A Look Around the Country: No “Locks” in College Football

Cameron Johansson Editorials 38 Comments

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With the Pac-12 not kicking off until November 7th, Saturdays have been a bit of a struggle. The crisp fall air isn’t as refreshing when it’s not felt in the Autzen Stadium parking lot or in the stands with 54,000 of your best friends. We Pac-12 fans have been forced to trade in our stadium seats and tailgate parties for lonely seats on the couch scrolling for a game we can pretend to care about for the next few hours.

If there’s been a silver lining, perhaps it’s that we’ve gotten a closer look at games outside the Pac-12. One thing I’ve noticed is that games most gamblers would call “locks” have turned out to be everything but. With attendance at games ranging from 0% to about 40% of the stadium’s capacity, teams that have thrived off of their hostile environment have struggled in the early going. Advantage road team. For instance, in the second week of the season, Arkansas State traveled to Manhattan, Kansas and beat the Big 12’s Kansas State Wildcats. A few hours later in Lubbock, Texas, Texas Tech clawed out a two-point victory over Houston Baptist. Just two weeks later, Kansas State traveled to Oklahoma and upset the then third-ranked Sooners, while Texas Tech took the eight ranked Longhorns to three overtimes in Austin.


Indiana scores a controversial two-point conversion to defeat Penn State in overtime.

College Football has always had a flair for the dramatic. Upsets do happen and the little-known, nothing-to-lost college does show up from time to time to knock off a power five team. But not with the same regularity as this season. LSU’s Death Valley doesn’t seem quite so scary this year, with the defending national champions being upset at home in their first game of the season. After the Big Ten started this season and Rutgers started off with a win on the road at Michigan State and Indiana upset the almighty Penn State, I began to wonder if these kinds of results could happen in the Pac-12.

Other conferences are learning how difficult it is to have minimal home-field advantage and having to jump right into conference games. This is where issues will arise in the first few weeks of Pac-12 play. In terms of home-field advantage, the teams that are going to lose this advantage are Oregon and Washington. These are two of the loudest stadiums in the country that are now going silent. Oddly enough, the toughest place to play in the Pac-12 now becomes Boulder, Colorado simply because of location and altitude.


Autzen Stadium will be a lot quieter this season.

In addition to the elimination of home-field advantage, the Pac-12 has eliminated the on-ramp of non-conference games. No more games against San Jose State or Bowling Green to get up to speed. Especially in this shortened season, every game is a playoff game. When talking about conference games, it becomes any given Saturday. Oregon fans know this after disasters in the desert against the Arizona teams; the rankings were irrelevant. In previous years, there was a luxury in playing a few non-conference games and then jumping into conference play battle-tested. Without that on-ramp, the margin for error gets slimmer.

I am not saying Stanford is going to come into Eugene and stun the Ducks next weekend, as Oregon is surely the superior team. The point is, outside of the shortened schedule and Covid-19 precautions, if we are talking just football, this is going to be perhaps the most difficult season in Oregon football history. Repeating as Pac-12 champions will be more difficult for Oregon without the Autzen advantage or the benefit of warm-up games. Will Mario Cristobal rise to the task and make sure Oregon is the most prepared team in the country?

Given what we’ve seen around the country so far, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain.

Cameron Johansson
Portland, OR
Top photo from Twitter

Phil Anderson, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a trial lawyer in Bend Oregon.



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I had to shut down the daily articles on July 20th because I could no longer work the extra 3 to 12 hours per week of certain managerial/editorial duties. (beyond the usual ones with FishDuck)

I’ve had a blast writing without those duties, and now, due to a new agreement with the writers, I can announce that we will have articles seven days a week again. I wish to thank the writers publicly for their graciousness in coming to a solution, as now I still do not have do those extra duties with our agreement, and meanwhile the writers are back having fun creating articles as I am.

Everybody is happy! So below is the new schedule through football season:

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

The ULTIMATE Husky Hate Day!

