Pac-12 Title

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

Oregon vs. Wisconsin in the 106th Rose Bowl: 3 things that jump out about the Badgers

There wasn’t a whole lot of drama surrounding the College Football Playoff and bowl game reveal this year. No. 1 LSU will play No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl Semifinal and No. 2 Ohio State will play No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl Semifinal. However, Oregon fans were reeling to see who Ducks would face in the Rose Bowl: Penn State or Wisconsin. It’d be easy to make a case for each but…

Oregon’s eighth Rose Bowl appearance will be versus Big Ten opponent Wisconsin.

In the final College Football Playoff rankings, the Pac-12 Conference champion Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) are No. 6, while Wisconsin (10-3, 7-2 Big Ten) is No. 8.

The Ducks will play in the “Granddaddy of them all” in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. After winning the Pac-12 Championship game against Utah, the Ducks are tied with Stanford for the most conference title game wins with three. Also, the impressive win against the Utes marked the first time the Ducks have beaten a top-5 team since dismantling Florida State in the 2015 Rose Bowl.

Oregon’s 11-win season has been highlighted by some incredible defensive play. The Duck defense has help 12 of it 13 opponents under their season average with the lowest point allowed per game (15.7) in school history since 1966.

[READ:Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight]

Oregon offense peaked at the perfect time against the Utah’s nation-leading rushing defense. The Ducks finished with 432 yards of total offense with 239 yards on the ground. Entering the game, Utah was allowing just 241.6 yards per game and 56.2 yards on the ground.

The Ducks will need another complete game against Wisconsin. A sneak peak into the New Year’s six matchup reveals three important things about the Badgers:

1. It’s Wisconsin’s 10th Rose Bowl appearance, losing each of the last three matchups, which includes the 2012 Rose Bowl when the Ducks deafeated a Russell Wilson led Badgers team, 45-38.

2. The Badgers have an impressive 2019 resume, with three top-25 wins (Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota). Maybe the most intriguing? Wisconsin roared into the Big Ten Championship Game with a dominating first-half lead, but Ohio State rallied back to claim the Big Ten title, 34-21.Their biggest blemish is a one-point road loss to Illinois.

3. Wisconsin’s leading rusher, Jonathan Taylor, plans to play in the Bowl Game. Against Ohio State, Taylor rushed for 148 yards and one touchdown, becoming the seventh player in FBS history to reach 6,000 yards rushing in his career. The junior is considered a likely candidate to enter the 2020 NFL draft. Last month, he was listed as the No. 27 overall prospect by ESPN's Todd McShay and the No. 2 running back by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.

Get your popcorn ready, this is going to be a fun matchup!

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

Budding Oregon football star Kayvon Thibodeaux already breaking records with no ceiling in sight

In Oregon’s Pac-12 Championship game victory, the Duck defense suffocated Utah.

Oregon silenced Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley, who entered the game as the nation’s second most efficient quarterback. The Ducks picked off Huntley twice to add to their nation-leading 19 interceptions this season. Oregon created negative plays with a season-high six sacks, which broke the Pac-12 Championship Game record.

One of their not so secret weapons? True freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who finished with 2.5 of those sacks, setting a new Pac-12 Championship game record for most sacks. Thibodeaux lived in the backfield all night, applying constant pressure on Huntley, almost hunting him like prey.

It’s not the only record Thibodeaux set in the Rose Bowl clinching victory. His blocked punt (which he almost scooped and scored) was the first blocked punt in Pac-12 Championship game history.

The nation’s No. 1 recruit in 2019 has been on a tear in the last five games, adding 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks to his season total.

His nine sacks this season broke Troy Dye’s previous freshman program record of 6.5 sacks. Thibodeaux is in good company, as the first Duck with nine sacks since former Duck, current San Francisco 49er, DeForest Buckner in 2015.

The scary/exciting part? It’s just the beginning for Thibodeaux, with no ceiling in sight.

