At long last, the time is coming. All offseason, the Oregon-Auburn matchup has been analyzed, dissected and prodded like a lab experiment. We’ve had a full offseason to talk it over, hash it out, voice our thoughts, read all the articles, get others’ opinions and get the national consensus. Now it’s time to decide.
Who do you think will win the game and all the bragging rights that go along with it?
Setting the Stage
ESPN’s College Gameday will be in Arlington for the primetime showdown. Do you know what that means? Lee Corso gets to meet up with Puddles again. Will Corso stick with his feathered friend, or will he take the Tiger bait and go with Auburn? The whole gang will stay there to watch the game, which should be good publicity for the program. The downside to that is that we’ll have to hear why the SEC is so much better than the Pac-12 for three agonizing hours.
The implications are great for both the winner and the loser. If Oregon wins, it’ll set the stage for what should be a dream season. A win against a team of Auburn’s caliber should make the rest of Oregon’s schedule seem like a cakewalk. They’ll be the favorites to win the Pac-12 championship, and their 2020-2021 recruiting will reap the rewards. Also, our coaches will have another year of job security, and the future of the program will be blindingly bright.
If Oregon loses, it will make conference play all the more important and much more imposing. Recruiting will take a hit as well, and even if the Ducks manage to go undefeated in league play, they’ll likely have to wait another year (or more) for an opportunity to make the Playoff, due to a less-than-impressive Pac-12. With all the players that will be moving on after this year, 2020 will be time to “reload.” Depending on how the remainder of the year goes, heads could roll after the season.
If Auburn wins, it will do wonders for the confidence levels of both its quarterback and head coach. With Gus Malzahn sitting on the hot seat this year, his future will start to reveal itself. With a win he’ll be sitting comfortably; with a loss, he’ll start to squirm.
If the Tigers lose, they kiss their playoff hopes goodbye, and like the Ducks, will have to wait another year. What’s more, losing to Oregon would be a big black eye for the entire SEC. Nobody in college football’s “best” conference wants to lose to a lowly Pac-12 team. That would be embarrassing.
The Pac-12 Needs an Oregon Victory
This matchup is as important for the reputation of the Pac-12 as it is for either team’s playoff chances. The Pac-12 was almost unanimously renowned as college football’s worst Power Five conference last season (as has been the case for a while). But analytically speaking, it wasn’t. According to the average rankings of Football Outsiders‘ S&P+, the Pac-12 was actually better than the ACC in 2018. The ACC featured more teams ranking worse than No. 70 (four compared to three for the Pac-12) and fewer teams ranking better than No. 35 (two to the Pac-12’s five) than the Pac-12.
The Pac-12 isn’t dominant by any stretch, but top-to-bottom, it’s not as bad as people make it out to be. That’s why games like Oregon’s season opener are so critical for the conference. A big stage with the Pac-12’s most legitimate playoff contender taking center stage, it would be a disappointment for the Ducks to lay an egg.
What’s more, Auburn is merely a middle-of-the-road SEC team. The Tigers are talented and deep, no doubt, but they finished the 2018 regular season a pedestrian 7-5. But that didn’t stop them from making the Pac-12 look bad, as the conference champion Huskies dropped the ball against the Tigers in their own Week 1 matchup last season. The Pac-12 gets to “try again” this year against Auburn, this time with the Ducks.
The game is important and intriguing for a variety of reasons. In the end, who pulls it out? Will our beloved Ducks start a playoff push with a statement opening victory? Or will Auburn spoil Oregon’s momentous offseason and bring a fan base on cloud nine back to earth?
San Diego, California Top Photo by Kevin Cline
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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