Mark your calendars, ladies and gentlemen, because the Ducks are going to the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl!
Although Oregon cemented their spot last Friday after throttling Utah in the Pac-12 Championship, the excitement for the Ducks’ return to Pasadena and their rematch with Wisconsin is still the talk of the town in Eugene.
I, too, am thrilled. It is an honor to play in the historic Rose Bowl, against a talented and well coached Wisconsin team. But I still cannot stop asking: what if?
In both of Oregon’s two losses, Auburn and Arizona State, the Ducks were plays away from victory. Winning either of these games would have likely guaranteed Oregon a spot in the College Football Playoff against juggernaut LSU.
So, it begs the question … would you rather play Wisconsin in a high profile, yet consolation bowl game, or have a shot — and a long shot at that — against LSU in the playoff?
A Case for the Playoff
As previously mentioned, the Ducks currently sit at 11-2 with their only losses coming in one-score games. They also are coming off arguably their best and most complete game of the season against Utah.
The offense fired on all cylinders. Justin Herbert made the necessary plays in poor weather conditions, while also limiting turnovers. CJ Verdell did the rest by running for over 200 yards against a Utah defense that included five Pac-12 first team defense selections.
As for our vaunted defense, the Ducks picked off Pac-12 first team quarterback Tyler Huntley twice, and did not allow Utah to convert on 4th down once in four tries.
If the Ducks were instead heading to the playoff to face off against LSU, they would be coming into the game with confidence and momentum. It may seem like a stretch to say the Ducks could beat LSU at a neutral site, but look at their schedules lined up against one another. LSU may have more quality wins, but against their one common opponent, Auburn, they struggled and barely scrapped out a three-point win in front of their home crowd.
I am aware that Oregon did lose to Auburn, but the Ducks had to travel to a supposed “neutral site” in Texas, and they still led or were tied for all but eight seconds of the game. The Ducks also made uncharacteristic mental mistakes and left plenty of points on the board. If that game is played ten times, Oregon wins that game more times than not.
Nevertheless, in this hypothetical playoff matchup, the Ducks would still be huge underdogs against LSU. But crazier things have happened, and I for one would not be upset to see them back in the playoff for the first time since 2014.
Rose Bowl Rematch Against Wisconsin
As most die-hard Duck fans know, the last time Oregon and Wisconsin faced off in the Rose Bowl was in 2012, when the Ducks pulled off a thrilling 45-38 victory. It is a game most known for being a back-and-forth offensive shootout that ended with Russell Wilson not being able to get a play off before the end of regulation.
Although this year’s matchup may not have the same degree of NFL-caliber talent on offense, both teams still finished atop their respective divisions. Wisconsin has wins over ranked teams such as Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota. True to their brand, the Badgers’ offense runs through their stout offensive line and junior sensation Jonathan Taylor at running back. Wisconsin has talent on the other side of the ball in edge rusher Zack Baun.
Although Wisconsin has playmakers on both offense and defense, it does not have nearly the same level of NFL-caliber players as LSU. In order to beat the Badgers, the Ducks will still need to play like they did against Utah. However, they do have a higher margin of error, and the likelihood of a competitive game is far greater.
Aside from the football side of things, there is something special about playing in Pasadena at the historic Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. Whether your team is in the game or not, it feels like one of those games you always find yourself watching. The longstanding tradition, the Rose Parade, everything about the game screams must-watch TV.
Now, I want to hear from YOU. Whether you are devastated about missing out on the playoff or thrilled for another Rose Bowl appearance. I have moved on from the playoff and am looking forward to the Rose Bowl, but that does not mean your opinions are not valid.
Would you rather take your chances in the CFP or enjoy what is sure to be another entertaining trip to Pasadena?
Eugene, Oregon Top Photo by Tom Corno
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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