Pac-12 Football: Amid Chaos, Predictions Must Still be Made

Darren Perkins Editorials 42 Comments

It’s safe to say that 2020 hasn’t produced a typical college football off-season. Compared to the COVID-19 Virus, very little football has been discussed. On top of this, we have a culture war mounting across the nation, which has compelled a group of Pac-12 players to threaten a boycott unless certain demands are met in regards to racial injustice, COVID-19, economic rights and long-term health insurance.

Ugh. Can’t we just play some football?

Yesterday, a contingent of Pac-12 players known as Pac-12 Football Unity announced its demands via The Players Tribune. The group consists of players numbering into the hundreds at schools across the conference. It’s early in the process, amid all the chaos in our newfound world, so who knows exactly how this will play out?

So, what in the world is a guy like me supposed to write about? FishDuck.com is a safe haven for talking about Oregon sports and I want to write and talk about what happens between the lines, not outside of them. Having said that, we would be remiss not to mention this gigantic issue that could rock college sports as we know it forever.

Well, why not both?

I have already broken the ice on the demands of what the “Pac-12 Player’s Unity” is wanting. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read up on at The Players Tribune and the Oregonian. Thoughts about this important topic are more than welcome in the comments section below, as your thoughts on this are as good as anything I could come up with in this initial phase of what’s going on. 

On the Field   

So, allow me in this now eclectic, mish-mash of a post to switch gears and talk about what we all want to talk about, and that is on-the-field football. The Pac-12 just released the updated, conference-only schedule for the upcoming season, so of course, we must talk about this.

Eugene Johnson

Tyler Shough’s face sums up how we all look when trying to figure out what the 2020 season has in store.

With all the world’s chaos, from an analysis perspective, it still feels like we are in April preparing for the spring game. Because of this, though now in August, I am offering my spring football “gut reaction” to the upcoming season’s schedule. And when I say gut reaction, I mean gut reaction — going totally off the cuff with what I already know in this little bean I call my brain. No research.

Why go with the gut reaction? Because if you’re like me, you are usually more often right when going with your gut feeling over doing a ton of research and then deciding.

It happens to me in fantasy football all the time. Early in the week, I go with my “gut” line-up for the following Sunday. As the week goes on and I become more “educated” about the state of the players and their upcoming opponents, I often make changes to my starting line-up, only to regret those changes come Sunday as I think to myself, “I should have just gone with my gut!

 Here it goes …

Oregon’s 2020 Schedule

Sept. 26: Colorado: There was an initial fear that Utah was going to be the opener, but alas, it is Colorado. Colorado at home is about the best that we could ask for in a conference-only schedule. Win. 

Eugene Johnson

Popo Aumavae on the rumble.

Oct. 3: at Washington State: With a new coach and new quarterback, the Cougs have plenty of questions going into the season. But one thing we can never discount with WSU is the danger factor. They will still be running a wide-open, pass-heavy offense. Be nervous entering the game, but pleasantly relaxed after the Ducks win solidly.  Win.

Oct. 9: Arizona State: Last year’s “ugh” game. There should be a serious revenge factor working in the Ducks’ favor. ASU is dangerous, but not up to the talent level of the Ducks. I expect a solid Oregon victory as by game three, as the new Oregon offense should be clicking. Win.

Oct. 17: at Oregon State: That’s right, the new Oregon offense should be clicking just in time to knock the snot out of the Beavers. While the Beavs are improving, they still have a long way to go. Playing the Beavers in October will be a nice little change for once. Win.

Oct. 31: Washington: Washington’s off-season with the promotion of new head-coach Jimmy Lake has seemed a bit underwhelming, as recruiting is down this year for the Huskies. Is this a sign of things to come under Lake? The Ducks should be better and should come out on top. Win.

Nov. 7: at Cal: I’m not buying the hoopla that Cal is going to have a 10-win season and win the northern division. as some outlets have suggested. They have Oregon great Bill Musgrave as the new OC, but do they have players? The QB play at Cal has been underwhelming, to say the least, the past few seasons. Win.

