Oregon Will Win National Football Crown

Autzen Stadium 4, Michigan State, 14, KC

Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out

Though some firmly deny it and others don’t dare to hope it, it’s just a matter of time. The Oregon Ducks will win a national football championship, more likely sooner than later.

But first, a matter that is just a tiny bit off the subject. I received some news this weekend that can only be classified as disappointing. Not devastating… merely disappointing. My son Brian — who I put through the University of Oregon, who worked on the recruiting team that brought in Jonathan Stewart, who got help getting established after college from none other than our dearest Uncle Phil — just got a cat.

What I’m about to tell you is perhaps understandable since he has since moved to (gasp) Seattle and recently married a (gasp-gasp) UW grad. She (Tam) has the good grace to at least profess to be a Ducks fan, but even still, I suppose some compromises have to come about.

This is not "Steven" because they haven't bothered to send a picture, but he's this breed. At least his ears don't stick up like a husky's.


This is not “Steven” because they haven’t bothered to send a picture, but he’s this breed. At least his ears don’t stick up like a husky’s.

Anyway, they named their cat “Steven Hauschkat” after Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka. Granted, there’s a degree of cleverness, since it sounds a lot like ‘house cat,” but here’s the thing — the guy (kicker, not the cat) went to N.C. State. And “Steven” and my other son’s cat, Skwisgaar, are about as close to grandchildren as I will probably ever have. All things considered, the least Brian and Tam could have done was to name the cat Mrowkiss Mrowiota. They could have called him Mrow-Mrow for short and it would have brought a happy tear to my eye every time I heard it. But no. Now I have a grand-cat named “Steven.” …Named after a guy from N.C. State. And N.C. State even wears Adidas, for crying out loud. I know it’s true because I read it on the Internet.

But so much for life’s disappointments and back to the subject at hand. How and why Oregon will win a national football championship is the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.

1. Coaching. Speaking of Marcus Mariota, Oregon has a coaching staff that just produced the best quarterback in the country. The Ducks’ coaching staff has such a great track record that there’s no point even going into details. While Oregon does not have the deep tradition of the other current powers, the success is well past “flash in the pan.” The Ducks’ strategy to maintain continuity among the coaching staff and promote from within has built stability that rivals and outperforms the “traditional” powers.

Oregon, led by Mark Helfrich, has the coaches to win a national championship,

Kevin Cline

Oregon, led by Mark Helfrich, has the coaches to win a national championship,

Further, the continuity is values-based, and this is a point that is often sold short. Emotion can win here and there, but in the long haul, focus, character and work ethic hang around and hang around, and at some point, prevail. What won’t draw so much as a one-game suspension at some programs gets athletes booted off the team at Oregon — because the coaches are willing to sacrifice short-term success for long-term growth and stability.

2. Recruiting. As discussed last week, there is some lament that Oregon doesn’t get more 5-star recruits and that, overall, its recruiting classes tend to come in outside the top ten. While the Ducks’ coaches would no doubt like to have their choice of the 5-stars, being honest with the recruits and coming to mutual agreement about fitting into the system are simply more important. Curiously, only Oregon and Stanford — two second tier teams when it comes to recruiting ratings — have ever won a Pac-12 Championship Game. And both recruit based upon recruits’ character.

Mariota mocked the meaning of stars coming out of high school and deserves to have cats named after him.

Kevin Cline

Mariota mocked the meaning of stars coming out of high school and deserves to have cats named after him.

Oregon’s recruiting focus is sneaky good at identifying opportunities for team growth and getting the individuals who will help round out the team while fitting in. It wasn’t that long ago that the big question was, “Where’s the beef?” And Oregon has been bitten here and there by failing to win a game in the trenches.

The response: While still not garnering top ten recruiting classes, the Ducks have begun building up the beef in the trenches to go with the speed out wide and in the backfield. On the offensive line, recruits 6’6″-298 Shane Limieux and 6’3″-327 Zach Okum will join freshmen 6’6″-320 Braden Eggert and 6’5″-310 Tyrell Crosby and sophomores 6’2″-305 Doug Brenner and 6’4″-300 Matthew McFadden, among other returners.

On the defensive side, the Ducks added 6’3″-290 tackle Rex Manu and 5-star 6’7″ end Canton Kaumatule. Throw in the speed and talent at the other positions, and while the Ducks didn’t land a top ten recruiting class when you add up all the points for stars, they did land a recruiting class that fits the team’s needs very nicely. And this, along with the character of the recruits, is more important than the number of stars achieved in high school.

3. Energy, Synergy and Momentum. Again it was only a year or two ago that the question raged, “Is Oregon elite?” Obviously “elite” is always going to be somewhat subjective. So, if someone’s definition of “elite” includes the requirement of a past national championship, then of course Oregon is not elite. But those who skew the definition to exclude the Ducks are fooling only themselves. The best record in I-A football over the past five years is (present tense) simply more elite than a share of a theoretical national championship thirty or so years ago (yesterday’s news).

Fan who would never name his cat after an NC State kicker shows his support for the Ducks.

Kevin Cline

A fan who would never name his cat after a former Adidas-wearing NC State kicker shows his support for the Ducks.

