Oregon Football

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

No. 6 Oregon in excellent position in CFB Playoff Poll: Patience is required

The College Football Playoff committee released its second rankings and Oregon jumped from No. 7 to No. 6.

The Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) were idle this weekend but moved up one spot to No. 6 in the Coaches Poll and Associated Press Poll because of shakeups in the college football landscape. This jump generated anticipation that the same would hold true in the rankings that matter: the CFB Playoff rankings. Those hopes were realized.

After Alabama’s loss to No. 1 LSU the Crimson Tide dropped to No. 5. Then, Minnesota rose to No. 8 after upsetting Penn State (who fell to No. 9). That created space for Oregon to grab the No. 6 spot.

It’s important to remember that today’s rankings are largely for entertainment value, considering how much football is yet to be played. While they do set the tone, the important playoff rankings will be released in a month. I’ve already detailed why Oregon’s current spot doesn’t matter.

It’s going to take patience for Oregon to break into the top four spots. A Duck win this Saturday vs. Arizona would clinch their third North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. But that won’t be enough to move the needle. Neither will victories over Arizona State or Oregon State.

The streaking Ducks can make a real case on December 6th in Levi’s Stadium. A Pac-12 Title and a win over a high ranked Utah team would be the resume piece to make it interesting on the committee. Utah is currently ranked No. 7 in the CFB Playoff Poll.

The first three playoff spots seem likely concrete: the SEC champion, the Big Ten champion and a 13–0 Clemson winning the Atlantic Coast Conference. The fourth spot? A Pac-12 champion Oregon team with a 12-1 record and a “good loss” to No. 12 Auburn, would certainly get a good shot.

The CFB Playoff committee’s protocol is mostly based on eye test and places an emphasis on four things if teams are comparable: 1. Championships won. 2. Strength of schedule. 3. Head-to-head competition (if it occurred). 4. Outcomes against common opponents.

My advice? Cheer for the Ducks to win out and ignore these rankings until Selection Sunday on December, 8th. Patience is a virtue.

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The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

The magic number for Oregon vs. Arizona

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) is on track to the Pac-12 Conference Title game and in the running as a College Football Playoff contender. The Ducks have three conference games left and Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) is the next opponent they must beat. The Ducks are coming off a bye with a lot on line… Here are 10 numbers you need to know about the 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Autzen Stadium.

CROWN ON THE LINE

A Duck win against the Wildcats in the Pac-12-After-Dark game would clinch the North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 championship. It would be Oregon’s third Pac-12 North crown.

AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE

Oregon is one of five FBS teams (Baylor, Clemson, Minnesota, Ohio State) off to a 6-0 start in conference play. 

BETTING LINE

Oregon opened as 26.5 point favorites over Arizona, which marks the Ducks’ sixth straight home game as a double-digit favorite.

BALL HAWKS

Oregon leads the nation with 17 interceptions, which is the program's most through nine games since 1988. The Ducks' 11.78 points off turnovers per game ranks second in the country and is a major contributing factor in the Ducks’ eight-game winning streak. Jevon Holland and Verone McKinley III each have four picks, leading the team. Eleven different Ducks have recorded an interception.

DON’T MESS WITH HOLLAND

Holland, a sophomore, leads active Pac-12 players in career interceptions with nine. The Jim Thorpe semifinalist is tied for the most career interceptions among sophomores in the nation.

UPSET HISTORY

Arizona has beaten Oregon each of the past three matchups where the Wildcats enter unranked and the Ducks enter ranked. The Wildcats topped No. 19 Oregon, 44-15 last year that featured Arizona running back J.J. Taylor rushing for 212 yards and two scores.

THE MAGIC NUMBER, 40

In the last 12 games between Oregon and Arizona, the Ducks are 7-0 when scoring more than 40 points per game and 0-5 when scoring less than 40.

GOOD INJURY UPDATE

Oregon’s top two running backs, backs CJ Verdell (groin) and Cyrus Habibi-Likio (quad) are expected to play against Arizona. Starting right guard Dallas Warmack (hip flexor) is also good to go.

