mix. At least by the listed criteria of the College Football Playoff on its website. That website says:

The selection committee ranks the teams based on conference championships won, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, comparison of results against common opponents and other factors.

Conference championships won? What conference did the Buckeyes win? Penn State won the Big 10 in the conference's title game while Ohio State sat home watching. I'm actually shocked Washington got in because you know the committee was dying to put Michigan in, for the TV ratings a rematch with Ohio State would draw. But apparently winning the Pac-12 matters more than winning the Big 10, even though most people believed the latter was a more powerful conference this season.

Of course, the playoff should include at least eight teams with automatic berths for the Big Five conference title winners and then three wild-card teams. That would cover all the teams that belong in the playoff -- including, this season, the Buckeyes and red-hot USC. And not Michigan, which lost two of its last three games.

And it's silly when people make the argument that the controversy of having just four teams and the fuss over who gets chosen is good for the sport. No it isn't. It never has been. A whole lot of people complaining about what you're doing is never a good way to market your product. We heard the same excuse for the BCS system for years and that whole thing stunk.

For me, it's just one more example of why I've lost a degree of interest in college sports over the years. It's a bunch of kids working hard at their sport to enable a bunch of wealthy athletic departments and their administrators to generate as much money as possible off the sweat of those kids. Exploitation rules. This isn't about finding the best team, it's about making the most money.

That's fine if this is strictly business, but it isn't. This is supposed to be "student-athletes" competing on a level playing field. You know, the purity of sport. I can't even write that without smirking.

It's a mess.