My head is going to explode from the old, but new national narrative about Oregon being “soft.” Yes, I know I am supposed to provide you and a couple of hundred coaches an analysis article each Tuesday, but we have 51 other weeks for that. We have to slay this dragon once and for all while providing you a link to refer to when you hear the banal nonsense being uttered by the ignorant, the stupid, the drunk, or some of the lazy national media.
“Oregon isn’t fashioned to compete with big, strong, physical opponents. At least, not at the highest levels.”
George Schroeder, USA Today
Is Oregon “soft” due to the decline in rushing yardage?
Oregon used to be one of the nations perennial leaders in rushing yards, but declined this year to a final rank of only 20th in the nation in rushing, despite being the Pac-12 rushing champion for an incredible NINTH straight year (237 yards per game). Why has this happened? It is due to the ostensible shift in the Oregon offense by Coach Mark Helfrich toward being a more balanced — and hence more dangerous – attack, in a move I personally applaud. I never thought I’d see the day when Oregon would be 10th in the nation for passing yards (312 per game average), yet utilizing Mariota’s strengths is the mark of a good coach.
The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 3 in total offense, and No. 4 in scoring offense so there was no decline in the usual high overall offensive production unless you are from the 1950’s and view the passing game as soft. Some people actually do, so when we see that the Oklahoma Sooners are moving to the “Air Raid” offense next season — does that make them soft? What about the NFL? They are a passing league, so does that make them a soft league? Let’s push this nonsense aside …
Is Oregon “soft” due to an easy schedule?
Perhaps this could have been true in the distant past, but Oregon finished the season with the No. 5 Strength of Schedule in the nation, one notch above Ohio State. The Pac-12 conference finished with half of the league in the final top 25, according to the newly formed Playoff Selection Committee, including a bevy of teams that the Ducks faced recognized as “physical.”
Check this out:
- Oregon put 46 (Forty-Six) points on Michigan State; are they physical enough?
- Oregon scored 45 (Forty-Five) points on the conference defensive scoring champion, the Stanford Cardinal. The Ducks nemesis?
- Oregon blistered Utah in Salt Lake City with 51 points (Fifty-One) as the intense toughness of the Utes created many season ending injuries on both sides.
- Oregon torched Florida State for 59 (Fifty-Nine) points for a Rose Bowl record and the first loss delivered to the Seminoles in two years.
As Kirk Herbstreit and David Pollack of ESPN reported going into the National Championship game, “Oregon has passed the physical test.”
Did Ohio State do this only to Oregon?
It is interesting how a lie told often enough gains traction. The impression given by many of the lazy national journalists is how the Buckeyes tore apart the Ducks because Oregon was not physical enough. Let’s give Ohio State credit where it is due, as its march to the National Championship was littered with the carcasses of proven “physical” teams.
- Ohio State smacked Michigan State with 49 points in East Lansing … has the national narrative changed for the Spartans? Are they soft now?
- The Buckeyes embarrassed a historically physical Wisconsin team with a 59-point face-plant; does this change the label placed on the Badgers?
- Alabama had 42 points stuck on its four- and five-star defensive roster by Ohio State. Would anyone call a Nick Saban team soft with the same number of points scored on them as the Oregon Ducks?
- Buckeye running back Ezekiel Elliott averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry against Oregon, but destroyed Wisconsin and Alabama with more than 11 yards per carry in Championship/Playoff games.
- Why is the narrative for Oregon different when the same or more points were scored on these other nationally respected teams?
“Oregon is still looking for its first national championship, the Pac-12 Conference has again been scolded and sent to its room to beef up … ”
Bill Plaschke, Los Angeles Times
Were perceptions changed by the ending of the National Championship?
Absolutely, as a 35-20 final score is a victory for the Buckeyes, while a 42-20 win is viewed as a pasting. Oregon had one drive end earlier in the game on the Buckeye six-inch line with no score, thus a 35-20 loss would have been viewed differently with that final result.
The Ducks, however, turned it over on downs from their own 14-yard line with only 1:32 lef,t and the game was secured by the Buckeyes as they made a first down to assure the clock running out in their possession. But then they rushed in a garbage touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the game?
It was poor sportsmanship and a perception-changing act by the Buckeyes. Did everyone but some journalists see that?
Next time you hear how Oregon is soft, or not physical … you will know that the party stating it is one of the ignorant, the stupid, the drunk, or a lazy national journalist.
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/FishDuck.com
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck