No California or Arizona? Oregon Pivots to COVID Conference Schedule

Jordan Ingram Editorials

Oregon fans, don’t despair.

Yes, the monster games against North Dakota State and Ohio State at Autzen Stadium as part of the Ducks’ pre-conference schedule are no longer on the table due to a resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country. Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott made the official announcement restricting the Pac-12 football season to conference-only games on July 10, one day after the Big Ten’s decision to do the same.

At this moment in time, the Ducks will have a 10-game season, including the Pac-12 Championship game. However, this is the best-case scenario. As cases continue to spike in California and Arizona, there are talks of closing down the state and halting interstate competition, including conference games.

If California and Arizona prohibit competition, the Ducks would need to fill five games within the adjusted conference-only schedule. This is not impossible, as Oregon could potentially play home-and-away match-ups against Colorado, Washington, Washington State, Oregon State. Throw in a game against Utah and that’s a nine-game, conference-only schedule (not including a conference championship).

Kevin Cline

Perhaps a game against Nevada is in the cards? Not likely but things could change.

But if the Pac-12 pivoted to allow non-conference games with states still open in lieu of losing half the conference to quarantine, it definitely opens a much more diverse schedule that includes non-conference match-ups. Is this new hypothetical “COVID-Conference” schedule possible? Is there enough time for Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens to cobble together five games? If so, which teams could be in play? Let’s take a look.

If we scratch the first three games against NDSU, Ohio State and Hawaii, the Ducks start on the road against Colorado before returning home to host the Huskies. After those two games, the Ducks have a bye scheduled followed by five straight games against teams from either California or Arizona. Oregon wraps up the season with Washington State and Oregon State.

Let’s keep those games locked in, including the bye week.

Potential candidates to fill the void will depend on which states are open for business—a prospect that can change at any time. For non-conference games, Oregon could play Portland State, BYU and Colorado State, if each of those states remains open.

BYU is an attractive option, as the independent Cougars do not belong to a conference. As of July 10, BYU has had five of its originally scheduled games canceled due to COVID-19, three of which were Pac-12 teams (Utah, ASU, Stanford). Both BYU and the Pac-12 would benefit from getting those games back, plus an additional match-up against the Ducks.

If we look around the region, other teams start to emerge as potential contenders in this scenario such as Boise State, Idaho, Utah State, Nevada, or UNLV? (against former offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo? You bet!)

From Twitter

After the Pac-12 announced a conference-only season, BYU was forced to cancel three games scheduled against Pac-12 teams.

Or there is the tantalizing possibility of playing against the Colorado School of Mines. Yep, the Orediggers have been around since 1888 (132 years) with a capacity of 4,000 at Marv Kay Stadium (built in 1893). And in 2019, the Orediggers finished 12-1 overall (10-0 conference) and may have a chip on their shoulder and looking for something to prove.

It’s also safe to say Notre Dame would be a good target for a high-profile game against the Ducks, with national visibility for both teams. The Irish lost their date with Wisconsin for the upcoming season and may lose USC and Stanford.

While pundits believe Notre Dame will look to the ACC to fill most of its holes, there is an open date on October 24, which would be wide open for a neutral-site game against Oregon.

New Mexico State may also be looking for someone to play for its season-opener on August 29 if UCLA is nixed. Maybe Nevada would like another bell-ringing?

But time is running out. So Ducks fans, it’s up to us to save the season. What are your ideas? What teams are viable under the COVID-Conference Schedule?

Jordan Ingram
San Diego, CA
Top photo by: Eugene Johnson

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