The Mens Basketball schedule was released, and on December 12th Oregon plays Washington in football at home, but also plays basketball in Seattle on the same day! They better plan that TV schedule correctly….

And this does not take into account the Womens Basketball schedule because we do not have it yet. Wow….for those of us who love-to-hate the Huskies–can we go 2-0 on that day?




Pac-12 Weekends Announced; Ducks to Play UW, UCLA in December

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon will begin the 2020-21 Pac-12 Conference men’s basketball season Dec. 12 at Washington and will host UCLA Dec. 23, the league office announced Thursday.

The Ducks also found out the home and away weekends for the remainder of the 2020-21 Pac-12 slate, which has been expanded to 20 games for the first time in league history.

The defending Pac-12 champions will host California and Stanford the weekend of Jan. 2. The Ducks then visit Utah and Colorado the weekend of Jan. 9. Oregon has three straight home games with Arizona and Arizona State the weekend of Jan. 16 and Oregon State the following weekend. The Ducks end January at UCLA and USC the weekend of Jan. 30.

In February, Oregon will host Washington and Washington State the weekend of Feb. 6 before a road trip to Arizona and ASU the weekend of Feb. 13.

The Ducks have their last home weekend Feb. 20 against Colorado and Utah. Oregon will spend the final two weeks on the road, playing at Cal and Stanford the weekend of Feb. 27 before finishing at OSU the weekend of March 6.

The final weekend of conference play will consist solely of rivalry games. The Ducks will not visit Pullman in 2020-21, while USC does not come to Eugene.

The 2020 Pac-12 Tournament is scheduled for March 10-13 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Specific dates and times for each game within a week will be announced next month after selections by the league’s television partners are finalized. All 120 Conference games will be televised by either Pac-12 Network, ESPN/2/U, FOX/FS1 or CBS.

Oregon’s 2020-21 non-conference schedule will be released in the coming weeks.

Sat., Dec. 12, 2020            at Washington
Wed., Dec. 23, 2020         UCLA

Week of Dec. 30-Jan. 3     California/Stanford
Week of Jan. 6-10             at Colorado/Utah
Week of Jan. 13-17           Arizona/Arizona State
Week of Jan. 20-24           Oregon State
Week of Jan. 27-31           at UCLA/USC
Week of Feb. 3-7               Washington/Washington State
Week of Feb. 10-14           at Arizona/Arizona State
Week of Feb. 17-21           Colorado/Utah
Week of Feb. 24-28           at California/Stanford
Week of March 6-7           at Oregon State

Thanks Charles.

Would Nebraska like to come along with OK, OK ST. TX TECH and TX and a school to be named later, to a reconstituted Pac-12?

Wisky at Neb COVID cancelled. So Neb hustled and set up a game with UT Chattanooga. Neb was going to write UTC a big check and pay for testing of the UTC team.

B1G says, no way Huskers. Cancelled means cancelled.

THIS has to tick off the folks in Lincoln.


There’s always the 9 AM kick off.

Jon Joseph

And with no fans in the stands, why not do this more this season. Frankly, it ticks me off when all of the big games kick off at 7:30 eastern.

What more proof is needed that CFB has sold its soul?


Indeed, Jon, indeed. “The Devil & Daniel Webster” meet the FBS.


This could be nice: https://www.nbcsports.com/northwest/oregon-ducks/oregon-football-publicly-recruiting-former-4-star-and-lsu-dt-siaki-ika

Former Oregon target and LSU defensive tackle Siaki Ika plans to enter the transfer portal, Blair Angulo of 247Sports reported Wednesday morning.
Ika had Oregon in his final five teams along with Florida, USC, Utah and LSU when he committed to Ed Orgeron and the Tigers as the nation’s No. 159 overall prospect and No. 11-rated defensive tackle in the 2019 class per 247Sports composite rankings. 

Jon Joseph

And soon, the portal will beam you to immediate playing time and not a season of sitting out.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

He was someone I really wanted, and am curious as to the story why he is transferring. LSU usually has a ton of big DTs, so perhaps he was unwilling to wait his turn?

