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.

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

Oregon rises in rankings after rivalry win

The Oregon Ducks (6-1, 4-0) moved up from No. 12 to No. 11 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after taking down rival No. 25 Washington on the road in their largest second half comeback win since 2008.

Oregon’s sixth straight win improves the Ducks to 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and preserves their spot at the top of the North Division with zero conference losses. It also stifled the Huskies chances at the Pac-12 title. The Ducks have won 14 of the last 16 meetings with Washington, including six of the last seven in Husky Stadium.

[READ: In enemy territory, La’Mar Winston's leadership planted seeds for the future]

It was a polarizing week in the top 25. Among the ranked teams to lose were then-No. 6 Wisconsin, No. 14 Boise St, No. 16 Michigan, No. 17 Arizona St, No. 22 Missouri and 25 Washington.

The Ducks will host Washington State on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7:30 p.m.

In the Pac-12:

  • Zack Moss broke Utah's career rushing record in the Utes' 21-3 victory over Arizona State.
  • Oregon State beats Cal with thanks to a late touchdown and interception
  • Washington State bested Colorado, 41-10
  • UCLA got a 34-16 win over Stanford
  • USC took down Arizona, 41-14

3 keys for Oregon to be victorious against rival Washington

3 keys for Oregon to be victorious against rival Washington

No. 12 Oregon is the only remaining team in the North Division without a loss and looking to stay atop of the North standings. The Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) are looking for their sixth-straight victory to improve to 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013. Washington (5-2, 2-2) needs to win to stay in the hunt for the division title.

Numbers to know: Washington hasn't allowed an opponent to score more than 35 points in a game since a 44-30 loss at UCLA in 2014.

Fun fact: This is the 112th meeting between the Northwest foes.

Betting line: Oregon is a road favorite. The Ducks opened as 3.5-point favorites against the Huskies. The line has since moved to 2.5-points. The over/under is 55 total points.

Key to an Oregon win

In a game that I’m expecting to be a low scoring affair, there are three things the Ducks must do be victorious in Seattle, WA:

Score early

Through seven games, UW has outscored opponents 90-6 in the first quarter. An early Oregon touchdown would help to silence the expected tempestuous and unruly sea of purple fans at Husky Stadium. Striking first would also build on the Ducks’ offensive confidence and the rhythm they established in their past win against Colorado.

Win the turnover battle

UW has forced 13 turnovers and has scored on 11, which ranks No. 15 in the nation in turnover margin. Oregon has an interception in 13 of the last 15 games and leads the nation with 11.7 points per game off turnovers. Capitalizing on any mistakes the Huskies and quarterback Jacob Eason make is crucial.

Red Zone Warriors

Washington ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12 in red zone offense (.906). In contrast, Oregon's defense leads the nation in the red zone: allowing 14 trips into the red zone this season but giving up only two touchdowns (14.3 percent). The contrast of strengths will be fun to watch on Saturday.

How and where to watch

Time: Saturday, Oct. 19, 12:30 p.m. (PT)

Where: Husky Stadium, Seattle, Washington

TV: ABC

Radio: Portland on 1080 "The Fan"; Eugene on KUGN-AM 590

More Ducks:

Oregon upperclassmen teaching Washington rivalry legacy to young Ducks

Good and bad injury updates for Oregon vs. Washington

How Oregon's offense changes without Jacob Breeland

Numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

#FreeMarcus to the Patriots? Ducks fans react to Mariota era ending in Tennessee

Justin Herbert to Tennessee in NFL Draft isn't out of the question

Marcus Mariota responds to benching in the most Mariota way possible

Oregon upperclassmen teaching Washington rivalry legacy to young Ducks

Oregon upperclassmen teaching Washington rivalry legacy to young Ducks

The Ducks will be walking into a tempestuous and unruly sea of purple at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA on Saturday.

No. 12 Oregon (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) looks to stay atop the Pac-12 Conference North Division and beat rival No. 25 Washington (5-2, 2-2 Pac-12) in the rain and toughest road environment UO will face this season.

Of the 70,083 fans expected at the 112th meeting between the Northwest foes, at least 20 of them will be Washington fans converted to Oregon fans.

Senior offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, who graded out as the top offensive lineman in the Pac-12 Conference in 2018, is from Bellevue, Wash. Although he grew up as a Husky fan just a stones throw away from Seattle (13.7 miles to be exact), Throckmorton chose to play for UO over UW, converting 20 of his family members to green and yellow in the process.