Nov. 14: USC: The toughest game of the year. You can say what you will about Head Coach Clay Helton, but there is no denying he’s a survivor. 2020 is his do or die, back against the corner in a dark alley season. Wounded animals are always the most dangerous. USC is still very talented, the only team in the conference that can match the Ducks. Not expecting a blow-out like in 2019, but a tough win for the Ducks. Win. 

Kevin Cline

Will there be any celebrating this year?

Nov. 20: at Arizona: The Wildcats are loosely the Pac-12 South version of WSU. No defense, but a wide-open offense that can score the occasional upset. It’s a late-season trap game like last year against the Sun Devils, but the Ducks should prevail. Win.

Nov. 28: Stanford: If Stanford is still down, the Ducks should win easily. But, is this a comeback year for the Cardinal? For me, the Cardinal is the hardest team to have a mid-summer “gut feeling” about. Their recruiting, due to the academic element, is harder to quantify than most schools. Win.

Dec. 5: at Utah: It’s the Utes, so of course we have reason to be worried. But Utah does not recruit highly — they really don’t. Usually they finish around 40th nationally (give or take). And you must have top talent to be competitive year in and year out. Therefore, the Utes are often a candidate for an off-year. I think they take a step backward from 2019. Win. 

That’s a 10-0 season.

Summary 

I will get criticized for the 10-0 prediction, just like last year when I was criticized for my “Pac-12 Championship or Bust” prediction. But people, if we are going to join the elites of the college football world, then it’s our responsibility as fans to think big. We’re not those same Ducks from 2010 or 2014 who were punching above their weight before finally getting beat by a heavyweight team.

We now are that heavyweight team.

Of course, given the state of the college football world, my 10-0 prediction may only serve as a fantasy football prediction. College football is walking an unstable tight-rope as a world pandemic, politics, and college athletes’ rights converge to make this the most complicated off-season in history.

So, I will say it again, my voice growing weak, cracking, fear-ridden, and reduced to a whisper: “Can’t we just play some football?

Darren Perkins
Spokane, WA
Top photo credit: Kevin Cline

Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in Bozeman, Montana.

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ScoDuckers

A little late to the post here, but the game that scares me the most is Arizona. I’ve seen it happen way too many times in my young life, to know better than to trust a November game in the state of Arizona is a guaranteed W. I’m hoping Cristobal will have all the players better prepared for every single game this year so we don’t run into any traps.

As for people saying that no PAC-12 team has ever run the slate of conference games unblemished, I ask this: what better year for a team to do it than Oregon this year? If everyone plays, our defense will be the best we’ve ever seen it, and our offense should be improved from last year. You can listen to the odds if you want, or you can say “screw the odds, let’s make history”

Nobody would’ve ever predicted we go 12-0 in 2010, so it’s hard to write this years 10-0 off without looking at our team vs. the pac-12 objectively.

Mike West

Brilliant article Darren.

Brilliant

joeevan

Bravo, Darren…… In this uncertain time of the pandemic it’s refreshing to hear from someone who is still willing to go by his gut. Thank you.

I recall some of your posts last season that spoke to your misgivings on the Ducks‘ OC, and even though the unit has lost some key offensive players, they have gained an experienced leader in JM.

Your points on the historically notable strengths of the UO defense are spot on.

Will these factors be sufficient enough for the Ducks to run the table this season?

The part of me that harbors some doubt is offset by the part of you that spoke from the gut and inspired me to follow suit.

Go, Ducks…….

DonealDuck

Depends who plays

30Duck

Here’s a prediction I feel very confident about: The New York Liberty will get the first pick, again, in next year’s WNBA Draft, and have a great chance to go 0-22 this season, they were struggling with Sabrina. Also, my predicted winner of the Stanley Cup, the St. Louis Blues, lost 2-1 yesterday to the Colorado Avalanche, the winning goal coming with .01 on the clock!

David Marsh

On paper Oregon should win 10. The problem is the normal chaos of sports and having an off day…. This year will have more chaos sauce and who knows what will happen.

I think Stanford is going to do better than last year but they simply lost too many players last year between graduation and transfers. Utah is feeling the loss of players as well but didn’t get hit like Stanford did via the transfer portal.