Or was he not as good as analyzed?

Coaches have tough decisions, because if you give him a scholarship–there are darn few left….


A nice read for us Cameron. Thank you. The season will reveal everything. Men of Oregon, or Hapless Quackers?

Jon Joseph

Coming early with my picks this week. I’m all golfed-up tomorrow.

Clemson -31.5 vs BC – Clemson was ’embarrassed’ last Saturday, defeating Syracuse by only 3 TDs with Golden Boy Lawrence throwing a pick 6! I don’t think the Tigers look ahead to the game in South Bend next Saturday without first blowing out Notre Dame’s ‘little brother.’

Alabama -32 vs Mississippi State – The Pirate’s crew is jumping ship. Even without super star WR Waddle, I think this Tide leaves Leach’s guys in crimson tatters.

Michigan -25 versus Michigan State – Minnesota is a far better team than is Sparty. Michigan rowed away with the boat in Minneapolis. No love lost between these 2. I see Harbaugh putting a beat down on Mel (Maybe I’m Missing Boulder) Tucker.

BYU -28.5 vs W Kentucky – To have a final 4 shot, BYU has to win at Boise State and blow out every other opponent. I like the Cougars.

4 home team heavy favorites? What could go wrong? (A LOT!)

YTD ATS – 5-3

Lou Farnsworth

Interesting points Cam. Great ponder-point article.

Home Field Advantage is more than crowd noise. The crowd helps certainly, but there is more: field familiarity, larger roster, proximity of facilities etc. So while I would have to agree with you to the extent that HFA is certain diminished. Nonetheless it is still there.

As I think about it, the stronger point in your argument would be the “on ramp” of OOC games. For the Ducks, however, it would seem that this factor is minimized due to the “iron sharpens iron” nature of having a deep roster of elite players on both sides of the ball. The Roman Emperor Tiberius was famous for how brutally he trained his Legions. It was said, (Josephus IIRC ) that “His drills were bloodless battles, and his battles were merely bloody drills.” Advantage Ducks.

Our Quackers go into this shortened Pac-12 only season as clear favorites in every game. A shorter season means less chance of injuries. Which in turn gives the advantage to teams that have the rosters with the better “ones”; but also have rosters where the drop off from the “ones” to the “twos” is small. Again, advantage Ducks.

I really like our chances of running the table up to the Pac-12 Championship game, and beating USC a second time there.

Then, it is all up to the College Football Pantheon (AKA Playoff Selection Committee) as to what our post season fate will be.

Jon Joseph

Great take, But the Ducks play UCLA and not USC in the ‘regular season.’


But they will play USC in the Pac-12 conference championship game. I’ll even swear by it – – – &%@&&#(&(&(*%&(%(#*)&%.- – – There I did it.


Any way to get the new bad azz big screen involved? Surely the UO can figure out a way to utilize it.
Back OT, yeah no crowd noise is going to hurt many teams. Only thing helping a home team is the fact that they’re playing in familiar surroundings. It’s been this way in the NFL and the good teams seem to be able to over come it. I think that this year the teams with the best records will be the cream of the crop in that they had no help in getting wins.


These players and coaches have to prepare for something they haven’t experienced, maybe ever. The elite athlete has been cheered and coddled since they were little. All they have heard is great job, you are amazing since way back when.

Now they are playing for pride and the team, little else. Which teams will be able to hold up when it is just their team and self respect driving them. I think this will be an amazing indicator of which teams are driven by the right forces.

Cristobal is one of the coaches trying to create and build this kind of culture. What a test and I hope they pass with flying colors, Green and Yellow, that is!

Jon Joseph

Good take Cam. I’ll echo 30 when it comes to Clemson and I’ll add Bama and Ohio State.

Penn St’s James Franklin worked every bit of magic he had to take the L against Indiana last Saturday. This game was the 1st time since the modern era where a team outgained the other by the extent PSU outgained Indiana and lost the game. There will be no White Out at PSU Saturday. tOSU wins as I expect and tOSU has nothing left on the schedule before a Michigan team it has routinely handled.

