Rose Bowl

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.

How and why Oregon could be headed to the Holiday Bowl

How and why Oregon could be headed to the Holiday Bowl

The Oregon Ducks finished Pac-12 Conference play with a win over Oregon State and their list of potential bowl games has narrowed and improved. 

It might be a little early to book your travel (hello, holiday airline deals!) but it is very possible Oregon will play in the Holiday Bowl on New Years Eve. Bowl selection can get convoluted, so here is a quick breakdown.

No Roses for Ducks: Oregon’s chances to play in the Rose Bowl have wilted away because the conference champion will play in Pasadena. But the other six bowls with Pac-12 ties are still in play.

Ducks in Pac-12 Standings: Oregon (8-4, 5-4) is fourth in the North Division behind Washington State, Washington and Stanford; and tied at fifth in the conference. The Ducks could move up if Cal beats Stanford, creating a three-way tie in which Oregon wins the head-to-head.

Remaining deciding factors:

  • If Washington State gets selected as an at large bid to a New Year’s Six game, probably the Fiesta bowl. If that happens, the Ducks would have one less team ahead of them.
  • How other bowls select Pac-12 teams

How does that selection work? In the Pac-12 conference, a bowl is allowed to select any team in standings order within one loss of the next ranking. Oregon has four losses, along with Arizona and Cal (Stanford game pending).

When will we know? December 2 is when Bowl games, starting with the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six, will be announced.

Which bowl games could Oregon go to? Here are the games, in order:

Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12, Dec. 28, 2018, San Antonio, Texas

  • Technically possible for Oregon but the loser of the Pac-12 title game is probably headed to San Antonio.

Holiday Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, San Diego, Calif.

  • Possible, if Washington State receives an at-large bid to a New Year's Six game, Pac-12 title game winner goes to Rose Bowl, and loser to Alamo Bowl.
  • Holiday Bowl picks between Stanford, Oregon, Cal, ASU.
  • Could pick Ducks because of a fan base that travels well.
  • Oregon hasn’t been to Holiday Bowl since 2008.

Redbox Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, Santa Clara, Calif.

  • Possible, if Washington State receives an at-large bid to a New Year's Six game, Pac-12 title game winner goes to Rose Bowl, and loser to Alamo Bowl.
  • Also, possible if Washington State DOES NOT go to New Year’s Six game and Cougars go to the Alamo Bowl, Pac-12 winner to Rose Bowl and Pac-12 loser to Holiday Bowl.
  • Redbox Bowl picks between Stanford, Oregon, Cal, ASU.
  • Could lean towards Stanford due to proximity.

Sun Bowl vs. ACC; Dec. 31, 2018, El Paso, Tex.

  • Possible. If Washington State DOES NOT go to New Year’s Six game and Cougars go to the Alamo Bowl, Pac-12 winner to Rose Bowl and Pac-12 loser to Holiday Bowl, and Redbox Bowl does not select Oregon.

Las Vegas Bowl vs. Mountain West, Dec. 15, 2018, Las Vegas, Nev.

  • Possible. If Washington State DOES NOT go to New Year’s Six game and Cougars go to the Alamo Bowl, Pac-12 winner to Rose Bowl and Pac-12 loser to Holiday Bowl, and Redbox Bowl or Sun Bowl do not select Oregon.

Cheez-It Bowl vs. Big 12 #6, Dec. 26, 2018, Phoenix, Ariz.

  • Possible. If Washington State DOES NOT go to New Year’s Six game and Cougars go to the Alamo Bowl, Pac-12 winner to Rose Bowl and Pac-12 loser to Holiday Bowl, and Redbox Bowl, Sun Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl do not select Oregon.

What is being projected for Oregon around the nation?

SB Nation predicts Holiday Bowl vs. Northwestern

Sports Illustrated predicts Holiday Bowl vs. Iowa

Bleacher Report predicts Holiday Bowl vs. Wisconsin

ESPN predicts Redbox Bowl vs. Minnesota

 

Stay tuned for possible opponents in a later post.

What are Oregon's potential bowl game destinations?

What are Oregon's potential bowl game destinations?

The Oregon Ducks became bowl eligible on Saturday after earning their sixth win of the season against UCLA. 

Oregon’s Pac-12 Conference title hopes, and thus its Rose Bowl chances, pretty much wilted away when Washington State (5-1 Pac-12) defeated California on Saturday. However, the conference has tie ins to plenty of other great bowl games. 

In the Pac-12 rankings, Oregon sits tied for third in the North Division with Stanford, but the Cardinal beat the Ducks to earn the head-to-head tiebreaker. Four Pac-12 teams are currently bowl eligible; Washington State (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12), Washington (7-3, 5-2), Utah (6-3, 4-3) and Oregon (6-3, 3-3).
It might be a little early to book your travel (especially considering the madness of the conference) but my prediction is that Oregon will be in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 in Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. In order to get there, the Ducks must win two of their final three games and end up fourth in the conference.

The Ducks' remaining games are at Utah, versus Arizona State and at Oregon State.

Around the nation, Athlon Sports and USA Today predict Oregon in the Sun Bowl vs. Pittsburgh and Boston College, respectfully. CBS and ESPN have the Ducks in the Redbox Bowl, while Sports Illustrated has Oregon as an at-large bid for the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl vs. Houston.

Here is a quick look at Oregon’s likelihood for each Bowl game the Pac-12 has affiliations with:

Rose Bowl vs. Big Ten, Jan. 1, 2019, Pasadena, Calif.

Impossible. The Pac-12 champion goes to the Rose Bowl if not selected in the College Football Playoff. Oregon is not in the race to win the conference title.

Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 #2, Dec. 28, 2018, San Antonio, Texas

Not very likely. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins out
  • Washington loses one game (remaining games; versus Oregon State, at Washington State)
  • Pac-12 South champion has at least four losses

Holiday Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, San Diego, Calif.
Possible. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins out
  • Pac-12 South Champion has more losses than Oregon

Redbox Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, Santa Clara, Calif.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins two of its final three games and ends up ranked 4th in the conference

Sun Bowl vs. ACC; Dec. 31, 2018, El Paso, Tex.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins two of its final three games and ends up ranked 5th in the conference

Las Vegas Bowl vs. Mountain West, Dec. 15, 2018, Las Vegas, Nev.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • To end up as the conference’s No. 6 option, Oregon would likely need to win one of its final three games. 

Cheez-It Bowl vs. Big 12 #6, Dec. 26, 2018, Phoenix, Ariz.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • To end up as the conference’s No. 7 option, Oregon would likely need to win one of its final three games. 

The Ducks could also end up an at-large bid, if the conference has more than seven bowl eligible (six or more wins) teams or if they lose all three remaining games.

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?