2020: Oregon’s EASIEST Path to the Playoffs Yet?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials 57 Comments

Could the COVID catastrophe end up helping Our Beloved Ducks? This is a crazy year, where we cannot anticipate anything and have been surprised at every turn, usually to the negative. Perhaps it is our turn to benefit from the unexpected? Could this new Pac-12 schedule end up being the easiest path for the Ducks to the Playoffs yet? 

So many questions, and I’m sure one of them is, “what-the-heck Charles … I thought you were taking time off?” Yes, I am and we are going to have three articles a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) during the month of October as we get the final articles that writers submitted finally published. I was planning to write a Ponder-Point once a week, but with my management duties reduced–the writing beast within me is reemerging, my mind is a raging torrent and I cannot help but share my thoughts when I have something to say and the time to write them.

We have all noted the disasters occurring in the Big-12 with losses by Kansas State, Texas and Oklahoma that possibly gives the Pac-12 an opening for the Playoffs. Notre Dame has to play Clemson possibly twice? My concern would be that the rustiness we have witnessed from other teams nationally could afflict Oregon as well with a newbie offensive line and quarterback.

Yet the schedule early for the Ducks starting with Stanford gives us potentially some slack for the growing pains, although going to the Palouse in November gives me pause. A last-play field goal victory last year does not mean the tide has for certain moved toward the Ducks considering the recent history against the Cougars.

Kevin Cline

Same opponent, same time, same weather and same result?

Playing the Beavers in the middle of the season doesn’t seem quite as odd when it is done on the Friday after Thanksgiving this year as it usually is. I love how the schedule finishes off with the toughest games at the end of the season as the offense receives enough time find their groove. For once, Oregon may get held together early by the defense? Of course the best part about playing Washington during this COVID year is not having any of the butt-sniffing bastard fans of the north invade Autzen. (Although home field advantage is lost?)

So many aspects of the schedule to discuss!

Rely on Higher Mathematics

Just as we are told to follow the scientists with COVID precautions, it makes sense to look at higher mathematics and complicated algorithms to determine why the Ducks have an easier path than usual to the playoffs. It can be condensed to this…

“There is more opportunity to lose once over twelve games than seven.”

Yes, with fewer games you have no slack, but it was always that way for any Pac-12 team. I would like to think that if we go undefeated and beat Cal on the road, the Huskies at home along with the south champion, (hopefully USC who is 6-0 when we meet) that with enough stumbling by other teams nationally-that Oregon could sneak in. This hope is not any more misplaced than any other year, and as long as weird things are happening … why not this?

From Twitter

Brown steadily improved during his time at Boston College.

When you consider such a short season with no room for error-does it make sense to start an experienced quarterback in Anthony Brown who has already been a starter for two years, and let Tyler Shough ease into the position since the schedule matches up superbly for such a strategy? Brown will not have the familiarity with the receivers, but he might be better for Zone Reading and the Run-Pass Option plays (RPOs) that new OC Joe Moorhead is known for. Reliance on experience may not be a bad call for a shortened season as the weather may require depending upon the running attack.

I love the scenario proposed by our own Jon Joseph, who suggested that Oregon meets No. 1 Ohio State in the first round of the playoffs at the Rose Bowl? How cool would that be?

“Oh how we love ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by John Giustina

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Look at where LSU is at with their loss of players from last year. Look at what happened to Washington after their great 2016 season.

Pac12 games with a new offense except at running back and a new secondary and a new OC.

I am expecting some highs and some lows. I hope Anthony Brown plays. I hope Dollars plays. I hope we see some athleticism from the receivers. I hope to see some QB pressures from the stud position.

Other teams have turmoil of their own and this kind of chaos is an opportunity for the bottom feeders to rise up and create some upsets.

I think that this a warmup year for Oregon. 2021 and beyond is where Oregon will most likely hit new heights.


Breaking News:

Deommodore Lenoir has opted back in!

