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.

Are expectations too high for Mario Cristobal and 2019 Oregon football?

Are expectations too high for Mario Cristobal and 2019 Oregon football?

Oregon football finished 2018 with a 9-4 record, unranked in the AP Poll and 4th in the Pac-12 North. Yet, the hype for 2019 is outrageous.

Quarterback Justin Herbert's decision to return for his senior season has set the bar very high for next season. The Ducks have the 12th best odds in the nation to win the College Football National Title according to Las Vegas, are Athlon Sports' favorites to win the Pac-12 conference and landed at No. 12 on ESPN's way too early Top 25. 

In the video above from Talkin' Ducks, I discuss if these predictions are much too optimistic...You tell me. 

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.

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Washington State

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Washington State

Saturday’s game between No. 12 Oregon  and No. 25 Washington State marks the fourth consecutive ranked game for the Ducks. A victory against the Cougars would keep the Ducks in the race for the Pac-12 title. Here is coverage and how to watch the game...

7:30 p.m. Friday: Talkin' Ducks, NBC Sports Northwest

  • With Jordan Kent, Joey Harrington, Aaron Fentress and Bri Amaranthus

 

4:30 p.m. Saturday: Oregon vs. Washington State kickoff on FOX

  • With Play-By-Play Tim Brando, Analyst Spencer Tillman, and Sideline Reporter Holly Sonders

Get ready for the game: 

Oregon Ducks counting on old man Justin Hollins

8 numbers you need to know about Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon to the Rose Bowl? Chances keep growing

Ducks lose starting LT Penei Sewell for six weeks

College Game Day selects Oregon vs. Washington State

Victory proves it pays dividends to buy Cristobal's "Oregon Football 2.0"

 

 

 

Oregon to the Rose Bowl? Not as farfetched as you may think

Oregon to the Rose Bowl? Not as farfetched as you may think

Saturday’s outcome will have major Pac-12 North Division implications.

The No. 17 Oregon Ducks are 1 ½ games from standing on top of the North division and a victory over the No. 7 Washington Huskies would put the UO back in the race for a Pac-12 title and trip to the Rose Bowl.

So you are saying there is a chance? Yes, I am. If the Ducks win the conference title, most likely their loss to Stanford and weak non-conference schedule would keep them out of the College Football Playoff, and put them in the 105th Rose Bowl against a Big Ten opponent on Jan. 1, 2019.

Here is what would need to happen:

-Oregon (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) beats Washington (5-1, 3-0) on Saturday

-Oregon wins out in conference play

-Oregon beats the Pac-12 South Division winner in the title game

-Stanford loses another game.

The first three conditions are in the Ducks’ control. The fourth condition, Stanford losing another game, is completely possible. The Cardinal lost 40-21 to Utah last Saturday, and have a tough schedule ahead. Stanford plays at Washington and face potential upset games against Cal and Washington State.

The Huskies lead the Pac-12 North and are still College Football Playoff contenders. A win against Oregon would give UW the inside track to the Pac-12 Championship game on Nov. 30. The Huskies would still have a shot at the Pac-12 title if they lose to Oregon, but that would most likely eliminate them from consideration for a College Football Playoff berth.

The Huskies have won five straight following the season-opening loss to Auburn. Last Saturday, UW escaped Pasadena with a closer-than-expected 31-24 victory over UCLA, while Oregon rested up on its bye week.

[READ: LaMichael James says the Ducks have a dog of their own]

Saturday will be a showdown between the Pac-12’s best offense (Oregon) and best defense (Washington).

“It’s as important as it gets,” UO coach Mario Cristobal said. “The intensity of a rivalry like this is through the roof, it’s off the charts. You could talk about it, write about it, explain it, and it still doesn’t capture the true fire and intensity, the true passion that goes behind something like this."

It’s the first time since 2013 that both teams are ranked when meeting. That has occurred five times previously, and Oregon currently leads 4-1 in those situations, including the 45-24 win in 2013. Oregon played at Washington in 2014 with both teams sitting at 5-1. The Ducks were No. 9 while the Huskies were unranked. 

Oregon’s offense leads the conference and ranks 12th nationally with 45.6 points per game. The Ducks are also getting it done on third down, leading the conference and ranking 10th in the nation with a 52.1 conversion percentage.

In contrast, Washington (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing only 13.7 points per game. They have not allowed more than 35 points in 50 games.

Looking at the Pac-12 Conference, it seems like, for the most part, any given game is a toss up. This game is no different. The “Border War” result will provide us with a more definitive measurement of where Oregon stands.

[Ducks' message to fans: Make Autzen the loudest it has ever been]

Saturday is Oregon’s shot at a signature win and upsetting its rival at home. Last time the Huskies were in Autzen Stadium, Washington thumped Oregon, 70-21. Duck fans will remember Washington quarterback Jake Browning pointing at Oregon linebacker Jimmy Swain as he rushed into the end zone for a 1-yard TD on the opening drive. 

Pac-12 title hopes on the line, Top-20 matchup with a rival, Eugene forecast of 75 degrees and sunny… Can you ask for anything better?