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.
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.
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.
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.
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?“
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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