It’s become increasingly evident over the last week that Oregon got away with one as it pertains to the NCAA investigation. For all of the speculation, all of the rumors and all the worry, it came back as nothing more than a wave of the finger and a “Don’t do that again.”
A bowl-ban was at the front of most peoples fears, and luckily, that penalty went by the wayside. Here are the main reasons why this was so important:
1. The Potential Talent Drain
2013 looks to be a special season in Eugene, with a plethora of experienced talent returning to finish what could not be completed last season. From Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas, to Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Boseko Lokombo, there are playmakers and game changers across the board.
Problem is, most — if not all — could be gone after this season.
Ekpre-Olomu, in particular, will assuredly be a first-round pick in the NFL draft if he leaves. DAT has the electrifying moves that NFL teams covet and you can already envision a Mariota-Kelly reunion in Philly. Oregon has put themselves in position to reload not rebuild, but attempting to make a title run if you lose some or all of these guys will be next to impossible.
Other than a trip to Stanford — a revenge game if ever there were one — Oregon’s schedule sets up for a title run. A non-conference slate that offers chances to grow with no real threat of defeat lets the Ducks ease into conference play against a rebuilding California team, followed by Colorado. Having the Buffaloes as one of your road conference games is almost giving yourself a free win. An improving and dangerous Sun Devil squad is avoided. UCLA comes to Autzen. Arizona in late November, in Tuscon, appears to be the big trap game on the schedule, but you have to like Mariota’s chances of handling the Wildcat crowd.
The best thing, perhaps, is the bye week that leads to the showdown on The Farm. Don’t discount the benefits of being rested before facing a tough and physical Cardinal team. Look for Thomas Tyner, as my guess, to make this his breakout game.
3. Helfrich Has One Less Headache
Being a first year head coach, following in the footsteps of the winningest and most talked about coach in school history, is hard enough. Throwing in the fact that you’re facing sanctions, dealing with recruits jumping ship and trying to keep your stars happy, would be too much for Mark Helfrich to handle.
I’ve been very outspoken in my belief that Oregon has found something special in Helfrich. Being around players and coaches, you get a vibe when someone has that “it” factor, and Helfrich has that in spades. He could prove me wrong and go 8-4, but I just don’t see it happening. Getting off to a good start will be imperative for Mark and Co. to have a long, successful run in Eugene.
Having a Bowl game — no matter which one — is the best thing that can happen to him.
Oregon is riding a wave of momentum never before seen around these parts. Four 10-win seasons in a row, three conference titles and two BCS wins will do that for you. The train is on the right track and now just needs a steady dose of coal to keep it going.
A bowl-ban not only would have stopped the coal, it could have seriously detoured the train altogether.
Now, before you scream “OHIO STATE” from the rooftops, stop. Oregon is not Ohio State. The Buckeyes are a football institution. A traditional powerhouse in football-rich recruiting grounds. They also have Urban Meyer who, next to Nick Saban, is the most recognizable coach in the game. They were able to bounce back from a bowl-ban much easier than Oregon would, and they have proven that.
Could Oregon have done it? It’s possible. All the above issues, however, just got a lot more fun to think about, knowing their slap-on-the-wrist felt a lot better than the full spanking.
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