A CFP Duck Dynasty? It’s Not So Crazy

Lou Farnsworth Editorials

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

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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

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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.

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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.

Conclusion

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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