Terrible is an understatement!!! Breeze was one of the key players down the stretch for the Ducks last season…and he seemed to be all about, The O. He wrote that he has, “decided to pursue my lifelong dream and opt out of an uncertain 2020 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft”. The way he played for the Ducks I can only wish him well in the future and appreciate the great memories he left.

David Marsh

And a major loss for fans as Breeze was so much fun to watch at the end of last year. I have a moment where he basically arm tackled Moss in the pac-12 championship game and it was brutal.

He will be greatly missed and how much depth Oregon has will be on full display.


I wish him the best, of course. Gotta admit though, this one has me scratching my head a bit.. what’s his draft projection?


Agree completely, I don’t think Brady is on a Super Sized Big Board. Of course Kiper and that bunch don’t now anything, but I doubt he was being evaluated at a serious level by NFL scouts.


That’s what I thought. I guess we’ll find out in due time.


I would assume the same thing as well, Charles. Otherwise, I’d figure he’d want to spend a season sharpening his skills up more. Same with Thomas and Deommodore. Then again, this is a strange year, what with Covid-19 throwing a curveball into everything.

His statement talks about the uncertain 2020 season and opting out. I think there is more to his opt out than just wanting to go to the draft. We also have Andrew Johnson entering the transfer portal. The season has just begun for Oregon and who will be playing, starting and having the big impact on the season. Johnson may be a signal that the linebacker crew is a wrecking crew ready to rock the rest of college football, the young guns are rocking it.

Jon Sousa

Opinion. A two loss SEC team does not get in over a 7-0 PAC team. Reason: Where did those losses come from? If they come from the two strongest teams, they are #3 in the SEC. IF they are #3 in the SEC, how do they get in over #2. If one of their losses is against a “lesser” opponent, how do they get in at all? The only way a two loss SEC gets in is if both losses are against the same team – the undefeated SEC champ and they are CLEARLY the #2 team.

The only way an undefeated PAC12 team doesn’t get in is if that undefeated team barely eked out victories all season long.

Jon Joseph

UGA beats Florida having already beaten, badly, Auburn. UGA takes an L at Bama and an L in Atlanta in the SEC champ game. UGA finishes 9-2 with both Ls coming against the likely 1 or 2 seed. What if UF defeats UGA and its only L comes against Bama in the champ game?

Where at 6-0 do you expect the Ducks to be ranked? What will the big wins be? OR will be handing CAL or UW at least its 1st if not its second L.

Look at SC’s schedule. It’s big wins, ASU and Utah? At 6-0 will SC be ranked high enough for a W over SC to be impactful?

And what if the B1G runner up has 1 L? Wisconsin does not play OH ST in the regular season. And if Penn State’s only L comes in a competitive game vs Ohio State?

Believe me, I want the Ducks in the final 4 but a whole lot of stuff has to happen in the SEC and B1G and even the ACC, for this to happen.


That’s it, unfortunately. “A whole lot of stuff has to happen” for the Ducks, any Pac-12 team to get in, in a regular season. Now, the perception/reality of the Pac-12’s place in the pecking order will be even more pronounced. The best the Ducks can do is 7-0, and wins over the unranked teams in the Pac-12 aren’t likely to get them high enough in the polls to even create a controversy.

Jon Sousa

Indeed, all those things can keep them out at 7-0. My point was responding to the thought below that maybe a two loss or even a three loss SEC team will beat out an undefeated PAC-12 team.

If the Ducks go 7-0 and don’t get “in”, I wouldn’t mind getting Auburn in a major bowl game. It’s the “Pay Back” in me. I wouldn’t mind getting any good team in a major bowl.

If we win a major bowl while locked out of the playoffs at 7-0 that would really create more controversy, be good for recruiting, AND be good for a high ranking for the start of the ’21 season.

Jon Sousa

…Meanwhile, J Herbert is winning right now 21-7. 2 TD passes.

Jon Sousa

24-7 at the half after fumble in the last minute gave the ball to TB on about the 6.

