A CFP Duck Dynasty? It’s Not So Crazy

Lou Farnsworth Editorials 19 Comments

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Yes, I know. And I will happily embrace the name change you might be thinking of: Lou Farnsworth should now be known as “Homer Duck.”  So with that preliminary bit of honesty settled, let’s look at the data, which actually gives objective support to my claims of a dynasty in this article’s title.

I recently wrote about our chances of winning the National Championship this coming year. My conclusion? A “puncher’s chance.” Slim, but existent nonetheless. I hasten to add, however, that even if we do whiff on the championship this year, that elusive CFP trophy is not far off.

Hedging his bets” you say?  Or, “This dude really is a homer!”

Those observations notwithstanding, there really is objective data that suggests Oregon is a legitimate contender and will be in the CFP hunt sooner rather than later. Possibly in the very near future.

Recruiting Success


The Ducks are favorites to win four-star receiver Dont’e Thornton.

Well, as it turns out, Homer Duck is not the only one who is bullish on Oregon Football. In fact, some of the CFB pundits over at 247Sports have our Ducks on their shortlist of six teams they are confident will win a National Titlesooner than later.

Their confidence is primarily based on recruiting. All six teams on their shortlist have been crushing it on the recruiting trail in recent years. A few of Oregon’s surprising recruiting successes are included in my previous article linked above. Consider this: for the years 2018-2020, our recruiting classes (according to Rivals.com) ranked No. 13, No. 7 and No. 9, respectively. Currently, our 2021 class is ranked No. 3 on Rivals and will almost assuredly finish in the top ten. A No. 5 or No. 6 class ranking is my guess. But also, Steve Wiltfong over at 247Sports thinks we have a shot at No. 1! The Ducks are on many top recruits’ shortlists, so a top 5 projection is not unreasonable. That would place our average class ranking over the last four years at No. 8!

The rule of thumb, remember, is that a team must have four consecutive years of classes averaging No. 10 or better to be competitive enough to win a National Championship. Our Ducks are there. Now.

An Upward Trajectory


Things seem to be looking up for the Ducks.

Interestingly enough, the 247Sports article linked above references a separate analysis done by CBS Sports using a “program trajectory perspective.” The completely independent CBS study came up with the exact same five contending teams, Ducks included.

So two studies, using two different analytical methodologies, arrived at the same five teams who, in the opinion of the researchers, are best bets for winning championships “sooner than later.

Additional Factors

Amateurs Are Poor No More:  The recent NCAA ruling, which allows college athletes to profit from their names and likenesses, would seem to give Oregon, with its direct connection to Nike, an advantage in recruiting. The combination of social media and the NCAA ruling is all but guaranteed to catapult college players into a whole new financial world. A world in which Eugene, Oregon is no longer “backwater.” Scott Frost‘s comments about the impossibility of recruiting to Eugene certainly ring hollow after four years of elite recruiting under Mario Cristobal. And that is without any help from this ruling.

New Track Facilities: Eugene has been known as “Track-Town USA“  for several decades. The glamour of being a football/track two-sport athlete in Eugene has always given the Ducks an edge with recruits wanting to compete in both sports. Think Devon Allen. But now, with the Hayward Field Renovation complete, that recruiting edge has been turbocharged. Oregon can now boast not only state-of-the-art football facilities, but also Olympic-quality track and field facilities, as well.


The new Hayward Field should attract a lot of top two-sport athletes to Eugene.

The Mario Advantage: ESPN, 247Sports, Scout, and Rivals, all named Mario Cristobal the Recruiter of the Year for 2015. And it certainly does not appear that he has slowed down much at all. He identifies top-shelf players and lands them. But Mario can snag some seriously good coaches, as well. Andy Avalos is considered by many to be one of the best defensive coordinators in the nation. Similarly, Joe Moorhead is frequently found on lists of the best offensive minds in the game. And lest we forget, our newly hired passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, Bryan McClendon, just happened to have won the Recruiter of the Year for 2014, the year before Mario won it. And he is killing it. It is safe to project that this year’s haul of wide outs will be one of the best, if not the best, that Oregon has ever seen.

Mario shows solid evidence of maturing into a true CEO-type of head coach. And he certainly doesn’t appear to be looking to leave Eugene.