DON’T UNDERESTIMATE TAYLOR

Arizona’s rushing attack ranks second in the Pac-12, led by JJ Taylor who is ninth in the Pac-12 in rushing with 566 yards. The Wildcats’ total offense (495.8 yards per game) ranks 12th in the country and second in the conference.

EXPLOSION PLAY ALERT

Arizona has had five plays go for 70 or more yards this season. Across the country, only Oklahoma State, Alabama, Colorado State and UCF have more.

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Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Mario Cristobal’s ear catching comments on expanding Mykael Wright’s role

Oregon true freshman Mykael Wright has earned the nickname “silent assassin” from his teammates. His quiet demeanor, number two jersey and superstar type skills draw the comparison to NBA star Kawhi Leonard. The cornerback lived up to that label in the No. 7 Ducks’ win over USC when he killed USC's momentum and returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the first half.

The speedy freshman had only regularly began working as a kick returner earlier that week. However, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal was not shocked when Wright completely transformed the energy of the game. The top-ranked cornerback in the nation (ESPN, 2019) returned punts in high school and provided tape highlights, which Cristobal often refers to. Cristobal instantly noticed Wright’s natural instincts as a returner.

“Naturally, when the ball is in the air, he knows how to get to it,” Cristobal said. "He knows how to handle receivers and handle guys who show late hands. When he’s had the ball in his hands in practice when he gets a pick or something of that nature, he just has a natural feel for following his blockers or setting up his blocks.”

His versatility has provided a solid foundation and a major strength for Oregon. During his two seasons at Valencia high school in California, Wright had nine interceptions and 25 tackles on defense. On offense, he picked up 1,986 receiving yards in addition to 26 touchdowns.

Entering this season, junior starting cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. tabbed Wright as a future freshman All-American. Now, Cristobal is game planning an increased role for Wright.

“Without question, he’s an electrifying player back there,” Cristobal said. “I think the more he does it, the better and better he’ll get. We don’t want to extend him too much because he’s got a lot going on with special teams and playing corner for us, but his role on teams is going to expand.”

The natural playmaker’s next opportunity will come this Saturday night, as Oregon looks to beat Arizona to officially punch its ticket to the Pac-12 Conference title game.

Three notable changes to Oregon’s depth chart ahead of Arizona

Three notable changes to Oregon’s depth chart ahead of Arizona

No. 7 Oregon has the opportunity to clinch its third Pac-12 North Division title and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship with a win over Arizona (4-5, 2-4 Pac-12) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Autzen Stadium.

Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) will look to avenge last season’s loss at Arizona and extend this season’s undefeated streak in conference play and at home (5-0).

Oregon coach Mario Cristobal released the depth chart ahead of the game and there are three notable changes:

1. Graduate-transfer Juwan Johnson is co-starter with redshirt freshman Bryan Addison at “Z” wide receiver position. Expect an increased role for Johnson after back-to-back clutch performances.

“Coming off some injuries, Juwan is a guy that I knew would step up big,” quarterback Justin Herbert said after Oregon’s win at USC. “I don’t think the public has seen his best yet. We knew all along he would be a special player.”

2. At tight end, true freshman Patrick Herbert is listed as co-backup (with Spencer Webb) to senior Ryan Bay. Patrick Herbert has played in two games this season but has yet to catch a pass.

3. Junior Brady Breeze will start at boundary safety. Junior Nick Pickett was called for targeting in the second half against USC and will be out for the first half against Arizona. Regardless of Pickett's status, Breeze "has certainly earned the right to be on the field more," Cristobal said.

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Podcast: Oregon reaping the benefits of Justin Herbert, Troy Dye returning for senior seasons

Podcast: Oregon reaping the benefits of Justin Herbert, Troy Dye returning for senior seasons

Remember when Justin Herbert gave Duck fans the best Christmas present of them all? On December 26, 2018, Herbert announced he would forgo the 2019 NFL Draft and return to Oregon for his senior season.

On January 10, the good news kept coming: Linebacker Troy Dye would also return to Oregon for his senior season.