As mentioned above, Oregon has been at too high of a level for too long to bear the label of flash-in-the-pan. The program is solid at all levels — coaching, recruiting, fan base, stadium atmosphere, national brand marketing… you name it. And there is zero in the foreseeable future to suggest that any of that is about to change.

It has now been all of two days since somebody said to me, “Too bad about the Ducks.” The loss at the national championship level was an emotional setback, no doubt about it, but as Jameis Winston would say, “Get real with yourselfs.” In the past five years, no fan base has had to deal with losses less frequently than the Ducks’ — and the future is bright. It’s not as though it was the Ducks’ last chance. And it’s not as though your kid just named your grand-cat after some kicker from N.C. State.

Somebody — anybody — please tell me you will name your first-born cat Mrowkiss Mrowiota.

Top photo by Kevin Cline

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Mike Merrell

Mike Merrell

Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with FishDuck.com. Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain's finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!

  • cfluegge

    It has been noted, correctly, that Oregon gets more from their talent base than anyone in the country. We don’t have the most talent, due to the distance factor, and we never will. Ergo, to win a NC, we have to be a little lucky as well as good. With all of the injuries this year, culminating in Ifo in Bowl game practice, then Allen on the opening kickoff of Rose, this was certainly not a year of fantastic luck for the Ducks. The coup de grace was Carrington being declared ineligible for championship game. The coaches can talk all they want about “next man up” but as we saw against Ohio State, that has its limits. Had the aforementioned players been available against Ohio State, I think we would have had a shot. Oregon can win a national championship, but it’s going to take all hands on deck, and a game against the right opponent, too. Notre Dame in 2012, would have been nice. Alabama in 2012? That would have been tough sledding…(yes, I realize we wouldn’t have had to play bama that year because of their loss to LSU).

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      we have the talent to come in the top 10 virtually ever year for the last 8 years. if we do not have talented players how do you acccount for that? or are you one of these people who think…for example that marcus mariota was not a talented player because the services only gave him 3 stars.

      • Mike Merrell

        cfluegge and Anthony —

        Thanks for reading and commenting. Re: the issue of whether Oregon has the talented players or not, I think the big issue is the difference between recognized rating service talent coming out of high school (where Oregon comes in second tier) vs. proven talent by the time they are impact players at the college level (where Oregon has the best win-loss record over the past 5 years in all of Division I-A). These are two different things. Oregon finds its success two ways here — taking the time to recognize overlooked potential at the high school level and then out-coaching the other programs so that by the time the players are ready to move on they have left their more highly ranked peers in the dust.

        • Anthony Joseph Gomes

          better coaching is certainly one possibility…mike belloti once said “its not the 11 best players but the 11 players who play best together.” U$C tends to put the guys with the most stars and let them crash around..oregon looks for synergy. oregon also recruits players with the best possible testing numbers over people who looked good in some junior all star game.

          oregon gets the players it wants. U$C gets the players it wants. if vernon adams is as good as i think he is then U$C has maybe 20% chance Nov 21. and why should he matter? he doesnt even have any stars/.

      • cfluegge

        I didn’t say Oregon doesn’t have talent. We just don’t have as much as the usual suspects who finish in the top 5 of the recruiting rankings every single year. Alabama, LSU, Non-sanctioned USC, Ohio State, Michigan, etc. Oregon’s results are off the charts. But those other teams have more players in the NFL.

        • tizl

          I agree with you. Oregon does get a lot of talent, and coaches their players up, but they always have at least one weakness. Obviously our LB corps was lacking this past year. I think the talent on both sides of the line hasn’t been as good as we need in recent years, and we’ve been able to make up for it with the talent of our skill players and scheme (of course, this past year is not a good example of that, imagine if we had a healthy Johnstone-Stevens-Grasu-Hunt-Fisher the whole year? That would have been our best OL EVER).

          Meanwhile, Ohio St. was stacked pretty much everywhere, and were better than our lines. and our LBs couldn’t make up for that.

          Of course the Buckeyes also got help with some early drops from us and and bad non-call that killed another one of our drives, but we were not stopping their running game, and despite all the turnovers we could not score.

          If we had a fully healthy team would it have been a different game?

          • JD

            …and just imagine if Ohio State didn’t turn it over.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    you cant win if you dont show up.


    Oregon gets talented players and really this Team is 3 deep at some positions which is certainly good enough to get it done! I just wish they would coach up the QB’s. Adams with the best Offensive Talent of any College Team in the whole nation should qualify Oregon as the PAC 12 Favorites. I just hope Mahalak and maybe even Waller are ready if someone goes down. Sorry no disrespect to Lockie but I just haven’t seen enough good stuff on the field to claim he can get it done! Like you Mike I believe Oregon is on the cusp of winning it all and maybe they just do it in 2016 with Adams because the Ducks are loaded with Talent. This Team couldn’t possibly have all the injuries that happened last year. Highly unlikely and with the talent they brought in they should only RS Players that W/O a doubt could use a year of seasoning. Merritt, Lovette, Oldofie, Okun, Aiello, Lemuiex, maybe Breeland on Offense, Canton, Manu, Cumberlander, the kid from Louisiana playing CB and maybe 2 to 3 more should all get playing time because they will show Coach’s they deserve it.