The Talent We Are Recruiting Is Getting “Coached-up”This article by PFF highlights the top ten returning players in the Pac-12. Of those top ten, five are Ducks! No longer is it sufficient to merely obtain top-tier players on your roster. One must then do the equally hard job of coaching them. Teaching them how to play at the college level. Helping them to realize their potential. The fact that half of the PFF list are Oregon men is evidence to me that we are indeed taking elite recruits and maximizing their talent.


Kevin Cline

Head coach Mario Cristobal poses for a photo with senior linebacker La’mar Winston Jr.

All this evidences Oregon’s upward trajectory. Many of these metrics are longitudinal in nature — they reflect increasing excellence over time. That is precisely what perennial contenders do. They relentlessly self-reflect and improve.

So, when are we going to win that trophy?

In the immortal words of  John Whorfin’s followers … “real soon.”

Lou Farnsworth, “Homer Duck”
Fontana, CA
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)

I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.

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Homer! Marge is calling you now.

I love your unbridled unashamed enthusiasm and love of Ducks Football, and Gawd I hope you’re right on the money. Now, my view. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ducks participate in the CFP more than once over the next five years. Will they bring home the hardware? Ouch! It’s simply too early to tell. There is the Top Shelf, and there are Champions, not necessarily the same. Do the Ducks on the roster have the hearts to win it all? Go Ducks! It’s possible and with a few small “adds” it may become probable. Will it happen?


Dabo and Clemson showed that this is possible. It took Dabo 8 years to win his first National Championship at Clemson.

Swinney’s recruiting reputation became evident when he produced five top-20 ESPN recruiting classes in a row, including top 10 classes in 2011 and 2012.[12] As a result, Clemson was one of only 10 schools to be ranked in the top 20 of recruiting five years in a row (along with LSU, Alabama, Texas, USC, Florida, Georgia, Florida State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma), and as of 2014 Swinney was one of only four active head coaches at the time to accomplish the feat (along with Nick SabanLes Miles, and Bob Stoops).”

In a year and a half, Cristobal will join that short list.

The only difference between Clemson then and Oregon now is that Oregon is not in the southeast region of the US, something that many prior coaches (you brought up Frost, but there were others well documented also) used as to why elite recruiting to the University of Oregon could never happen, and which Mario and company have now put to bed.

It is truly an exciting time to be a Duck football fan. If and when we play football again! argghhhh!!!


I’d be wary of considering the NIL a boost to Oregon football and recruiting. First the NCAA has yet to finish their rules in regards to what will be allowable. All we know currently is that the school can not facilitate the meeting of athletes and potential businesses and that the school must create a system in which the athletes report all of their interactions and plans for using their NIL. Other things that have been suggested are a complete ban on Athletic shoe and apparel companies(due to their high nature of forgoing the rules and they’ve also suggested heightened policies or even a complete ban on any booster who has donated to the school.

I don’t know how much Nike will actually be able to help. We also need to look at what the Athletes are doing and what is going to be easiest for them to do. I think you will see a lot of Social media Marketing where they Athletes advertise Protein and other sports related stuff on their twitter and instagram.

Jon Sousa

Very good points, Utah. Most people (like me) have no clue what is in the works. Thanks.

Jon Joseph

Duck Dynasty. Very appropriate for topic yours truly today as I will be spending the night in Louisiana; beautiful downtown Shreveport.

I will say ‘howdy’ to Tim Brando for you.

Great take. Considering the hurdles, among them the Pac-12 (non) Network that Mario and crew are up against, I have opined before and reiterate, Mario IS the best recruiter in the nation.

NIL + NIKE? I only caution that NIKE has many college customers across the board and more competition for branding rights today. I think no major program will be lacking for NIL funding sources.

A Natty? Keep on recruiting like this and it is doable. But as 4 schools claiming titles in 6 years show, it ain’t easy. Playing in the Pac-12, you cannot lose to an underdog. A 1L team in the Pac-12 is going to be scrutinized more than 1L team in the B1G and SEC and 1L Clemson. Stinks, but it’s the truth.

I have my eye on 2023 when the ‘big’ OOC opponent will be Texas Tech and the tough conference home games will be played in Autzen.

Thanks Lou, keep the optimism coming.

Jon Joseph

THAT was only if I ran into TB who I do not know. And seeing as how dinner came from a KFC drive through, TB and CE, not happening.