Jon Joseph

Thanks for the update Jon.

Santa Rosa Duck

What is the status of fans being allowed to attend the games in the Pac 12 and especially at Autzen? I noticed yesterday there were some games with no fans and some games with 20% fans in attendance.


On the John Kincade show this morning a guest he had on (forget who, unfortunately) when asked if he thought a PAC-12 team should be considered for the playoffs said, “If they go 7-0, Oregon.”

Jon Joseph

Rose Bowl. Playoff Semi. Ducks vs Bucks. I hope the Ducks can live out this dream?

Great take, Charles. And yes, yesterday the B12 did all it could to help the Ducks. Why doesn’t Texas simply do the smart thing and hire Gary Patterson? The TX AD came from TCU. He knows that with Patterson he will get a D oriented coach; his teams never quit.

And A+M? How do you like the ROI on your $75M?

The Pirate? We’ve all seen this movie before, right? Bo Pelini is being paid $2.5M to be the DC at LSU and couldn’t figure out to play zone against the Air Raid?

LOVE the way the schedule came down. CAL got the cross over game shaft drawing ASU. And I love that UW opens at CAL; one of the Ducks biggest competitors for the N division will open with an L.

Anthony Brown to start? Interesting to ponder. Remember, whether it is Brown or Shough this season does not count against a player’s eligibility. So. Brown could play all of 2020 and still be eligible in 2021. Either way. it will be the Ducks with the experienced QB in 2021 in Columbus.

Get it on! Love that the 2 S division presumptive contenders, play in game 1 when ASU opens at USC at 9 AM! Kudos to the teams and FOX for getting this early start time on. FOX could easily have followed its Big Noon show with a B1G, noon start, game.

Playoff? Here’s the problem. Notwithstanding the B12 melt down, Bama, UGA and UF, all look darn good. Assuming Clemson and Ohio St and the SEC champ is in, does an 8-2 or even an 8-3, SEC runner up in over a 7-0 Ducks? At least in 2020, UGA plays Bama in the regular season and UF and UGA, of course, meet in the Cocktail Party.

Oh oh? I did not like seeing $6M man Malzahn and Auburn being beat down like UGA beat it down yesterday. Mario has to be on the Auburn AD’s radar.

Thanks again Charles.



Unfortunately I think Mario is on the radar of many schools with more money than Oregon. The only thing that will keep Mario here is Mario. IMO I think he wants to prove something here at Oregon before he moves on.

Damm, 6 is a big number.

Anthony Brown could be the game changer this year, and like you ask, could decent play time this year keep him here next year ?? Look out Ohio State.

Jon Joseph

IF Brown gets the starting spot I imagine him sticking around would depend entirely on his NFL grade.

Of course, if Brown gets the starting job is Shough going to stick around?


Shough hasn’t’ the time remaining. He’ll have to jump ship.

Man, if Auburn lets Gus go the money thrown at Mario will be War Eagle at the apogee.

And as much as Mario loves Eugene I imagine he would love to be Saban’s 1st assistant to take him down? (Dabo did not coach under Saban.)

Mullens better be ready to count on Mario’s character which I do not doubt and also have a few extra million on hand.

Jon Sousa

I like Brown staying this year and next, but as the back-up. It would be a great decision for Brown to take advantage of the two extra years of education. If he is the back up both years there is still fairly high probability of playing time and starts if Shough goes down. Shough has two years in the program. With this year free. He could still be a 4 year starter.

Mike West


My favorite national commentator. I Always look forward to your takes (agree or not, you’re fabulous my friend).

Looks like Jimbo got lucky in Tallahassee. FSU and Texas (Tennessee?) are never coming back (love the suggestion about Patterson though—he would do wonders in Austin). Mahlzan has a dud OL. Is also missing their juggernaut DL. I believe MC is a man of his word…stays put.

