Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out
In a football season that has certainly had its downs, the Oregon Ducks have emerged as one of the best — if not the best — teams in the conference. A national championship is out of the picture, but a return to the Rose Bowl, while highly unlikely, remains at least a mathematical possibility. That’s something nobody would have guessed possible four weeks ago.
While the football win over Stanford highlighted the week, it was hardly all of the news that broke in Oregon’s favor over the past week or so.
It reminded me of a book that I used to read to my sons when they were little: Mrs. Duck’s Lovely Day. For those dying to know, what made Mrs. Duck’s day so lovely was that it rained after a drought, and it created a puddle of water for Mrs. Duck to swim around in.
It rained all sorts of good things for Oregon sports this past week and the glorious puddle is a collection of Stanford tears, so Mrs. Duck’s Lovely Week is the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.
1. Football is officially back to its winning ways. After a slow start and a midseason meltdown, football is back on track. A month ago, with a 3-3 start and the nastiest part of the season yet to come, a double-digit win season looked impossible. The last time Oregon football failed to win at least 10 games was 2007, which was a “poor” 9-4 outing.
If the Ducks win out, they will extend the double-digit season wins to eight seasons.
“Elite” is such a subjective thing. There are those who say a team can’t be “elite” unless it’s won a national championship.
Well … that’s one way of looking at it, but it always seems to go with a bit of a self-serving attitude, generally espoused by fans of teams that had a controversial share of a national title some years before the internet came along and some years before they lost a dozen straight to the Ducks.
But when a team — after a ragged start — puts itself back into contention to win at least 10 games for the eighth straight year, that is an elite program.
2. Recruiting! Football again gets some electronic ink with a commitment from Ryan Kelly, who was the top rated remaining uncommitted quarterback in the 2017 class. But that was far from the only event that contributed to Mrs. Duck’s Lovely Week.
As reported on Oregonlive.com, the men’s track team landed Drew Hunter and Austin Tomagno, the two highest ranked distance runners in this year’s national recruiting class. Between indoor and outdoor competition, the Oregon men have won four straight NCAA championships. Total domination is on its way.
Women’s basketball has been a bit of a downer the past few years, but that appears to be coming to a close. The Ducks just upset No. 22 North Carolina — and as reported on goducks.com, just signed the nation’s number six recruiting class.
And women’s softball, which gets a new home this year, just signed the top recruiting class in the country. This may be just what the program needs to make the breakthrough from being perennial tournament goers to being national champion.
3. Black eyes for enemies. There’s no substitute for having things go your way, but it’s icing on the cake when things go poorly for your enemies. It certainly sweetens the win over Stanford to know that Oregon knocked the Trees out of the National Championship Playoffs — with one of the things that made a difference being a missed field goal, no less. How poetic is that!
USC nearly choked against Colorado. Let’s hope they bring that game to Autzen Stadium next weekend.
Revenge against Stanford and USC all within the span of eight days would be sweeter than an Oregon Ducks cheerleader with sun in her eyes.
With Utah and UCLA both going down and USC nearly dropping an egg in the Rockies, the Pac-12 South again has the look of a division that nobody wants to win.
With two weeks left, UCLA is still very much in the hunt with a 4-3 conference record. There’s something as comforting as chocolate chip cookies and an old worn blanket about seeing everybody in the South do everything they can to avoid winning the division and having to play Oregon or Stanford in a championship game.
Indeed Stanford wasn’t the only enemy to fall this past weekend. Utah managed to lose to Arizona, a team that just lost to Washington — of all teams — by a score of something like 138-1. It’s too bad the Utes forgot to pack the game they took to Arizona when they were packing for Eugene.
So Stanford and Utah both fell out of the picture for a national championship. When it comes to the Pac-12, it’s Oregon or nobody, by golly.
And speaking of nobodies! Washington blew a 17-point lead and lost to Arizona State, putting itself in a position where it must beat both Oregon State (pretty much a done deal) and Washington State (not highly likely) in order to make it to even the lowest of low bowl games.
Washington resident Bing Crosby sang it best: “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”
Feature photo by commons.wikimedia.org