Bowl Game: Key to the Rebuild of Duck Football

Aaron Lewis Editorials

Ducks Need a Miracle to Reach Bowl Eligibility

After some signs of life in a victory against ASU, the Ducks returned to playing really badly in their blowout loss to the USC Trojans. With the loss, the Ducks now sit at 3-6, their worst record through nine games since 1991, when they also sat at 3-6.

Oregon has not missed a bowl game since 2004 when they finished 5-6

Oregon has not missed a bowl game since 2004, when they finished 5-6.

No one on the Oregon football team was even alive the last time the Ducks had a record this bad. Oregon needs three straight wins to try to salvage the season, reach bowl eligibility and start to rebuild.

Unfortunately, the Ducks face talented, physical opponents the next two weeks in Stanford and Utah. Oregon’s inexperienced offensive line is likely to face their biggest test since losing to the Huskies. Oregon will have to play their best games of the year to beat Stanford and to stay close against the 15th-ranked Utes.

Oregon is likely to be 3-8 when they battle the Oregon State Beavers for the dubious honor of not finishing last in the Pac-12 North. Oregon has the talent to potentially go 2-1 – if everything falls just right for them – but nothing Oregon has done all year indicates they have a chance  to go 3-0 and finish 6-6.

Bowl Prep Practices Vital to Begin Rebuild

Falling short of that important 6-win plateau is a tough pill to swallow for a proud program that, for the first time since 2004, will not win half their games. But this is about more than pride at this point. Oregon needs that bowl game to jump start the rebuilding process.

Brady Hoke and his young defense would greatly benefit from the month of practices a bowl game provides

Brady Hoke and his young defense would greatly benefit from the month of practices a bowl game provides.

Oregon has four freshmen starting on the offensive line, a true freshman quarterback and mostly underclassmen in their 2-deep. Not going to a bowl game will prevent the Ducks from getting an extra month of practices that comes during bowl preparation. For a team with only 3 seniors among 22 starters on offense and defense, those practices can be invaluable.

Justin Herbert has shown he has the potential to be an all-time great but showed in a shaky performance against USC that he is still a freshman. He has not even been through a spring camp yet and could desperately use those extra practices to gain more comfort and confidence in the offense. Those four talented freshman offensive linemen also need more reps to set the stage for next few years.

As bad as the offense needs that extra practice time during bowl preparation, the defense may need it even more. Brady Hoke is still trying to figure out how to be a defensive coordinator (the Ducks are 124th in points allowed per game), and his players are obviously struggling to learn how to play competent defense in the new 4-3 scheme.

Rebuild Could Take Two Years or a Decade Plus (Ask the Huskies)

Missing a bowl game would be a black eye for the program (great programs do not fail to reach 6 wins even when rebuilding) and this could negatively impact recruiting for a team that already is experiencing a talent deficit.

Oregon is seeking to avoid the decade plus of futility the Huskies experienced following their Rose Bowl win in 2000

Oregon is seeking to avoid a long, painful rebuild,  something with which the Huskies are too familiar.

However, if Oregon can by some miracle make it to the post season, the momentum created for the program and extra practice time for the young guys could help take years off the reconstruction.

If Oregon can bounce back to the top tier of the Pac-12 when Herbert and the young offensive line are juniors, this embarrassing season will be nothing but a short-term anomaly, a blip. However, the longer the losing carries on, the harder it becomes to return to pre-2016 form.

Washington won the Rose Bowl in 2000 but has not had a 10-win season since. During this 15-year gap between viable football teams, the Huskies had six straight years without a winning season, including 1-10 and 0-12 seasons – ouch!

If Oregon can somehow salvage six wins this year, they should be able to avoid a dark decade. But if the wheels come off, this season may become just the beginning of years of pain.

Aaron Lewis
Salt Lake City, Utah

Top Photo by Dillon Vibes

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