What a difference it has been for Oregon (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) this season to have these two on the field.

Justin Herbert didn’t look like himself in the first quarter vs. USC last Saturday, but then went on a reign of terror over the Trojans to finish the game. You can’t get over that mental bump without experience, and Herbert has four years of it. The offense couldn’t get it together in weeks one and two of Pac-12 play, putting up just 21 points over Stanford and 17 on California, but now have found their groove.

The defense allowed just 25 points through five games before giving up 31 points to Washington, 35 to Washington State and 24 to USC. Those are a lot of points given up to good offenses, but the defense found a way to get it done. 

Talkin’ Ducks host Jordan Kent said on the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast:

“I look at what this Oregon team has done, and don’t forget you had Troy Dye and Justin Herbert come back for their senior seasons because they felt there was unfinished business, and the issue with the team last year was you got to the second half of the season and this team wilted. You got to the second half of games and this team would wilt. That’s not the case this year.”

The Ducks are reaping the benefits of having the senior leadership of Herbert and Dye out on the field. Their leadership and talent (duh) is helping Oregon finish games: Herbert’s final minute drive to set up the game-winning field goal vs. Washington State and the defense coming up huge vs. Washington stopping a fourth down conversion.

In the last eight games, Oregon has outscored its opponents 170-41 in the second half.

Last season, the Ducks struggled on the road: A 14-point loss at Washington State followed by a blowout loss at Arizona, and then a one-touchdown loss at Utah. Take a breath. This season is a different story. A 3-0 record on the road with big wins in front of hostile crowds: Washington and USC. 

And with just three conference games remaining, the Ducks must take care of business as their hopes and dreams of a College Football Playoff are slim, but exist.

Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

CFB Playoff scenario: Who gets in? A one-loss, Pac-12 champ or a one-loss, non SEC champ?

CFB Playoff scenario: Who gets in? A one-loss, Pac-12 champ or a one-loss, non SEC champ?

There is no two-loss team that will be in the College Football Playoff come January.

With just three games remaining on No. 7 Oregon’s (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) conference schedule and the first CFB Playoff rankings out, let the speculations begin regarding who will be the last four teams standing with a chance for a National Championship.

Let’s take a glance at the first CFB rankings (through Oregon):

1. Ohio State (8-0)

2. LSU (8-0)

3. Alabama (8-0)

4. Penn State (8-0)

5. Clemson (9-0)

6. Georgia (7-1)

7. Oregon (8-1)

On the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast, hosts Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman break down specific scenarios the Ducks could be in come December.

“A one-loss Pac-12 champion gets into the College Football Playoff. You will not see a one-loss SEC or Big Ten team that did not play in their conference championship game leapfrog a one-loss Pac-12 champion,” said Kent.

Here's a scenario: First, Alabama loses to LSU on Saturday and then will not play in the SEC championship game. Then, Oregon defeats Utah in the Pac-12 title game. So, does a one-loss Alabama team jump Oregon for the potential fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff?

Kent continues:

“If an Alabama team with one loss who doesn’t earn its way into its conference championship game deserves to go, you’re basically assuming if Alabama played in that conference championship game, they would win. They wouldn’t have another loss on their resume. That’s the risk you run when you do go to these conference championships. You have a chance to get loss number two.”

Why would it be beneficial not to play in that game?

In a year where the Pac-12 North was down (underwhelming performances from Washington, Washington State and Stanford), Oregon still took care of business on the road at UW, USC and their only loss came to an eventual top-10 team in Auburn. 

Will that, and potentially a Pac-12 championship, be enough to pass both the resume and “eye test” for the CFB Playoff committee?

Listen to the full Talkin’ Ducks Podcast below:

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Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Five things to root for to help Oregon’s CFB Playoff chances

Oregon’s No. 7 ranking in the first College Football Playoff poll this season keeps the Ducks’ National Championship dreams alive and makes their next four games extremely relevant. Whether you are freaking out (good or bad) or calm as a cucumber like Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal (who watched Oregon’s basketball game at Matthew Knight Arena during the debut rankings release), here is an ideal scenario that’d help the Ducks get into the top four.

