Don’t kid yourself into thinking any concrete conclusions can be drawn from one week of college football. That said, Pac-12 foundations were poured from Eugene to College Station, Seattle to Sydney. The concrete is still soupy but with the right reinforcements Oregon has a legitimate shot at the Pac-12 …
If No.1: If the Pac-12 conference continues to look mediocre … and no one did anything special in Week 1. Conference favorite Stanford beat a below-average Kansas State squad by 13 points. The Cardinal was favored by 15 points based on KSU struggling to a 3-6 record in the Big 12 last year. This was an average performance from the Cardinal, nothing more, nothing less.
Washington dominated Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights are about as significant to the national college football landscape as syrup is to the four food groups.
A very unscientific poll I took entering Autzen Stadium showed that less than 50% of football fans know what conference Rutgers plays in, and they shouldn’t. Rutgers isn’t known for football.
For what it’s worth the Scarlet Knights are in the Big Ten, and are coming off a 1-7 conference record. In 2016 they’ll likely end up being a part of the Big Ten that makes the top half possible. Bottom line, UW should have won by 35 points and they did.
No one else in the Pac-12 stood out, unless you’re counting USC. . . . ouch.
If No.2: The Ducks will win the Pac-12 if Oregon coaches manage Royce Freeman the way they did on Saturday against UC Davis. Thirteen total touches (11 rushes and 2 catches) is a great start to the season. Oregon needs him fresh and healthy for their big games.
Keep him to 15 touches or less against the UC Davis and Virginias of the world, and let him run wild in more competitive games.
If No.3: The Oregon coaching staff must find ways (plural) to give true freshman QB Justin Herbert some quality reps. with the first team offense during games. The goal of these reps must be to score points, not run out the clock.
Kudos to Duck coaches for only test driving Rolls Royce on Saturday with 11 carries, but they made a mistakes in allowing Dakota Prukup to run the option when the game was well in hand. Anyone remember what happened to Vernon Adams last year against EWU and TCU?
Oregon led 39-21 toward the end of the 3rd quarter and could’ve given Herbert a chance with some meaningful minutes left, but didn’t.
Again early in the 4th quarter Oregon led 46-21 and could have made a decision to bring in Herbert, but stayed with Prukup. I know Prukup needs reps, but Oregon is likely going to need Herbert in a big game this season and true freshmen need game reps. to prepare and build on. Herbert needs to be able to make mistakes in a safe game environment. The UC Davis game was a missed opportunity.
If No.4: The Ducks will win the Pac-12 If Oregon stops over using Charles Nelson and under using Devon Allen. Hey, I like Nelson as much as anyone, but both of his fumbles led to two short UC Davis touchdown drives and 14 of the Aggies 28 points.
I’m not overly concerned about Nelson fumbling; he’s a trusted game changer. I’ve seen it and I get it. Nelson had 13 touches when you add up his rushes, catches and returns. Nelson was also targeted another four times, but passes were incomplete.
Compare that to Devon Allen who got one touch, … Uno, … Un, … as in half of two. You get the point.
I know there’s something off when my 13-year-old daughter asks me if Oregon has anyone fast such as Usain Bolt on the team and I say, “Yes, but he’s only touched the ball once this game,” and then she shrugs and asks, “Why?”
If Oregon coaches were trying to save Allen for a future game, so be it. I saw the the shovel pass that blew up, but at least put the ball in his hands five times a game and see what happens. He’s not just one of the fastest men on the field, he’s one of the fastest men on the planet.
If No.5: If Aidan Schneider keeps kicking like he is Oregon has a chance to win the Pac-12. Schneider gives Oregon a kicking edge in every game they will play this year. If he kicks a game winner or two the name “Aidan” might even jump to the forefront of most popular names for newborns in the state of Oregon, boys or girls.
In his career he’s 34-37 kicking field goals and since 2015 he’s 69-69 on extra points. If you watch the pride of Grant High School in pregame warm-ups he has range to 60 yards.
If No.6: Oregon’s safeties need to be less dangerous, … to Oregon … or they will not win the Pac-12. While freshman LB Troy Dye was doing his best Troy Polamalu impression creating havoc in the UC Davis backfield, Oregon’s safeties were tentative at best, regularly a step slow and did not make plays. During the post-game broadcast radio analyst Ken Woody hit the nail on the head. Oregon needs improvement at safety. Can Nelson help again? (Woody’s idea, not mine, but I like it and Oregon needs it.)
If No.7: If Oregon’s receivers keep making plays, the Ducks’ big play potential will allow them to stretch the field and give them a chance to beat anyone in the Pac-12.
No one gets more wide open than Darren Carrington. He’s often 10 feet or more away from defenders.
TE Pharaoh Brown caught his first pass in more than a year, and Johnny Mundt made as athletic a catch as you’ll see from a tight end.
Oregon receivers got open early and often and held onto the ball. OC Matt Lubick should be very pleased. The Ducks have had big play receivers in the past, but they just haven’t been real sure handed. Remember a decade ago Jaison Williams would have huge games and then drop multiple passes a week later?
Bottom line, these Ducks are not dominant; they are average. They are Sizzler not Fogo de Chao … yet.
Oregon could go 5-7, or win the Pac-12 championship, but if they play smart and do some of the things listed above, they’ve got as good a chance as anyone to win the Pac-12.
Writer for FishDuck.com
Must see video: One of the most powerful moments of the 2016-17 college football season occurred Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. In case you missed it, or just want to see it again, here’s 1:21 of video worth watching … no surprise that the program behind this video is led by Mike Riley.
Top Photo by John Sperry