I feel like I've gotten a lot better. I'm going to continue to get better. You could say it's only up from here, as long as I keep putting in the work, should see good results. --Thibodeaux

Or as he simply put it, “The proof is in the pudding.”

With one game left in his freshman campaign, Thibodeaux can still reach his goal of 10 sacks for the season. Oregon will play in the Rose Bowl on January 1st for the first time since 2014. Will the bright lights of the “granddaddy of them all” intimidate Thibodeaux?

For me it just sounds like another Tuesday.

(Note- The Rose Bowl is on Wednesday, Jan 1.)

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

CJ Verdell makes Pac-12 Championship history and smells like roses

Oregon running back CJ Verdell sprinted across the field at rainy Levi’s Stadium leaving a sprinkle of brown mud flipping from his white Nike cleats.

After barreling into the end zone for three scores in Oregon’s upset victory over No. 5 Utah, Verdell was dashing to the stage, where his teammates awaited, dancing with confetti, alongside the Duck mascot and second year head coach Mario Cristobal.

The sophomore grabbed a ‘Pac-12 Champions’ adorned hat and t-shirt before presented with the Most Valuable Player trophy.

The Ducks won their first Pac-12 Championship since 2014, earning the conference’s automatic berth to the Rose Bowl, by beating Utah 37-15. They snapped Utah’s eight-game winning streak and ended the Utes’ College Football Playoff dream.

Quite frankly, I think maybe these guys all week long got a little bit tired of hearing we weren't the more physical team. It gives you a little bit of an edge. --Cristobal 

Against the nation’s No. 1 rushing defense, Verdell made history. The Utes entered the game allowing an average of 56.3 yards per game, with only one team to rush for over 100 yards. Verdell doubled that amount, alone, with 208 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown that was the longest run in Pac-12 title game history.

How did Verdell feel about being in Utah’s shadow, leading up to the game?

Definitely put a little chip on our shoulders. We try not to focus on the outside noise too much. Hearing they're the most physical team in the Pac-12 made us want to come out here and work even more harder. --Verdell

The clutch performance sent Verdell over the edge to surpass 1,000 rushing yards for the second-consecutive season, becoming the fifth Oregon running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back years and the third to do it as a freshman and sophomore.

Verdell gave all credit to his offensive line.

I couldn't have done anything on that field without the O-line, They made the holes, paved the way for me to give the big runs. I got to give it all up to them. --Verdell

In Oregon’s most complete game of the season, the Ducks won the battle in the trenches, the defense held Utah scoreless in the first half and quarterback Justin Herbert showed off his mobility. Afterwards, Verdell and the Ducks celebrated in the locker room smelling of mud, sweat and a slight hint of roses.

Will rain & strong wind threaten Oregon's offense in the PAC 12 Championship Game?

Will rain & strong wind threaten Oregon's offense in the PAC 12 Championship Game?

The forecast for the Pac-12 Championship game is rainy with projected 20+MPH winds.

This morning, it's beautiful and sunny in Santa Clara, but that's expected to change.

The weather could be a major factor in what will likely be a muddy clash for the Pac-12 title between No.13 Oregon and No. 5 Utah. Levi’s Stadium has real grass, by the way. It could be a muddy mess.

When describing the forecast to Oregon linebacker Troy Dye, he responded, “Sounds like a regular day in Eugene.”

Which is ironic, because it was so sunny in Eugene this week, the Ducks had to prepare for the bad weather with artificial wet drills by soaking the footballs.

The only time the Ducks played in the rain this season was at Washington. In that game, the Oregon offense put up 35 points. Justin Herbert threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns. So, while some might think it will be a ground game, the Ducks win over the Huskies shows Oregon won't be afraid to throw the ball.

Adverse weather conditions could lead to mistakes and sloppy play, but Oregon will need to win the turnover battle to have a chance today.