Stanford and Utah are a lot alike in that both programs depend highly on upper class man … This year Utah will be rebuilding that upper class man cupboard and Stanford will have a crop of sophomores who saw a lot of reps last year and this will take a step forward from last year but not enough to challenge Oregon.

Charles Fischer

I really cannot disagree with your predictions, as we should be favored–assuming the offense blossoms as anticipated. I really want Washington, Cal and USC to be great, ranked teams to boost our final ranking.

To me…the trap game is if we get into the Pac-12 Championship game; it is hard to beat any team twice in a season, especially a really good one.

DumpsterFire

How about we just go with the “ASU” game this year is one week the practice squad gets the best of the starters?

30Duck

Indeed, “it’s definitely hard to predict” In fact, I would argue that it’s impossible to identify the game where chaos materializes ; and if the Ducks had just handled one 3rd & 16 reasonably, they’d have probably won last year in Tempe.

UtahDuck

I actually really like our chances against Wazzu this year. Few reasons,

1) leach recruited Behemoths at Oline. when I say behemoth I don’t mean the cristobal 6’7″ 345 yet somehow light on his feet. Leach recruited 6’5″ 315 pound walls these guys have been great in pass protection for years but are pretty inept in the run game. Rolovich(at hawaii) specifically instituted a Pistol formation in his run and shoot because he wanted to add downhill running from both his rb and qb. I just don’t think this Oline will be adept enough to provide quality run support.

2) the run and shoot always, I mean always takes multiple years to implement. It is a high intelligence and high communication driven offense. the offense is first based of motion from a wr, if the db follow’s the qb is trying to assume if it is man or zone D, from their they need to figure out what routes his WR’s are running. the wr’s are watching the defense and depending on the presnap movement have to decide what routes they are running. then the snap. from their the qb and the wr’s are hopefully on the same page and they were able to correctly establish what the defense was playing. to me that is three-four points of failure, 2 from the qb and 2 from the wr’s. this incredibly different from the leach air raid where the routes and plays were always precalled. the qb was the one reading the defense and trying to find the quickest route.

3) max borghi is a phenomenal catching rb but i do not believe he will fit the running game of the R&S.

Duckfan1ne

Thank you for the shiny optimism. Dont buy into the haters saying “there won’t be a season.”
I love the 10-0 prediction and will take that to the end of the season!!!
Keep writing these gems!!!

Steven A

Darren, you have the same prediction except for a different team as my friend [grey beard alert] who played for the Great Pumpkin. 

The difference being you are slightly less deranged and OSU gets hit in the face several times a year.

I concur with your analysis, if we play [which I doubt], hoping that last year’s Auburn and ASU games are the teaching points for both players and coaches.  

Jon Joseph

Thank Darren. I see, if there is a fall season which is very much in doubt, 10-1 and a conference title. A champ game rematch versus USC in Autzen.

Since the Pac-10 expanded to the Pac-12, no school has gone 9-0, let alone 10-0 or 11-0, including the champ game. I don’t know where, but somewhere on the road I expect a slip-up.

I hope the fall season comes off for us fans sake and also, I am fascinated to see how the SEC with 10 conference games plays out. With the 2 extra conference games and the champ game, will any SEC team go 11-0?

It remains to be seen what 2 teams Bama will draw from Florida, Kentucky, Mizzou and So Car. I don’t think anyone will be surprised including SEC fans, if Bama does not play the Gators in addition to already scheduled UGA. Regardless, we will finally, witness whether the SEC is a conference of parity or disparity.

As to the players demands, I am down, in general, with the economic and health concerns the players have asserted. I do not think the virus and players being paid or not has anything at all to do with race. Those of us who were alive in the 60s remember lily-white SEC and SWC conferences. A time when POC were not allowed to attend state universities in the south and southwest.

I find it ironic in today’s world, where there is no color barrier and no quota on POC participation, where the best people play regardless of color, that race has been introduced into the health and pay-for-play mix.

If P5 football players are being economically hosed over, they are being equally hosed over regardless of color. I do understand the umbrage regarding the number of head and assistant coaches being predominantly white, but i see no nexus between race and health and money concerns. No one is advocating pay-for-play on any basis other than talent.