The legacy and history of the Oregon-Washington rivalry is as important to Throckmorton as anyone. The senior knows preparation is the key to a win over the Huskies in his final season.

“It comes down to controlled aggression,” Throckmorton said. “Letting that passion and the pageantry of the rivalry give you that little bit of juice to start the game. But, you have to use that in the right way. It can’t come out as raw emotion, it has to come out as controlled aggression.”

Tigard, Oregon-native tight end Ryan Bay has a different perspective. As an Oregonian who grew up cheering on the Ducks against the Huskies, Bay says the opportunity to contribute on Saturday makes the game even more meaningful.

“It’s all about pride,” Bay said.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound senior joined the Ducks as a walk-on in 2015, worked his way to play in all 13 games in 2018 and will likely see an increase in workload this Saturday with the season-ending injury to starter Jacob Breeland.

Bay has done his part to educate and inform the younger Ducks about the bitter rivalry with UW.

“(The underclassmen) will learn quick. The Ducks and the Huskies, we are going to go at it and it’s going to be a fun game. Two tough, physical teams… It’s a battle for the northwest. They are starting to catch on.”

The Ducks won’t change much as they head to Seattle. Oregon plans to focus on its strengths that have translated to wins. 

Oregon's defense has dominated all season, but will face its toughest test against a Huskies team that just put up 51 points in a win at Arizona. Also, Washington reloaded on defense and has one of the best turnover margins in the nation: scored 11 times off 13 turnovers.

Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said it best, "Washington is true to form. Tough, physical, great coaches, great players. A real aggressive scheme that is fundamentally sound… A pretty quintessential Chris Petersen team."

The Huskies need a win over the Ducks to stay in the hunt for the Pac-12 title. Leading tackler, defensive back Myles Bryant is excited for the rivalry game.

"It's always fun,” Bryant told UW reporters. “I feel like games like this you get the best from both sides, so guys prepare hard, guys play hard. Whenever you get that feeling from both teams I feel like it's pretty fun."

Can Oregon take the reigns from a Washington squad who has won the conference two of the last three seasons? It’ll be a Pac-12 North battle between two rivals who must balance the fine line between playing with emotions and letting emotions play them.

Numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

Numbers to know: Oregon Ducks vs. Washington Huskies

No. 12 Oregon is flying into Seattle, WA on a five game winning streak to face rival No. 25 Washington. The Ducks (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division, while the Huskies (5-2, 2-2) are in the hunt to stay in the mix for the division title. It’s the 112th meeting between the Northwest foes and a ranked pivotal division matchup.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

BETTING LINE

Oregon is a road favorite. The Ducks opened as 3.5-point favorites against the Huskies. The line has since moved to 2.5-points. The over/under is 55 total points.

FIVE-GAME DUCK DOMINANCE

Oregon has outscored its last five opponents 195-25. The Ducks have scored 27 touchdowns while giving up just one touchdown. UO has held all five opponents to under 10 points, the first time they’ve done so since 1958.

RED ZONE STOPS

Opponents haven't scored a touchdown against Oregon in nine red zone trips. On the season, the Ducks have only allowed two touchdowns of opponents’ 14 red zone trips, a rate of 14.3 percent that leads the nation.

FAST WASHINGTON STARTS

Through seven games, UW has outscored opponents 90-6 in the first quarter.

HUSKIES STOUT PUNT GAME

Washington is 13th in the nation in net punting (42.78 yards). The Huskies have allowed only one touchback and seven punt return yards this season.

HISTORY

In games played in Seattle, the Huskies are 32-21-4 vs. Oregon. In games played in Eugene, the Ducks hold the edge over UW, 18-13. Oregon has won 18 of the last 24 games against Washington, including last season’s 30-27 overtime win in Eugene.

PENEI SEWELL, BLIND SIDE BODYGUARD

Oregon sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell has been racking up the honors this season. Sewell has been named to Pro Football Focus’ National Team of the Week three times, received Outland Trophy's Offensive Lineman of the Month award in September and earned Pac-12 honors four times. His PFF running grade (94.1) leads the nation and has only committed one penalty in 846 career snaps. Oregon is 11-2 in two seasons with the 6-foot-6, 325-pound lineman starting.

BIG REDD

Junior wide receiver Jaylon Redd has scored a receiving touchdown in five consecutive games, tied for the longest streak in the nation and the first Duck to do so since Josh Huff (2013).  Against Colorado, he scored a rushing and receiving touchdown for first time in his career and the first Duck wide receiver to do so since Bralon Addison (2015).