 

MORE DUCKS

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

How Marcus Arroyo’s name popping up in the coaching carousel affects Oregon

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

10 surprising numbers: Oregon vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

Oregon swagged out in "Nightmare Green" for Pac-12 Championship

Oregon swagged out in "Nightmare Green" for Pac-12 Championship

The No. 13 Oregon Ducks will be donning all "Nightmare Green" on Friday at 5 p.m (PT) in Levi's Stadium against Pac-12 South division winner No. 5 Utah. 

[READ: Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title]

Oregon's "Nike Vapor Fusion" uniform is celebrating its 20th anniversary of their partnership with Nike. The winged helmets are back and the jerseys feature large "Mighty Oregon" font resembling last season's "Oregon Football 2.0" uniform with slight differences. The addition of Nightmare Green is the biggest change while notably no black set was released. 

The battle between Oregon (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) and No. 5 Utah (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) for the Pac-12 Conference crown is bound to be intense with major post-season implications. The Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl as Pac-12 Conference champions (among another option). Standing in their way? The Utes, packed with experienced offensive weapons, one of the toughest defenses in the nation and imminent College Football Playoff dreams.

Utah will be wearing all white.

Numbers to know: Utah leads the FBS in rushing defense (56.3) with opponents averaging just 2.26 yards per carry. The Utes have held 11 of their 12 opponents to under 100 yards rushing and have outscored their opponents 193-61 in the second half this season. 

MORE DUCKS

Three keys for the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 Championship

How Marcus Arroyo’s name popping up in the coaching carousel affects Oregon

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

10 surprising numbers: Oregon vs. Utah in Pac-12 Championship

Mario Cristobal’s ear-catching comments about time of possession

Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title

Justin Herbert's heart is Oregon's X-factor to win Pac-12 Title

Oregon is about to play as the underdog for the first time in 2019 in its most prominent game of the season: The Pac-12 Championship game.

Statistically, No. 5 Utah out-matches the No. 13 Ducks. The Utes have the Pac-12's best defense; a physical team that’s allowing only 56 rushing yards a game. Plus, Utah is the conference’s best rushing team, led by running back Zack Moss with a crazy efficient dual-threat quarterback at the helm in Tyler Huntley.

Also, the Utes are still College Football Playoff contenders looking to make a statement to the committee.

Alas, Oregon has something that Utah doesn’t have: Senior quarterback Justin Herbert, a young man who is looking to bestow a lasting legacy in his swan song season. The Eugene-native has the chance to validate his stamp of greatness and accomplish the goals he returned for in his final Oregon football season.

No one shoulders it more than him. His passion is almost… (pause)… You can almost taste it. You feel it on him sometimes. He is really excited (to compete for the Pac-12 Title). The biggest part for him, is another chance to play with an “O” on his chest with his guys in his senior year in a place he wanted to play. That’s really cool to see. -- Oregon offensive Coordinator Marcus Arroyo 

Following Oregon’s loss at Arizona State, which killed all hopes of a College Football Playoff berth, Herbert said “it means everything” to refocus and aim their ambitions at the Rose Bowl. The Ducks can guarantee a spot in the Rose Bowl with a Pac-12 title win.

Herbert’s coaches and teammates are inspired by his desire and heart as Oregon prepares to play Utah.

He’s the main leader on this team, so we follow what he does. Since Saturday’s game, he’s come out and been the focal point of the whole team. He’s leading the right way, showing by example and telling people what to do. We all follow what number 10 does and we love what he does. -- Troy Dye

Herbert’s message to Dye and the rest of the Ducks?

Compete, compete, compete. Leave it all out there. There are only two teams in the Pac-12 practicing this week.

The Ducks will need spectacular play from Herbert to take the title. A major key to victory will be finding success in the passing game, something that hasn’t been roaring in the past two games (two interceptions at ASU and recording the lowest yardage total of the season vs. OSU).

