Is Oregon Ready for a Lone Star Rumble?

Jon Joseph Editorials

(To the tune of ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas”)

She’s the sweetest little rose (bowl) bud that Texas ever knew,

From Eugene to Dallas, few Ducks have ever flew.

You can talk about your Clemsontine and sing of Coach Swinney,

But that Duck named Puddles is the only one for me.

Gus, he was the OC when Tigers ate Duck stew. B1G ref swallowed whistle, he didn’t have a clue.

Chipper’s now a Bruin, Coach Cris is in Eugene. If Puddles tames this Tiger, then roses is the dream.

I’ll be there in Dallas, on August thirty one, in Jerry’s Palace, will Puddles get it done?

Is Oregon ready to hang with the big boys again? That’s the question that will be answered when the clock hits zero in Oregon’s monster Week 1 matchup against Auburn.

The opening-week tilt pits together two programs on opposite trajectories: one a darkhorse playoff contender and the other treading water in SEC purgatory. But Auburn’s ready to make a statement win of its own and kick off the season in style. Let’s recap where both programs left off at the end of 2018 and preview what will be a tantalizing Lone Star showdown.

Auburn and Oregon: Familiar Foes

Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn, sick of the tiger droppings he was seeing on offense in 2018, took back the play calling duties in the Music City Bowl. That proved to be the jolt the unit needed. In the game, the Auburn offense purred like a kitten over a fresh bowl of milk as it blew up the B1G’s Boilermakers. (Rumor has it that Purdue coach Jeff Brohm, down 50, was downing boilermakers — the liquid variety — at halftime.)

Meanwhile, out west, when last seen, the Oregon Ducks squeaked by another mid-level B1G team, beating Sparty 7-6. I can’t recall the Duck player who hit the walk-off home run … I must’ve dozed off amidst all of excitement.

The Tigers certainly capped off their season more emphatically than the Ducks in 2018, but Oregon will be plenty motivated. Remember, Malzahn was Auburn’s offensive coordinator for the 2011 BCS National Championship Game.

In the contest, Ducks defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti and his troops shut down Heisman winner “I-didn’t-know-Dad-was-shopping-me” Cam Newton and a potent Auburn offense for most of the game. But the Tigers held on, largely because of a B1G ref “un-Fairley” swallowing his whistle. The game should have gone into OT, and then, who knows? But if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas.

Malzahn is the common denominator between the Ducks vs. Tigers in 2011 and the Ducks vs. Tigers in 2019, slated for Jerry’s Palace on opening weekend. Coach “I-caught-Cam-lightning-in-a-bottle” Gene Chizik is deservedly long gone. Duck fans are still waiting for Coach Cheeze-Whip to congratulate Oregon on a good game, by the way.

Malzahn beat Oregon once. Will he do it again?

Mario Cristobal has battled Malzahn while toiling for Saint Nick Saban. If anyone outside the SEC has an understanding and appreciation of Malzahn’s ballyhooed offensive scheme, it should be Cristobal.

Let’s look at how some of the experts view this game, shall we?

The early line: Auburn -3

Preseason Rankings

Athlon Sports — Oregon No. 15, Auburn No. 20. (It should be noted that southern-based Athlon usually favors SEC teams.)

FanZone has the Ducks’ over/under win total at 9 games. Auburn’s is 8.5 games. (The School Up North comes in at 9.5 wins.)

ESPN has the Tigers ranked at No. 9, the Ducks No. 10.

Sports Illustrated and USA Today both predict that the Ducks will win the Pac-12, while Auburn is projected to finish third in the challenging SEC West, behind  Bama and LSU. The Tigers’ cause is not helped by drawing Georgia and Florida cross-conference, while the Tide draws Tennessee and South Carolina. And the Tide plays Larry, Moe, Curly and Bozo the Clown out of conference.

Justin Herbert has the Ducks positioned nicely in 2019.

In a cauldron of preseason confusion, I’ll defer to the guys and gals in the desert and consider the Ducks a slight under-bird come August. But how do Oregon and Auburn’s rosters and staffs compare at the most important positions?

Quarterback: Justin Herbert has the hype. But is he ready to step up and lead the Ducks to what would be a huge win on the road? (Neutral my nostril hairs!)

The Auburn QB position is still being contested, but I believe true frosh (and the son of former Auburn star Patrick Nix) Bo Nix will win the job. He is a far better runner and a much better fit for Malzahn’s scheme than was Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham.

Defense: The Auburn defensive line, with a first-round NFL draft prospect and a couple of other studs, will likely be as salty as Sparty’s was in 2018. The Tigers’ LBs and DBs all have SEC speed.

Coaching: Malzahn has coached in many a big-time game. Twice he’s taken down Bama and Saint Nick. Auburn floundered on offense last season but played consistent defense throughout. Malzahn is now back in complete control of the offense, and if the Tigers’ bowl win is any indication, that’s a scary thought.

If Auburn’s offense catches up to its defense, look out.

Cristobal is building a great culture at Oregon and has put up unprecedented recruiting numbers. He’s done a fine job resurrecting the team from the Mark Helfrich disaster and Willie Taggart’s “overnight” stay in Eugene. But with a couple notable exceptions, the Ducks no-showed on the road in 2018. That doesn’t bode well for them in what will essentially be an away game against Auburn.

Will Cristobal and this team have what it takes to bring their A-game to Texas in an awe-inspiring stadium in front of a predominantly blue-and-orange crowd? These Tigers do travel, after all.

(To the tune of “The Yellow Rose of Texas”)

She’s the sweetest little rose (bowl) bud that Texas ever knew. Aggies, Frogs and Longhorns, I’d just as soon eschew.

You can talk about Nick Saban and Roll Tide to the seas, but that Duck named Puddles is the only one for me.

Deep in the heart of Texas, margaritas will do fine. Please make mine with Teq Gold, and a dash of salt and lime.

And we’ll raise them to the rafters, ’cause with a little bit of luck, I see payback a-coming for Puddles and the Ducks!

Jon Joseph 
Georgetown, Texas                                                                                                                                                                   Top Photo by Eugene Johnson


Phil Anderson, the Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.


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