Opening at home v. Stanford: unless Brown is substantially better than Shough (54% completion rate makes me doubt that from what I’ve seen of Sough), he “rides the pine”.

UW at Cal: would happen anyway. Since the game is before either play the Ducks, we get a substantial indication of how well each will play Oregon.

USC v ASU: my take is USC running away (too many horses return for USC).

UGA, UF, and Bama: Bama is legit. UGA redeemed itself and UF is going to get blown out too from what I’ve seen so far (UF Defense is porous and UGA can run until they get a rhythm passing- UF DBs are very very suspect, and the front 7 can’t stop a solid running game like UGA’s). If UGA can slow Bama ( looks like they can), then both get in.

Clemson is missing that front 4 big time. Nobody stops them though (most especially ND).

the Ohio State: only time will tell.

Our Ducks: So many unknowns. Coaching will be key here. Raw talent everywhere, Experience lacking.

JH: I’ve watched both games he started. Even though they lost the second game he looked in total command. I’m laughing at all the “experts” that claimed he would struggle. The Nebraska game convinced me he would excel as a pro. Shout out to OC Arroyo for getting the most out of JH having no pro caliber WRs(hint-he had plenty of speed to work with in in 2017).

If MC learned anything last year, it better be he blows out every team he faces. Preferably early ten point leads early, then a mirror image of what Bama did to A&M yesterday: a lesson on why hype never replaces performance. I believe 2021 is the year Oregon really makes some noise.

Jon Joseph

Mike, hope its all good in LV and thanks for the props.

Ohio State; an overwhelming roster advantage that just continues to separate itself from other B1G teams.

Other than at Penn State, which will be sans White Out, I just do not see any B1G team capable of a defeating a Justin Fields led tOSU. And 2 of the Buckeyes players who opted out have opted back in. And this team is ticked off about the semi-final loss to Clemson.

Miami at Clemson Saturday will give us a better idea as to whether the U is back and whether Clemson will be challenged in the ACC. UNC? Come on man!

Love the Ducks schedule. But if Oregon is going to get in at 7-0 it will have to not just win but win impressively.

Regardless, so happy for the 7 games which will game experience to lots of guys who will be playing versus a ‘Field-less’ Ohio State in 2021.


Agree on JH, and the Chargers come up just short again. For the first time in his NFL career, JH didn’t get to 300 yards, (290). But he went for 290 on 20-25 3 TD’s and 1 int. I almost want to get on Twitter, just so I could ask McShay about how the sure fire BUST he tagged JH with.

I know, “Scoreboard”, and I know that JH doesn’t want to hear it. But I think he’s doing great, if the hook & ladder hadn’t been botched up last week, the Chargers are 2-2. It’s a tough deal what happened to Tyrod Taylor, but after playing as well as he has, I don’t see that, “Okay, Justin, good job, now go grab that clipboard” is the right move anymore.

Santa Rosa Duck

We have a new team. A brand new O Line, a new QB and new receivers. Not sure we get a 7-0 season this year. If Tyler Shough wins the competition then I would like to see him start. I would love to see our DUCKS win 7 games but do I trust us to win at WSU? You can expect a lot of push back around the nation against the “weak” Pac 12 and our 7 game season. I think we are setting up nicely for 2021.

But as you so noted, the weather? Me thinks it could favor the smash mouth team?

David Marsh

Remember … Oregon has some major holes to fill right now but so does everyone else. It will all come down to depth and coaching. I think Oregon will out the pieces together in some surprising ways.

Let’s get some practice reports already!


I’m still trying to digest a 6-0 Helton led sc team. Although this might be just what we need to get Helton a contract extension through 2025 after winning 6 straight games.

For Oregon I think we need Shough to rise up and lead a passing attack. I am afraid if he isn’t good enough to beat out Brown then we may have qb troubles until somebody rises to the top later in the season. I do like Brown coming in and mixing it up while giving Shough a little rest.