This is where Herbert’s undeniable talent, passion and love for Oregon come into play. Plus his arm, which compels NFL scouts to keep an analyzing eye on Herbert and project him as a first round selection in the 2020 NFL draft.

Herbert will set his single-season career high in passing (3,151 in 2018; currently 3,140) on Friday, but can he empty the tank and perform at his best against the best?

In the Herbert era, year-over-year the Ducks have shown progress, winning four games in 2016, seven games in 2017, nine games in 2018 and 10 currently in 2019, plus a chance at the Rose Bowl.

His chances to make an impact in an Oregon uniform are dwindling. The 6-foot-6, 237-pound quarterback with the powerful right arm and sneaky-fast wheels has an opportunity for the most substantial win of his Duck career on Friday in Levi’s Stadium.

Rainy, windy conditions in a clash between the most physical teams in the conference vying for the crown… get your popcorn ready.

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

Where Oregon's Bowl path currently stands: Rose Bowl to Alamo Bowl

The College Football Playoff picture is clearing and with two losses, Oregon is no longer a contender.

With one week remaining in the 2019 season, the Ducks are No. 13 in the CFP rankings with a date against No. 5 Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game. Oregon is looking for its first win over a top 5 team since the 2015 Rose Bowl against No. 2 Florida State.

Since the Ducks are out of the final four…

How can the Ducks fly to the Rose Bowl (for the eighth time)?

OPTION ONE

The Pac-12 North Division champion Ducks still have a chance at playing in the Rose Bowl by winning the Pac-12 Title game on December 6 in Santa Clara, California. Oregon will face Pac-12 South Division champions Utah in the Pac-12 Championship.

OPTION TWO

Another route to roses… If the Ducks lose the Pac-12 title game and the No. 5 Utes get into the playoff, Oregon could still go to the Rose Bowl as the conference’s next best team.

Oregon’s drop out of the top-10 hurt Utah’s resume as contenders, but Alabama’s second loss boosted Utah’s chances. The fourth playoff spot opens if No. 2 LSU beats No. 4 Georgia in the SEC championship. Even if Utah beats Oregon, there's still a path for No. 6 Oklahoma to sneak in over the Utes. An impressive second defeat over No. 7 Baylor would make a strong case for the Sooners.

The Rose Bowl is played vs. a Big Ten opponent in Pasadena, California at 2 p.m. (PT) on January 1, 2020. Possible Big Ten opponents: Penn State, Minnesota, Wisconsin.

CAVEAT

If an Oregon loss to Utah causes the Ducks to dramatically drop in the final rankings, there is a caveat that would be relevant to Oregon’s chances to get to the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl traditionally selects the next-highest CFP-ranked team from that conference, but if there is one or more teams closely ranked, the selection becomes up to the discretion of and “will result in the best possible matchup for the Rose Bowl Game,” according to the Rose Bowl Management Committee.

USC is currently No. 22, so the Trojans could threaten the Ducks. In 2016, No. 9 USC was selected instead of Pac-12 South Champion, No. 10 Colorado. 

What is the next bowl game best-case scenario?

If Oregon loses the Pac-12 Title game and Utah is left out of the playoff and goes to the Rose Bowl, the Ducks are looking at the Pac-12’s No. 2 bowl tie-in, the Alamo Bowl.

(By the way, two Alamo Bowl representatives were in the press box on Saturday)

The Alamo Bowl is played vs. the Big 12’s No. 2 team in San Antonio, Texas at 4:30 p.m. (PT) on December 31, 2019. Likely Big 12 opponent: Baylor.

What about an at-large bid?

Auburn’s win over Alabama moves the Tigers ahead of the Ducks for an at-large bid for the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl is played in Arlington, Texas at 10 a.m. (PT) on December 28, 2019.

Oregon earned its first 10-win season since 2014 and has the opportunity to be crowed Pac-12 Champions. Now that the national title is out of the picture, senior quarterback Justin Herbert said, “It means everything” to learn from the Arizona State loss and refocus on finishing the season strong.