Unless you consider that this year’s Auburn team can give Bama a test in Tuscaloosa (I don’t,) before the SEC Champ game Bama has it easy. This season is showing us what we already knew, the top of the SEC is elite. The rest, not so much. Play weak comp OOC and elevate the ranking of close to the entire conference so when Bama wins, it’s a big time top 25 win. Perhaps with all-world Waddle gone, UGA will be able to hang with Bama for 4Q in the SEC champ game in Atlanta?

IMO, with the middle of the SEC eating its own, the SEC will stay with an 8 game conference schedule post-COVID.

The fly in the ointment could be Notre Dame? The 25% of the student body who have shown up in South Bend have been ‘loud’ by 2020 standards. Notre Dame has not played anyone in its weight class to date and will not do so before next Saturday when Clemson trips to South Bend. Clemson is another team that has been vastly superior, roster-wise, to every team it has played. In addition to Clemson at ND on 11/7, I expect we will see these 2 in the ACC champ game.

Will Oklahoma State take a loss in the B12? Texas in Stillwater Saturday will be interesting and OK ST still has OK to play. Amazing that a B12 team is doing it with defense.

From what I have seen to date, I see a final 4 of usual suspects Bama, Clemson, Ohio State and undefeated Cincinnati, or 1L A+M, Michigan, OK ST? But if ND gets the W over Clemson in S Bend, the entire calculus changes.

Wisconsin at Nebraska being cancelled really hurts Bucky’s cause. I think? Because who knows how many other games will be cancelled with no room on the schedule to make up these games?

I like the Rutgers shout out. Schiano was not good enough for TN, right Vols fans? Not a good opening act for $5M man Mel Tucker; Sparty turned the ball over 6 times in the game.

The winner of Saturday’s Rutgers/Indiana game will be at the least, tied for 1st place in the B1G E!

If anything, without fans going fanatic at the games, I expect the team with the superior roster as is usually the case, will win the vast majority of games in 2020.

Thanks again

Lou Farnsworth

Jon, perchance did you see the Michigan-Minnesota game? The Wolverines seem to have a pulse this year. Their dual threat QB Joe Milton was lights out. “The Game” just might be a bit closer than we would expect. Ghosts of Bo and Woody!!


Michigan an interesting case. Their recruiting for classes 2017-2020 very close to the same as UOs with Joe Milton looking very much like the real deal. Harbaugh may have finally found his next Andrew Luck.

So, as a ‘next tier’ team with us (& perhaps OK) behind Bama, tOSU, GA, & Clemson, they will be fun to follow as a potential party crasher to the Invitational as well. An upset in a near empty Horseshoe in Columbus just might be possible.

Cautionary point: if you just frame shift USC to classes 2016-19 (RS Srs thru true So/RS-Fr) they are also solidly in that pretenders / crashers group as well, with their outstanding classes of 2018-19 as the core of the team right now. (yes, their 2019 class ranking doesn’t include the two 5 stars who transferred in).

Jon Joseph

Currently, ESPN FPI has the Ducks ranked 7 and SC ranked 9. A word of caution, it also has Texas ranked at 10.


Wow, something at ESPN with less credibility than McShay.

Jon Joseph

Is that possible? WHERE is the JH mea culpa?


That will never happen. McShay & Kiper have the perfect jobs. Presumably they are paid by ESPN for their expertise, but it matters not what it delivers. There is no bigger case than ESPN turning sports into “entertainment” than the NFL Draft.

Kiper & McShay trot out their analysis, week after week on their, “Big Boards”, #1, then #2, & 3 & 4, on and on.

Will McShay ever cop to being completely wrong on Justin? Never, and nobody at ESPN will bring it up, lest, there be any actual scrutiny into and accountability for, McShay’s & Kiper’s “work product”

Jon Joseph

I did watch it Lou. Unfortunately, I bet against the Blue and went with the Gophers +3. Maybe Harbaugh exchanging khaki for blue pants makes a big difference?

tOSU still has a big and growing, roster advantage and Milton looked god but Fields looked great.