11-0, sweet. A playoff spot would be next to a certainty. 10-1? Does a 10-1 Pac-12 champ Oregon, get in over 10-1 Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama? How about over a 2L SEC champ?

As others including Charles have suggested, with a fewer number of games and no impactful OOC games, why not an 8 game playoff in 2020 with the 1st round, at least, played on the home field of teams seeded 1-4?

Thanks Darren. Opening with CU is far more equitable for the defending conference champ than is going on the road to SLC. But Utah in December? Keep the long underwear handy.

Lou Farnsworth

Homer Duck officially approves of this article.

Lou Farnsworth

Chuckle…over the years Darren, you have shown yourself to be a sage analyst of Oregon football. I look forward to reading your articles, as they are informative, level headed, and a fun read to boot. So for you to join me, as you have in this article, with unbridled optimism for a run of the Pac-12 table, is no small comfort. And look how many of our fellow FishDuckians agree with you!!

Douglas Mai

Hey Darren I totally agree that if the season were to play out the Ducks would most certainly go 10-0 and as for last year I figured they’d get 1 loss and get into the Playoff’s. I was close and with Holland saying what he’s saying I believe the Coach’s AD’s Larry Scott and the presidents and every College whether it’s the SEC, Big 10 they should all do this and vote against these players doing what their doing because it will harm the game BIG TIME.

I don’t think the fans will hopefully be able to stomach this BS. I get it about Health issues and safety should be the main reason but that means also everybody at least in the US should be able to be safe. So to me they should tell Holland and the rest of these guys if you choose to sit out then you can do it on your own dime in your own house because you will no longer be going to this school. Pull all their Scolly’s and sure Holland I believe could sit out and make it to the NFL but not all these guys are that good and Javon needs support.

Myself he contradicted himself when he cried about EQUALITY which quite frankly is never gonna be fixed in this system. You can’t cry equality when your getting a FREE EDUCATION being paid for by the way the school that you penned Name to paper and made a agreement which most these kids never can be trusted because their word doesn’t mean anything these days as it’s what can you do for me. That’s these kids attitudes now and I’m about done with Football completely because just like Religion Politics don’t mix.

These guys and I don’t care how good they are, aren’t better than the game and they need to remember that but Football shouldn’t be your voice for your politics period as play the game you love and shut the heck up unless it’s on your own time. Hey I’m old school and would never agree with any of this because it’s based on selfishness and there’s no place for that on our Football team.

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Fischer
duckcardinal

The “Players’ Unity” action (wow, what a misnomer that is) seems similar to what happened in the late 60s-early 70s with college sports, (football & Track and Field in particular). Then it was all about “Black Power” with the Black Panther Party playing the role of agent of social change that BLM is now occupying, while the Vietnam War provided the polarizing political landscape that Covid-19 & lock-downs have now produced. The bi-coastal elites were just as enamored of the Black Panthers as they are today of the BLM crowd.

These were my college years, so I saw this stuff up close; as an undergrad (& varsity athlete) in the San Francisco Bay area, and a grad student in Eugene. It was a raw, contentious, and socially corrosive time that appears to be repeating itself. Hardly the stuff of a Green Refuge.

However, if you wish to educate yourself about what might be in store for sports, as well as society, former hard lefty insider David Horowitz has written extensively about the dark side of the Black Panthers, and the “social justice warriors” of those days. Google his name and Black Panthers or his memoir: Radical Son, on Amazon.

Last edited 1 month ago by duckcardinal
Jon Joseph

‘Most certainly?’ I love the enthusiasm.

DumpsterFire

This is really one of those touchy subjects that’s easy on the surface to say one thing and think that’s the end of it…like “free education.” I tend to agree with that view, especially having a child who has been going to the U of O for the past three years and knowing what it’s cost (decades of saving, along with some help along the way) to get to this point. To say athletes aren’t compensated is asinine at best because they are most definitely compensated. Now, is it they way they want to be?

Is it the way they should be? Those are two very good, and very distinctly different questions that both need to be answered. We/they may not like the answer to one or the other, but answers are still needed for both. I’m not going to fully answer either one because I’m going to try and keep my discussions here focused on sports, not social issues…I mean after all, that is the purpose of this site, isn’t it? I’ll just say it how I do in my bio, “opinions are like…..a, umm….yeah….and I have a lot of ’em.”

