After Week 1: I See Oregon Winning the Pac-12, … IF …


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 …

More relevant than Rutgers?

From Video

More relevant than Rutgers?

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.

Too much running?

Gary Breedlove

Too much running?

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.

Carrington watches it for a TD!

Gary Breedlove

Carrington watches it for a TD!

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.

Mike Ostrom
Writer for
Dallas, Texas

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


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Mike Ostrom

Mike Ostrom

Mike Ostrom is a 1989 Oregon Graduate (Journalism Major) He worked on air as the Sports Director for a CBS affiliate for six years and has free lanced for ESPN, Fox and other media entities. Mike now resides in Dallas, TX. He and his wife play zone defense with their five kids ages 16, 12, 11, 11 and 11. Mike’s full time job is in the Google/Bing advertising space. His family runs a small ministry that provides soccer balls for orphans and underprivileged kids around the world.

  • Matt B.

    Fun read and good observations in offense. The bigger if is on the other side of he ball. . .

  • It was enjoyable and some good observations, although I think I’m going to disagree with your wish to reduce the number of touches by Nelson. Since he is not playing defense, and does not get the ball that much on offense due it being spread among so many skill players–the more on Special Teams he gets the ball, the more Oregon will get superior field position and the occasional TD.

    I am delighted whenever you have time to share your thoughts with us Mike!

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      ill split the difference with both of you. im not mad at charles nelson for what he did im mad at him for what hes going to do next. if he doesnt learn from his mistakes there are just too many talented players the ducks could give those touches to.

  • Platypus

    I think an ‘If #8’ might be order. If by calling Oregon “Average” you mean…one of the most dominate teams in the country year after year over the last decade then I’m ok with that. The Ducks are anything but average and this year won’t be any different even though they may not meet all of your ‘IF’ points. (A side note) there’s been some discussion around about a few teams trying this Pro set up tempo offense, it sounds interesting and was wondering if it’s something that could help the Ducks in certain situations.

  • Anthony Joseph Gomes

    i cant figure out why the 7-6 huskies got rated so far ahead of the 9-4 ducks. the argument was that prukop lacked experience and was not ready even though he played 4 years of college ball and had a 158 passing efficiency rating(carson wentz had a 152 in the same weight class). the reason given for the huskies high ranking was that they were returning many of their veterans….yes veterans on a 7-6 team and they had better players than the ducks. well first of all if they had better players why did the ducks beat them 4 years in a row? second if you look at the year before last the huskies had 3 players taken in the first round of the NFL draft and one in the second. unlike the media morons i respect the NFL scouts because they put their money where their mouth is. if they get it wrong they get fired unlike the media experts. but those 4 top notch players led the huskies to 0-4 against the ducks. mike belloti once said “its not the 11 best players who make the best team but the 11 players who play best together. also weak links in the lineup and lack of depth kill you. the media doesnt get this and probably never will.

  • Michael Ostrom

    AJG – some people are referring to this phenomena as being “Husky High” or “Dawg Drunk.”
    Fortunately, there’s a treatment facility for this ailment and it seats 55,000 people.

    Invite any of your friends who are suffering to clear their calendars on Saturday, Oct 8th. This is a one day, 3-4 hour program and has had a 100% cure rate for everyone in attendance for more than a decade.
    Address: 2700 MLK Jr. Blvd, Eugene, OR 97401. Husky supporters can attend in person, but are encouraged to watch on TV from the comfort of their own home.


    I agree to the reference about Hebert getting 1 token hand off to end the game basically. This is what Helfrich does and it’s embarrassing as he should know the most about injury’s to that position. Hebert needs real game reps as throw the freaking ball down the field. Against Virginia if the Ducks are up 4 scores at any time during the 4th quarter Helfrich needs to give him some ” REAL REPS BEHIND CENTER ” as throw the ball run the ball and score some points as this will give the young man encouragement that he can in deed play with the big boy’s. Anyone like to place a bet that Prukop gets banged up and the back up has to come in this year? All the big schools like Os Bama don’t care what the score is when they put someone else in behind center to give them reps. Helfrich shouldn’t care either because Oregon needs to win the freaking championship soon not later if the program is too make that next step. Doesn’t freaking matter what they build here better than others because BIG TIME Recruits want to see them win it all. I like Helfrich and the moves he made after the TCU debaucle but he still has a whole lot to improve on and that means GAME Type substitutions with his QBs.

  • Erik Lund

    Well written Mike! I think with all of the speed we have at the skill positions and assuming that the QB settles in, the Ducks have as good a chance as anyone in the Pac 12. Our schedule also is blessed. Can’t wait to watch it play out. Cheers my friend! Go Ducks!!

  • duckusucker

    I thought Nelson was at corner last year? Charles appears to be way undersized for safety, plus we have options if Tyree continues to underperform (Williams had some plays, he also has rust from his injuries last year and deserves a break, at least for one game).
    I agree with Helf’s decision to get as many reps for Prukop as possible; this week, if we play a good game, Herbert should see significant time in the second half. I certainly hope, if that occurs, guys aren’t too hard on him, expecting him to be Mariota-like in his first game!
    Agreement on paucity of tough PAC teams, but that could hurt eventual strongest at season’s end when playoff spots are awarded. Plus, it’s too early to write off teams with major rebuilding: they could get a lot tougher as the first games play out.
    Whazzup w/Taj G? He’s a game changer that should see 1/2 dozen touches, minimum. He never gets enough to develop a rhythm. Granted, his snot-bubble on Allen, blowing up that end around was a horrible mistake, but I’d keep the kid well fed.

  • 243/4Bob Carter

    The prediction here has certainly proved off base with 3 straight losses and the 4th coming this weekend with UW coming to town. So much for speculation. I think USC is also going to pound UO into the dust shortly there after. Even Phil can’t buy his way out of this stink.