I think what you are seeing is the effect of coaching and culture in these kinds of games. Not to say any of these teams are bad teams to loss against, Although Rutgers probably is. The lack of fans creates a system in which coaches and players need to mentally ready themselves for each game. these teams need to be able to ready themselves and to be pumped up to play They don’t have fan noise to create energy so they need to bring it themselves.

It’ll be interesting to see what oregon does, Oregon is often pretty good and ready under cristobal but they have had games in which they came out flat and in a 7 game(hopefully) season you can not afford to come out flat.

Jon Joseph

Greg Schiano is a quality coach and the fans at TN were foolish to run him off.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Hey Cameron,

Great points and while I love the home field advantage ruined for Cal and WSU, I feel we have lost a ton in facing the Huskies. An empty Autzen stadium really helps them against Our Beloved Ducks


Overall, I feel that your thesis is a sound one, Cameron, except when you toss Clemson in to the mix. With their schedule, It would take more than all the issues you raised in this article for Dabo and his guys to have any stress. Alabama is close to this, but did take a hit with the loss of WR, Jaylen Waddle.

The HF advantage has taken a hit. But, I’m still glad that the Ducks open at home against Stanford, I’d much rather be playing Cal @ home. WSU in the Palouse? No thank you, and having the Huskies in Autzen for the season finale? Yes!


You are so right about Clemson and Alabama not being stressed about this. The Ducks however are not in the same class so I suspect we are more susceptible to this kind of disruption.

Having the Huskies in Autzen – – – so sweet.

Jon Joseph

? I do think that Clemson at Notre Dame next Saturday could be a test for Clemson? Who knows what the weather will be like for this game and the ND D is solid.

Clemson has played no one with a roster close to what Dabo brings to the table. Notre Dame has quality starters and a very experienced QB.


It would be good to get ND out of contention for the playoffs.

Jon Joseph

The Domers is in the ACC this year and should stay there. With 4 OOC games ND can still play SC. Stanford, Navy and a cupcake. And in the division opposite Clemson, The Irish would be close to a lock to play Clemson in the ACC champ game every season. ND would only match up once every six regular seasons vs Clemson.


Clemson @ Notre Dame. It could be interesting. Personally though, even this season, I think a 1 L Clemson still gets an invitation to the, “Playoffs” This would mean that Clemson avenges itself against ND in the ACC Conference Championship.


You make a good point here Cameron. IMO Cristobal is not the best when it comes to preparing the team mentally and what you point out here could come to bite Oregon if not well prepared. If the other conferences are any indication this season could be a bumpy ride.

I’m looking forward to the 2021 season already.

Jon Joseph

Man, I just hope Oregon will be able to play 7 football games? I do not think the Pac-12 will make it through the abbreviated season with games being canceled.

If Oregon has a scintilla of a chance for a playoff shot, it best show for every game and not jut win , but win convincingly.

It is going to take beat downs out west to move the committee’s meter.


With all the variables we have this year “total beat downs” may not be the norm. If it happens it will be because of our defense.

Jon Sousa

Yup. A dominant defense puts the ball back in the hands of the offence, not only more times but for more time.


You’re right, BDF. A beat down such as Clemson delivers probably isn’t in the cards, since the teams the Ducks play will at least have a pulse, and I don’t see Lawrence & Etienne in the Ducks’ backfield. But, I thin the defense of the Ducks should rule the day, sometimes starting at 9 AM.

Historically, defenses come together before do offenses, so that is in the Ducks favor, throw in that the defense for the Ducks won’t be generic, but dominant. Stanford is breaking in a new QB, what is J thinking now? So are the Uskies. Garber is back for Cal, but I have faith in the D to hold them, while the offense for the Ducks should be in good shape by then.

Jon Joseph

But from what we have seen to date, ‘historically’ has been turned on its head.