Your article shows just hard it is to hire a great football coach; many were skeptical of the Cristobal hire, and now it looks like one of the nations best hires of that year.

While Scott Frost was the hottest coach on the market and everybody knew he would be a great success. So hard to know in advance, and we have to count our blessings at how it turned out!

Thanks Lou.


MC is building a machine to last for years. No fancy catch phrases. No fancy gimmicks. Just relentless work ethic and effort that starts with talent acquisition at all levels. From the trench monsters to the tall and fast pass catchers. This is amazing to watch.

David Marsh

Cristobal has a catch phrase…. But you’re right it’s not plastered anywhere on display or on t-shirts. He says it in pretty much every interview I’ve seen though.

“Hungry, humble, and driven”

Which I think is a very honest and direct catch phrase/slogan … I still love “Win the Day” but HHD is MC’s culture and it is a winning culture.


“Homer Duck”. I feel like you have a lot of company when it comes to that moniker. When you have the supporting data you disseminated in this article it’s hard not to see a Rosy future, at least, for the Ducks!
Scott Frost, with his comment about the futility of recruiting at Oregon illustrates just how lucky Oregon was in getting Cristobal, and how imperative it is to keep him. Frost, off great success at UCF, goes to Nebraska, where he won a championship, as the quarterback, and has taken the Cornhuskers to the heights of mediocrity.

Looking through the Homer glasses, Oregon is thisclose to having multiple championships already. But, they just weren’t there. The teams that win championships get on the field and the other team realizes it just doesn’t have a chance. 90% of the time, Chip’s teams had that, but it was that 10% short that kept the Ducks from grabbing the ring. But, with all the factors going Oregon’s way, a championship? It’s inevitable.


Love the article Lou, thanks for brining it to us.

I agree with almost everything you said and you brought up some interesting points I had not been aware of. You mentioned Mario “…doesn’t appear to be looking to leave Eugene” and I think you are right on this (for the foreseeable future) as this is “His Dynasty”. He has put his mark on it and he is the leader and taking ownership of it, also doing a great job. Down the road I hope Oregon can come up with a way to compete with other schools in the monetary compensation should it ever raise its ugly head.

Interesting article about Scott Frost’s comments about the impossibility of recruiting to Eugene, as I had not read that before. As you say Mario has certainly put that to bed. I also find it interesting that Scott Frost is not currently doing so well in his current situation even with the old Ducks playbook in his hands. This really points out to me the importance of the ability to recruit at a high level and make adjustments to the playbook as time goes on. Mario’s adjustment to his own playbook comes with the hire of Joe Moorhead as OC. It is hard for a HC to also be the OC, something Frost has success with in Florida but not so much at Nebraska.

The one place I do disagree with you slightly is with your statement “The Talent We Are Recruiting Is Getting “Coached-up”. I have harped on this before with the example of Justin not showing the effect of it. The reason for this may no longer be at Oregon so I will leave it at that by simply pointing out that great talent has an extreme amount of self motivation which makes “Coaching up” much easier.

Mario Cristobal may be Oregon’s “Buckaroo


Greatly under-appreciated movie that’s for sure!

“His dynasty”. Absolutely. Why would anyone want to go somewhere and try to follow, let’s say, Nick Saban? Dabo? Build your own path. Have those follow you there. That’s what MC will have in Oregon.

Oregon is built to compete right now for a few years to come. If Mario is serious and really wants what he says, it will happen in Eugene.

Jon Joseph

Recruiting is more Frosty than it is hot in Lincoln, no?

I think Mario now has the guy to coach up the QB position. The offense will improve IF Mario can stay out of the way?

I’m harping on this point but the team has to play against itself and not down to the level of the competition.

No reason the 2019 team should have missed the final 4. You cannot lose to an underdog like ASU.

Amazing; since year 1 at Bama, Saban has not lost to an unranked team. THAT is consistency in preparation and effort.


I agree that the loss to ASU shouldn’t have happened, nor the loss to Auburn either. But, I’ve come to see those as the consequences of being an imperfect team. Going in to the game, Jon Wilner predicted a win for ASU; based almost entirely on the precedence of no Pac-12 team running the table in conference. At the time, I thought it was ridiculous.
They probably would have done better than Oklahoma, but, I don’t put the 2019 Ducks on the list of near misses of championships. But Cristobal is set to getting them there, and putting an end to the near miss list for good.