TO DYE FOR

Senior linebacker Troy Dye left the Colorado game with an injury but is cleared to play at Washington. Saturday will be his 40th consecutive start. His career statistics are among the best in the nation: 3rd in tackles, 4th in solo tackles, 7th in tackles/per game and 11th in tackles per loss/game.

A WIN WOULD...

Improve Oregon to 4-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and become the first Pac-12 team since Stanford in 2017 to start 4-0 in conference play.

BONUS: Good and bad injury updates

[READ: How Oregon's offense changes without Jacob Breeland]

Oregon Ducks move up in AP Poll after major upsets in top 25

Oregon Ducks move up in AP Poll after major upsets in top 25

The Oregon Ducks (5-1, 3-0) moved up from No. 13 to No. 12 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after thumping Colorado 45-3 in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Or.

Oregon’s fifth straight win improves the Ducks to 3-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013 and preserves their spot at the top of the North Division with zero conference losses.

[With NFL Scouts in the house Justin Herbert shows why he is the "best quarterback in college football"]

It was a wild week in the top 25. Among the ranked teams to lose were then No. 3 Georgia, No. 7 Florida and No. 11 Texas.

Oregon remains the top-ranked Pac-12 team, followed by No. 13 Utah, No. 17 Arizona State and No. 25 Washington, who moved back into the top 25 this week. The Ducks will play rival No. 25 Washington in Seattle at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday Oct.19.

In the Pac-12:

  • Washington Huskies come back from halftime deficit to beat Arizona, 51-27
  • Zack Moss lead Utah to a rout of Oregon State, 52-7, in Corvallis.
  • Notre Dame rode Troy Jones' 176 yards to a 30-27 victory over USC.
  • Arizona State rallied to beat Washington State 38-34.

No movement for Oregon football in AP Poll after wild week in Top 25

No movement for Oregon football in AP Poll after wild week in Top 25

The Oregon Ducks (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remain at No. 13 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, after beating California 17-7 in Autzen Stadium in Eugene, OR.

The win improves the Ducks to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013, and preserves their spot at the top of the North Division with zero conference losses.

[READ: High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut]

It was a wild week in the top 25. Among the ranked teams to lose were then- No. 7 Auburn, then- No. 14 Iowa, then. No 15 Washington and then-No. 18 UCF.

Oregon remains the top ranked Pac-12 team, followed by No. 15 Utah and No. 18 Arizona State.

[RELATED: Instant Analysis: No. 13 Oregon edges Cal]

In the Pac-12:

  • Beavs quarterback Juke Luton threw for five touchdowns in Oregon State’s defeat of UCLA, 48-31. OSU is currently second in the Pac-12 North.
  • Stanford stifled then- No. 15 Washington in an “After Dark” football upset, causing the Huskies to fall out of the top 25.
  • Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate threw for 404 yards and three touchdowns in a victory against Colorado. The Wildcats are in first-place in the Pac-12 South.

Who is in 2nd place behind the Ducks in the Pac-12 North? For now, it's OSU

Who is in 2nd place behind the Ducks in the Pac-12 North? For now, it's OSU

In spite of another lackluster offensive effort Saturday against California, expect Oregon to climb in the college football polls this week.

Who else in the Pac-12 are people going to vote for? And it seems there is some sort of unwritten rule that they have to vote for somebody because the conference has had way too many teams appear in the Top 25, given how weak it is. Last week, Washington, Utah and Arizona State joined the Ducks, who were ranked 13th. California, by the way, was 26th.

That’s a lot of teams getting respect for a conference that doesn’t appear to be in line for a berth in the postseason playoffs.

In the Pac-12 North, Saturday’s results led to a curious situation. If I asked you who was in second place in the division behind the undefeated-in-conference Ducks, who would you say?

Well, it’s Oregon State, which, after its convincing win in the Rose Bowl over UCLA, is 1-1 in conference play. Washington, California, Stanford and Washington State now already have two losses.

In the Pac-12 South, the surprising leader is Arizona, the only other team aside from Oregon that’s undefeated in conference play this early in the season. And remember, that’s a Wildcat team that gave up 45 points to Hawaii in a road loss and then allowed 41 to Northern Arizona in a home win. Arizona beat UCLA by just a field goal, by the way.