First and foremost, it’s essential the Ducks (8-1, 6-0 Pac-12) cruise through Pac-12 Conference play undefeated. The Ducks are the second highest ranked one-loss team, behind No. 6 Georgia.

The slight against the Ducks is their best wins are against Washington and USC, a pair of unranked 5-4 teams. The combined record of the FBS opponents Oregon has beaten this is season is 30-30. Oregon’s saving grace could be a possible Top 10 showdown with No. 8 Utah (8-1, 5-1) in the Pac-12 Championship Game. A one-loss Pac-12 champion would certainly be in the discussion for one of the four spots.

[READ: "Best is yet to come" from Juwan Johnson and the Oregon Ducks]

Root for Utah… Until the championship game, of course

It’d help Oregon’s chances if Utah excelled in the committee’s “eye test” for the remainder of their conference games. Root for the Utes to destroy UCLA, Arizona and Colorado to finish the season 11-1 in dominating fashion. Then, root for a convincing Oregon victory against a strong Utah team in the Pac-12 title game.

Root for Washington to beat Oregon State in Reser Stadium, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Oregon State is still in the race for the divisional title and is the only team Oregon has not beaten in the Pac-12 North. The Beavers (4-4, 3-2) are second in the Pac-12 North standings and are trending upwards, winning three of their last four.

Ducks fans should root for the Huskies, who are coming off a loss to No. 8 Utah. If the Beavers top Washington, the Civil War would be a pivotal rivalry matchup with the potential for a disaster upset for the Ducks.  

Root for LSU to beat Alabama, 12:30 p.m. Saturday

If No. 2 LSU (8-0) badly routs No. 3 Alabama (8-0) in Saturday’s marquee matchup, it could raise major doubts about the Crimson Tide as playoff contenders (along with its soft non-conference schedule and resume).

Root for Auburn, particularly vs. Georgia (All Ducks fans roll eyes)

Yes,  No. 11 Auburn (7-2) beat Oregon in the season opener, which still stings for many Ducks fans. However, that last second loss will look better if the Tigers can win out down the stretch, specifically against No. 6 Georgia on November 16.

Penn State and Ohio State still play each other. Root for a blowout in that Big Ten clash, one convincing enough to raise serious doubts about the loser.

Root for Oklahoma to lose

Oklahoma (7-1) is ranked No. 9. Root for the Sooners to lose a game against remaining opponents Iowa State, Baylor, TCU or Oklahoma State. If Oklahoma wins out and wins the Big 12 title game, the committee may have to decide between a one-loss Pac-12 champion and a one-loss Big 12 champion.

The poll that actually matters is released on December 8th and there is a lot of football left to be played. No. 1 Ohio State still has to play No. 4 Penn State and who knows, maybe No. 5 Clemson will get upset. However, don’t forget that for Oregon to be a strong candidate, it first must take care of its own business, which Cristobal recognizes.

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: No. 7 Oregon prepares for the final stretch

Talkin' Ducks Podcast: No. 7 Oregon prepares for the final stretch

Just three more games left in 2019 conference play.

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks have their second and final bye this weekend and begin their final stretch of Pac-12 play next Satuday vs. Arizona followed by Arizona State and Oregon State.

Our Talkin' Ducks hosts Jordan Kent and Anthony Newman go over how it looks like the Ducks have finally become a complete team with all cylinders firing. Also, Oregon survives a daunting stretch in their schedule (Washington, Washington State and USC) and end it with a huge win against the Trojans last Saturday. So, what does this mean about their college football chances?

Listen to the full podcast below:

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Oregonian Brady Breeze earning title as a momentum changer

Oregonian Brady Breeze earning title as a momentum changer

Brady Breeze is one of the best Ducks to interview after a game. Reporters huddle around the junior who wears a huge smile and leaves an easy-breezy impression. The safety keeps it real and produces some of the best story-leading quotes.

