What Will It Take for Oregon to Win It All?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 60 Comments

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Which team will be the fourth seed in the College Football Playoff? That’s the biggest question circulating among college football pundits and analysts right now, even though the season hasn’t even begun for a handful of Power Five teams.

Perhaps a more relevant question is: does it even matter?

This past Saturday confirmed that three teams — Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama — are miles ahead of the pack, and are overwhelming favorites to not only make the Playoff, but also win it all. Whichever team does in fact join these three in the Playoff would likely be a longshot to actually advance.

That brings us to the Oregon Ducks — one of the teams in the mix for fourth Playoff spot. Coming off of a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl win, it would seem that the next logical step of progression for Oregon would be to make a Playoff appearance.

But Mario Cristobal and company should set their sights higher than being a second-rate title contender in the shadows of the college football titans. It is possible for a non-traditional power such as Oregon to rise to the top, as Clemson proved, and the Ducks are well on their way. What do the Ducks need to do to close the gap between them and the true college football elites?

What’s Oregon’s Missing Piece?

There’s no single formula for building a national power, but there are similarities among all of the recent championship winners. Almost each of them have had consistent, top-level recruiting, excellent coaching and elite quarterback play. This can certainly be said of the three best teams in college football right now.

Tom Corno

Elite recruits like former five-star Kayvon Thibodeaux build title contenders.

How does Oregon compare in each of these categories?

Cristobal has undoubtedly raised the recruiting bar in Eugene, pulling in back-to-back top-15 recruiting classes, and his upcoming 2021 class might end up being his best one yet. The Ducks are accumulating more talent than they ever have before, and that’s arguably the most important step in joining the ranks of the elites. Is all that separates Oregon from Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama just a few more top-level recruiting classes?

As for coaching, the Ducks have made some moves in recent years that should certainly move the needle in their direction. They upgraded at defensive coordinator when Cristobal brought in Andy Avalos from Boise State to install an aggressive and diverse 3-3-5 defense. The move paid dividends instantly, as Oregon fielded its best defense in recent memory in 2019.

Offensively, after mixed reviews from the Marcus Arroyo era, Oregon brought in former Penn State offensive coordinator and Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead to open up offense, specifically the running game. We’ll see how that move pays off on November 7th when the Ducks kick off their season, but all signs point to a more creative rushing offense under Moorhead — something that Oregon fans have been clamoring for since Arroyo took over as offensive coordinator. Are these coaching moves enough to take the Ducks from “good” to “great”?

From Twitter

Moorhead looks to upgrade Oregon’s offense.

Finally, the Ducks have had good enough quarterback play since the departure of Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, but it hasn’t been spectacular enough to overcome other deficiencies over the years. Now, with Oregon trotting out a new full-time starting quarterback for the first time since 2016, this is arguably the biggest unknown in Oregon’s championship-winning equation.

But just because it’s an unknown, it doesn’t mean it’s a weakness.

Coaches and those close to the program have been singing expected starter Tyler Shough’s praises for years now. While he doesn’t have Justin Herbert’s physical skill set (very few quarterbacks do), he supposedly excels in many of the areas where Herbert struggled at times — consistent accuracy, pocket presence and decision making. Is Shough the quarterback that can truly make Oregon a contender, or do the Ducks need to keep searching?

What do you think — if anything — separates Oregon from the three best teams in college football right now? Are the Ducks on the precipice of greatness, or are their still steps that they need to take to not only be in the discussion for a Playoff appearance, but a contender to win it all?

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Kevin Cline

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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.

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

MEDIA ADVISORY | Oregon Football Update – Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 PM

Based on two separate subsequent negative PCR tests from independent labs, the five positive antigen tests from the Oregon football program on Saturday were discovered to be false positives. Following consultation between UO Athletic Medicine and Lane County Public Health, all five student-athletes were removed from isolation and returned to the team to participate in the resumption of practice this morning.

There was regular PCR testing on Sunday as well as the standard daily antigen testing on Monday and Tuesday, with all results returning as negative.

Great news, but I wonder how rampant are these false positive tests?

J Duck

I think all of those big 3 always have big time offensive and defensive lines. They tend to have elite running backs, receivers, and corners. Oregon with its recent recruiting is moving right up into that category. I think we are going to see a lot of depth and NFL talent at all 3 levels on the defense, and obviously receiver and tight end and even quarterback play.

Not to mention O Line. RB as Charles said in the other article seems down but there may be some NFL guys on the roster now CJ included. The one gray area remains kicking and punting, serviceable but not elite in recent years. Coaching and program mentality are a plus. Facilities don’t hurt any, And the uniforms don’t hurt with recruiting but if you look at perennial powers like Alabama they haven’t changed their uniforms in forever and they are basically pretty bland.

The things we really need to take the last step I think are falling into place.


Thanks Josh and as usual dude your heading to super stardom on the Web Site! WOW I can always say I am always eager to read your articles young Man. As far the Ducks to win it all I do believe we are right close to perfection and I’m not saying having a perfect team just saying this is the best talent, recruiting and Coaching here ever.