So if you’re a pollster looking at this conference and you seemingly have to put someone from the Pac-12 up there, it’s got to be Oregon, right? Even though the Ducks were not impressive in that 17-7 win over the Bears in Autzen Stadium.

My take on all this:

Congrats to the Beavers for getting that road win and in this conference, they have a shot at a few more. And Oregon? Keep plugging along, relying on that defense, which is probably going to throttle most of the conference teams it plays. But don’t get too carried away with it.

Folks, this conference is just not very good and on a given weekend, anybody can seemingly beat anybody else. And that's not because they're all great teams.

High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut

High expectations and laughable goals: WR Mycah Pittman's debut

Eugene, OR- Mycah Pittman just shined in his Duck debut in No. 13 Oregon’s 17-7 win over California in which he made two spectacular diving catches that awed the sell out crowd of 54,766 in Autzen Stadium. Yet, the freshman walked off the field slowly, with a concerned look on his face that caused senior quarterback Justin Herbert to stop, put his arm around the young receiver and give him some encouragement.

Why so serious?

Because Pittman’s not satisfied.

“If he could, he’d put another hour on the clock and keep playing, that’s the kind of guy that he is,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “You see how excitable he is when he touches the ball. Those aren’t easy catches, either… I was very happy that he’s healthy because it means the world to him. Looking forward to more explosive moments from him (and fellow slot receiver Jaylon) Redd.”

His four receptions and 43 yards helped the Ducks grind out the ugly win. The Ducks offense woke up just in time to improve to 2-0 in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013. Oregon (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) remains the only team in the North Division without a conference loss.

But Pittman has higher expectations.

“People tell me that I had a great game, I didn’t have any dropped passes, but at the end of the day I feel like I can do more for this team,” Pittman said. “We got a team win and I’m very grateful for that but personally, I’m very hard on myself… I’m a very competitive guy. If I told you guys my goals, you would laugh at me.”

When pressed, Pittman would only add his goals are “really high."

Since stepping foot on campus, the Pittman hype has been full go. During fall camp, he was the most talked about true freshman, making Oregon fans reel in excitement. A shoulder injury, from (of course) making a diving catch in practice set back his plans, changing course to rehabbing and exercising mental reps.

His first game proved that his athleticism and reliable hands are as good as advertised. The “fire in his belly” is also living up to the hype.

“I’ve always told everyone this, he has amazing hands, the best hands I’ve seen from a receiver,” said corner back Thomas Graham. “He’s very tough on himself and I like that, because I’m tough on myself. If you don’t hold yourself to a higher standard than what standard can you tell people to hold you to?”

Pittman’s ruthless attitude is echoed on the Duck defense, which once again came through to keep Oregon in the game. Oregon forced seven Cal three-and-outs and two turnovers.

Freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux also recorded his first sack, finishing the game with two.

“I was so excited, my blood was going I felt like a shark when there's blood in the water," Thibodeaux said. "I mean it was unbelievable."

The relentlessness is also exemplified in sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio, who couldn’t help but stop a rogue fan who ran onto the field during a TV timeout. He was toying with security when Habibi-Likio stepped up to take down the fan, even though strength and conditioning coordinator Aaron Feld told him not to.

“I had no intention to hurt him,” Habibi-Likio said. “It’s a Pac-12 game and we were down and the momentum was slipping away. Cal Coach (Justin) Wilcox seemed frustrated so he was signaling the security to get him and they weren’t able to get him. Coach Feld told me, ‘don’t do it, don’t do it’ because he saw me pacing back and forth but I had to do it.”

Habibi-Likio scored Oregon’s first touchdown late in the third quarter from a situation he is very comfortable with: on the goal line. The Ducks combined for 206 rushing yards, surpassing the rushing total against Stanford (83 yards) in the first quarter alone.

It wasn’t pretty: Travis Dye fumbled the ball twice, Herbert threw his first interception of 2019, Oregon committed eight penalties (four more than their average per game); and CJ Verdell went down an injury (although the X- Ray came back negative, ankle sprain, according to Cristobal).

However, faced with an opportunity to fold, the Ducks stood. Herbert finished 20-for-33 for 214 yards and was able to extend his touchdown streak to 33 games with a one-yard pass to junior wide receiver Jaylon Redd to all but seal the game in the fourth quarter.

All in all, it was a victory in Pac-12 play. The biggest win? The Ducks, like Pittman, aren’t satisfied.

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.