Heading into the 2015 season, the Ducks had many questions. Questions such as “Who will be playing quarterback?” and “Who is going to start in the secondary?”
These questions lingered throughout the spring and summer and now after one of the most embarrassing performances seen in a while, these questions are still being asked heading into Week 5.
With the Utah game in the past, Oregon now has a chance to move forward, while building momentum for this season and for the seasons to come.
The next three opponents the Ducks will face have all finished in the bottom half of the standings the last few seasons. The games are against Colorado, Washington State, and Washington.
All three of these games are expected wins, but with the rocky start the Ducks have had, now we can’t be so sure.
The next three games will be critical in how the 2015 season ends for the Ducks. Winning the Pac-12 is still possible. and potentially playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game is possible as well (though the Ducks will need a lot of help).
The goals that the 2015 Ducks set out to achieve are still in their grasp, but they still seem to be searching for their own team identity. These three games allow Oregon to potentially gain momentum, answer the questions they have had for over six months and put the 2-2 start in their rearview mirror. They’re capable of doing it, but they cannot overlook anyone in the next three games, and here is why:
Colorado: Since joining the Pac-12, Colorado has consistently finished in the bottom half of the South standings and has only won four Pac-12 conference games since joining the conference in 2011.
Just because the past few seasons in the Pac-12 hasn’t treated the Buffs well, doesn’t mean 2015 can’t be different.
The Buffs are off to a 3-1 start and have some momentum coming into their game against Oregon. A team with belief and momentum can be scary for a team like Oregon. Oregon is down right now and it is a perfect opportunity for the Buffs to potentially steal a game from one of the best teams in the conference.
With a potent offense led by future NFL wideout Nelson Spruce, the Buffs will certainly be looking to finish what Utah started.
Washington State: Washington State is somewhat like Colorado, they haven’t made much noise in the Pac-12 for some time. Even though the Cougars haven’t produced a lot of wins year in and year out doesn’t mean teams should over look them.
The Air Raid offense Mike Leach and staff run is a scary offense to defend. There are so many options for a quarterback and not a lot of time for a defense to make reads.
Oregon has already faced an Air Raid-style opponent in Eastern Washington. The Eagles passed for more than 400 yards against Oregon. With the questions about the secondary still looming, the match against the Cougars will be a challenging one.
Washington: Any game Oregon plays against the Huskies is a big one, but that is especially true about this year’s matchup. Washington hasn’t won since 2004, but once again, you can’t overlook the Huskies, especially in Seattle. Predictions and opinions can be tossed out the window when it comes to rivalry games.
The Huskies see an Oregon team that is down, and nobody knows how the Ducks will respond yet. The Huskies are young, but they’re well coached and will be ready for another chance to take down the Ducks.
With a rough 2-2 start, the Ducks have an opportunity to get back in the win column this week in Boulder and once again, try and answer the questions that remain around them.
The Ducks schedule couldn’t have played out nicer for them. The next three games are against teams that went a combined 6-21 a year ago in conference play and the games this year will be crucial to how this season ends, as well as the legacies of the seniors who have won Rose Bowls and played in a National Title game.
The next three games could pay off dividends in recruiting as well.
Oregon is now at the point of plucking kids form SEC, and Big-10 country. Their name and brand is known all over.
Now is the first time recruits have seen Oregon down, if the Ducks can find a way to win the next three games, and bounce back it won’t only help them achieve the goals they set out to reach this season, but it will also assist in keeping Oregon a school kids think they can compete for a national title at when it comes to recruiting.
Top photo by Gary Breedlove