The most exciting item with the season approaching is the defense. I look forward to watching the young bucks breaking into the lineup, and dominating the competition while leading the new defensively led Oregon Football Program. Nobody is going to play Oregon, and have a career day, again, under what Avalos is putting together.

I think it is time for Shough to step up, if not then Thompson and others will be nipping at his heals for the rest of his career. Nobody threatened, Marcus, Justin or other elite qb’s at Oregon once they took the starting role. I think this season, this year is either Shough’s or somebody else will become our elite qb going forward.

I do agree we have another head coach, O-coordinator so we don’t know how they will deal with the situation.

Brown is a grad-transfer. This season does not count against his and Shough’s, eligibility.


A 6-0 Helton team is highly likely this year, IMO. But, like you that would be a good thing if it keeps Helton employed at USC.

If Anthony Brown gets in this year with a decent play time he could stay around for next year.

Jon Joseph

SC with its opt outs will be tested right out of the box by the Herminator. But get the W here and I think it will be 6-0 SC vs 6-0 Oregon.

Almost has to be the case for the Ducks to make the final 4/


Yes, an interesting year this is but it begs the question “is a 7-0 Pac-12 record better then a 7-2 SEC record in the eyes of the selection committee ??” My guess is it depends on the strength of the 7 wins. If the only strength is USC then it’s iffy, however if Cal and Washington can raise there game then we have a good chance like you point out. Providing the Ducks, truly can do their part and win out. Remember a one loss Pac-12 team will not make the playoffs this year.

The next question is “are the Ducks really playoff contenders this year ??” It doesn’t really matter because just getting there should be the goal.

An interesting thing with this schedule is that of USC only having one tough game, ASU at home, Nov 7. So here’s a thought, what if ASU wins that game and all the others on its schedule ?? Wouldn’t that be a hoot.

One final question, “should an 8 game schedule be the new Pac-12 game plan for the future ??”


A 7-0 Pac 12 team will get in, as Big 12 already messed up. So even if SEC, ACC, and Big 10 do not go undefeated, an undefeated champion (as long as it’s USC or Oregon – checking unconscious bias here). Possibly even a 1 loss Pac 12 champ gets in.

I think with the lack of data points to compare, the “All SEC” tournament that those Southern boys want is not in the cards (thought not impossible, just very highly unlikely imho).


Jon Joseph

Don’t know Quack?

7-0 will not trump a 10-1 SEC runner up. And even a 2L or 3L SEC runner up is likely to have a better SOS than the Ducks.

One of CAL/UW and and one of SC/ASU, will have an L after week 1. Today, the Ducks at 14 is the only AP ranked Pac-12 team.

Will the Ducks, 7-0 games in Pac-12 games, be able to play enough ranked opponents to impress the Committee? And what happens if Cincinnati for example, wins all of its games?


Oh so true.


Not sure a 6-1 Pac-12 team will even make the news let alone the playoffs. Just not enough strength of schedule in the Pac-12 this year.


It will be interesting, exploring the equity of the, “ESPN/Dr. Pepper, SEC Invitational” Oregon does have a brand; 7-0, Corso & The Duck? Is that enough to keep out a dented, Florida or Georgia? The Buckeyes could run the table in the B1G, but if Harbaugh & Big Blue was ever going to get off the mat, why not now?


Interesting scenarios 30Duck. Definitely something to ponder.

Jon Joseph

If no games are canceled, the SEC runner up could finish 9-2 and likely with a better SOS than the Pac-12 champ. Even an 8-3 SEC runner up could be a threat to a 7-0 Ducks team.

Thus, there is playoff pressure to not only win but win big.

At WSU in November? The good news is that bad weather will likely help the run more than the passing game.


I’m not sure we know enough about our QB and offense to say if bad weather will help or hurt the Ducks in November. I sure wish we had a franchise RB in our barn.


Is this the year to downgrade some of our athletic teams ?? “Why not”.


Reduce the number of football games to 8 just like the SEC. More chance of making the playoffs.