On the senior linebacker Troy Dye’s infamous dance to “Shout” during Oregon’s home opener and domination of Nevada:

"He was just having fun, today was a day to have fun,” Breeze said after the victory. “Sometimes when you are playing football, you are so focused on making a call or the next play, that you don’t enjoy that you are playing in front of thousands of people and living your dream."

The Central Catholic High School standout referenced the 1994 ‘Gang Green’ Ducks following Oregon’s 45-3 whooping of Colorado:

“We’re rocking and rolling right now," Breeze said. "We’ve still got to get better… We’re trying to be Gang Green 2.0. That’s what we talk about. I’m excited to see what we can do with this defense."

The Medford, Oregon-native has been dreaming about starting for Oregon since he was a kid, looking up to the play of former Duck John Boyett. Due to a second half targeting call on Nick Pickett at USC, Breeze is set to make his first collegiate start against Arizona. Regardless of Pickett's status, Breeze "has certainly earned the right to be on the field more," Cristobal said.

“This is my fourth season at Oregon, and I’ve never started a game," Breeze said. "It’s been a little frustrating, but it’s alright… That’s something I can check off my bucket list. But I can’t really focus too much on that. We’ve got to focus on Arizona because they’ve got a good quarterback and a good team."

Yes, he talks the talk. He’s also walking the walk.

Breeze earned Pac-12 defensive player of the week after leading the No. 7 Ducks with a career-high seven tackles in Oregon’s win at USC. He provided momentum-changing plays in the chippy game including a pick-six and a fumble recovery. Breeze made the type of hustle plays that opened Cristobal’s eyes a little wider.

"Brady played a great game. You want to talk about making big-time plays, he did and he changed the momentum of the game,” Cristobal said. “It speaks volumes for him. He’s certainly earned the right to be on the field more so we got to make sure we make that happen.”

Working with the first team defense, the opportunity for Breeze to continue to swing the momentum is clear. Oregon will face Arizona in Autzen Stadium on Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

“It won’t be tolerated here” Mario Cristobal is handling Oregon’s uncharacteristic penalty problem

“It won’t be tolerated here” Mario Cristobal is handling Oregon’s uncharacteristic penalty problem

The No. 7 Oregon Ducks totaled the highest amount of penalty yards in a game since 2005 in a heated game vs. USC last Saturday. After leading the Pac-12 Conference as the least penalized team, Oregon’s 12 penalties for 157 yards against the Trojans, tumbled the Ducks to the bottom of the Pac-12 and heated coach Mario Cristobal’s blood to a boil.

Defensive tackle Austin Faoliu was responsible for two unsportsmanlike penalties and an automatic ejection after a verbal altercation that led to pushing and shoving with a USC offensive lineman in the second quarter.

"That ain’t part of football and it’s been addressed bluntly, directly and with an edge to it because it ain’t us, it’s not going to be us," Cristobal said. "It won’t be tolerated here and the message is loud and clear. That doesn’t help anybody win and it certainly doesn’t make you tough. He knows how upset I am about it. That’s been clearly addressed."

Since taking over as head coach, Cristobal hyper-focused in on reducing penalties.

Remember when penalties plagued Oregon in 2017? Last season, the Ducks successfully improved from the most undisciplined and heavily penalized team in the country to fourth the Pac-12 Conference in penalty yards. Cristobal corrected UO's bad habits to dramatically improve from the FBS-worst 88.31 penalty yards per game to 47.92 penalty yards in 2018.

After a chippy win at USC, Oregon is averaging 70.33 penalty yards per game this season. The Ducks’ discipline has been trending worse as of late, totaling more than 100 penalty yards in three of their last four games.

In order to be taken seriously as a College Football Playoff contender, the Ducks can’t be held back by penalties. Oregon is No. 7 in the first CFB Playoff rankings and a path exists to the final field of four. Extending opponents drives with lack of discipline or creating a tougher situation for the offense, isn’t going to help the Ducks emerge undefeated from Pac-12 play.

Cristobal knows it. Now, he’s hoping the team can execute the discipline he’s coached.