The Pac-12 was left out of the second annual College Football Playoff. The conference ends up as the odd man out one year after the Ducks made it to the football’s final four. Whether you blame it on the nine-game conference schedule or call it a snub, it won’t change the fact that it happened.
Oregon is at least partially to blame for this. If Stanford had won its matchup with the Ducks, it would have been nearly impossible to keep them out of the top four following their conference championship. Michigan State or Oklahoma would likely be the team looking up, but it doesn’t matter now.
While the Pac-12 may have been left off of the College Football Playoff docket, there is still plenty to be happy about as a fan of the conference and our Ducks. The Pac-12 boasts 10 bowl-bound teams (the most of any Power 5 conference) and several will play in exciting games.
The nationally-highlighted game, of course, will be the Rose Bowl between B1G runner-up Iowa and Stanford, but possibly the most entertaining non-New Year’s 6 game will be between our Oregon Ducks and the TCU Horned Frogs.
In an article from ESPN’s Chantel Jennings for the ESPN Pac-12 blog, she mentions that this Valero Alamo Bowl matchup has a “playoff-level” billing largely due to both programs having such high expectations coming into the season; seasons that were derailed thanks to unfortunate injuries to key players.
We all know how well Oregon played with a healthy Vernon Adams (and how poorly they played without him), but how did TCU play with and without Adams’ counterpart, Trevone Boykin?
Prior to his injury, Boykin was among the Heisman Trophy frontrunners along with LSU’s Leonard Fournette. His offense had been averaging just shy of 47 points per game prior to his injury, and he had accounted for 40 total touchdowns.
And while the Horned Frogs lost to Oklahoma State in Stillwater, they have every reason to believe they could have dealt Big 12 champion Oklahoma their second loss of season had Boykin been healthy (without him, they fell to the Sooners by one point).
A huge part of Boykin’s success is due to the play of his number one target, wide receiver Josh Doctson. Prior to his own injury against Oklahoma State, he had been having an absolutely monster season. Against Texas Tech he amassed 267 yards and 3 TDs on 18 receptions. Between September 19 and October 29, Doctson eclipsed the 100-yard mark and scored at least two touchdowns in every game.
My point here is not to simply sing the praises of the TCU offense, but to point out its strengths and how they relate to the Ducks’ greatest weakness: pass defense.
The Oregon secondary has certainly made strides since being embarrassed across the board to start the season. That said, it is still a very vulnerable unit, and it hasn’t faced an offense that can pass the ball as prolifically as the Horned Frogs. Oregon will need to turn to its own high-powered offense to keep pace, while being wary of giving TCU too many possessions.
This aspect of the game is particularly intriguing given the news that former offensive coordinator Scott Frost has taken a head coaching position at University of Central Florida (Go Golden Knights!).
It remains unclear whether Frost will coach during the Alamo Bowl, but should he elect not to, this game could be one hell of an introduction for wide receivers coach and passing-game coordinator Matt Lubick, who is considered the favorite to fill the vacant OC position.
This game should be an electric battle sure to produce highlight after highlight. I personally can’t wait for January 2. It’ll be a very interesting offseason for the Ducks (new OC and an impending quarterback competition), but let’s enjoy the moment as this season winds down. While the 2015 season was far from perfect, it was a thrilling ride.
Top Photo by Tom Pennington via Getty Images