10-0…optimism at its finest. Here’s the issue I have with that though; when was the last time we ran the table in conference? Off the top of my head the only year in recent memory was 2010…a decade ago. There have been, however, several years we SHOULD have, but didn’t, and as much as I’d like to believe we will, whenever they actually end up playing, history doesn’t exactly support it happening.

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Fischer
30Duck

Yes, it’s never happened before. But, holding to what happened before rather than looking at the schedule objectively is to put too much emphasis on precedent. And of course, no fun. Objectively is the key here. “Beaver Nation” can’t objectively forecast their schedule and and say, “10-0”.

DumpsterFire

It’s happened, just not in like 10 years, and to stick strictly to the “analysis” aspect, then yes, on paper Oregon SHOULD win all their conference games.

Heck, the last time we went 12-0, we SHOULD have won the 13th game, too, but one of those fluky things that sometimes happens in sports happened, and a couple plays and a field goal later, we lost by 2.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’d love to run the table, and I still go into every game thinking I’ll be having a celebratory ale or four afterward rather than an obligatory, trying to forget what just happened quaffing that happens a couple times most years.

Santa Rosa Duck

Thanks Darren, always look forward to your thoughts. As to a 10-0 season Whooo-Whooo. Unfortunately I think it will be a 0-0 season. What little hope I had was dashed with the player demands on Sunday. Two of our DUCKS highest profile players in Javon Holland and Penei Sewell came out in favor of the player demands and there will certainly be more.

This COVID 19 is serious stuff IMHO and highly contagious. California high schools have cancelled fall football this year. I expect the four California PAC 12 universities to cancel as well but maybe I will be proved wrong. As to paying the players, I am of the school that thinks a four to five year full scholarship plus room and board plus tutoring is probably equivalent to earning $50,000 plus per year while getting the chance to earn an education. Only 2-3 % of these players will make it to the NFL while perhaps 10-20% aspire to get to the NFL.

If we pay the players, one can forget about the lesser sports and forget about Title 9 benefits to women sports. Maybe today my cup is half empty.

Mulholland

I totally agree with 10-0 ! What everyone is missing here , is our defense is SCARY good , and a team like Cal , UW , USC aren’t going to score enough points to win the game . I agree that opening with CU / WSU will give TS and our O time to grow and get better before the meat of the schedule .
GO DUCKS. And everyone be safe and WELL

30Duck

Darren, there will be no criticism from me on 10-0, only affirmation. Going through the schedule like this we try to be objective and identify the loss(es). But, I couldn’t find a game, where I seriously believed that the Ducks were more likely to lose than to win.

At Cal? This is definitely a game that the Ducks could lose. But with the defense that the Ducks look to have this season, and late enough in to the schedule for the offense to have come together, I just don’t see it. What about USC? Of course the Trojans are going to have revenge on their minds. After the beat down last season, why wouldn’t they? Just as the Trojans want to get that bad taste out of their mouths, the Ducks will want another bite.

Of course, with 10 games, something could go wrong, but I can’t see it from here.

Jon Joseph

CAL, versus the Oregon Alumni Coaching Staff, is a dangerous game. My guess, Wilcox, Sirmon and Musgrave would rather beat alma mammy than beat Stanford?

And at Arizona? Always a magical mystery tour game. I like at WSU, with a new HC, being played early in the season.

Remember, to absolutely assure a playoff spot, 11-0 is the benchmark.

duckcardinal

Have you and Mr. Pennington come up with an early parlay as to where and when the Cal coaching staff will wind up after 2020?

DumpsterFire

That’s an interesting way to think of it, but can you really say that any of them have gotten to the level of coaching that they’re at if they want to beat one team more than another? I think every one of them would be just as happy with a 1-point victory over the school they played for as they would be with a 70-point victory over a team just up the road/across the bay.

Think about it, if Cal were 1-9 this year, 1-11 next year, etc., but that one win was against Oregon, do you think Wilcox and company would last too long? Winning, no matter who it’s against is what’s important.