As Charles would say most of us Gray Beards would have to agree. I’m just really surprised it took Oregon this long to up the Anty on a DC and a good one no doubt. Avalos is bright and I would certainly hope Rob you listening you don’t screw the pooch on paying Mario especially and the rest of this staff the right stuff as you will.

Oregon and the PAC 12 are in a very unusual place in time. We have a derelict for a PAC 12 President or Larry do nothing Scott and I cannot understand the politics nor neither do I want to. This guy should have been fired long ago. Back to our Ducks I don’t know if a 6 game One game playoff will get us in. So here’s hoping. Shough is the guy and I’ve been singing praises ever since he stepped foot in Eugene and to me he is the so called Messiah of the Gridiron.

Like Lawrence did for Clemson and even his freshman year he was phenominal and Shough to me is that type of Caliber of a QB to get it done. I believe all the elements are there and it would have helped if Holland would have stayed and here I thought guys had to play 3 years to opt out and got to the Pro’s. Honestly I don’t want players like Holland coming here because to me he’s selfish. As far as Breeze goes somebody whispering in his ear is giving him wrong info.

Breeze I’ve always believed has the right stuff but he needed to prove it with one complete year of playing his position in Avalos’s D. I don’t believe he will even get a invite to the combine which is really stupid move for him as he’s the best as far as I’m concerned to play for Oregon is his family tree and yes you should play if you don’t have the resume. He doesn’t even though when he did play he was special and I say again he will regret not playing a full season.


A National Championship will require key players staying healthy for the season. Depth was mentioned, but you still need to avoid losing your key players. Perhaps a schedule that is in the Ducks favor regarding home games against tough opponents.

Right now we are kind of an unpolished gem and need to get some playing time for the offense. However, an RPO offense with RBs that can catch, receivers that can spread the field, and a QB that is mobile and can throw is going to score points.

Defensively, the Ducks can handle the PAC 12 offenses.

I think we are in need of game experience, and maybe a fast hard runner. Maybe a Bo Jackson type guy…lol…and a solid field goal kicker would be nice.

The next few years should be fun to watch.

Go Ducks


This may be a great year for us to make a run at the championship due to all the uncertainty and upsets. This year really hinges on o-line and QB play, because we are experienced, talented and deep just about everywhere else. We all have a lot of confidence in CMC/Mirabal to coach up the o-line, and I personally think Shough is going to turn a lot of heads.

But if not this year, then I strongly believe that the 2022/2023 season will be our next best shot. Our recruiting really took off last year, and if that trend continues our roster will be loaded in that season. That will be the third year of 5 stars like Sewell, Flowe, and Manning – along with the rest of this really loaded class we are bringing in. We will have second year guys the likes of Ashford, and all the talent coming in on offense in this next class.

Edit: And we play Georgia as the opener, a great chance to solidify ourselves in the polls.

There hasn’t been a first time winner of the championship in CFB since 1994. And in my opinion the real key to these flagship programs is depth combined with a handful of outstanding stars. The Ducks will be as loaded as we’ve ever seen in two years time, provided we can hold this coaching staff together.

Jon Joseph

I like 23/24 when the ‘big’ OOC game is versus TX TECH and not UGA.

Jon Joseph

Anything for a ticket to the Masters, right?

College Gameday will be coming at you from Augusta National CC on 11/14. ‘Coincidently’ ESPN is broadcasting the 1st 2 rounds.

BTW, rumor circling that if the NY Jets has the 1st pick in the 2020 draft Trevor Lawrence might play another season at Clemson? This would be good news for Sam Darnold + bad news for the rest of the ACC.


Could Lawrence staying another year, at least get D.J Uigalelei, to consider the Transfer Portal?


The offense needs to improve dramatically to win it all, the Rose Bowl wasn’t pretty. The top teams score points at will. Joe Morehead looks like an improvement but MC needs to adopt a more aggressive mindset especially in the passing game.



Do you think Oregon is switching from the smash mouth here we come try and stop us style. To more of a throw it all over field and let that set up the run?


I don’t think the offense is going to be dramatically different from last year, that would require a change in philosophy. MC loves power football.

David Marsh

The defense is going to be scary this year… The losses will hurt at first but they can be overcome. Keep in mind that every other Pac-12 team is working from roughly the same position Oregon is with practice starting so late.

The offensive line is going to be a wall… this is the first year we get to see a FULL offensive line built in Cristobal’s vision. These players were all recruited by Cristobal in some way… some were brought in under Taggart but Cristobal was still recruiting them at that point. This offensive line is physically bigger than anything we have seen before. The loss of expirence is going to hurt and the loss of Sewell would hurt no matter what… but this offensive line is going to be BIG! I am looking forward to seeing this oline take shape.

Also… Aroyo’s first outing as a head coach didn’t look so hot from an offensive stand point… basically looked like Oregon’s boring offense last year. That gives me an extra level of hope that MC is going to let Moorhead loose.


I think the amount that MC turns Moorhead loose depends on how much success he has during the games.

Jon Joseph

Catch 22?


Yep, a good boss knows that you only get involved in a workers project as much as you are forced to. I’m thinking MC saw that Arroyo was having trouble so he stepped in (a lot) then told him that he better send out his resume. Which Arroyo did and now is having just about as much success, where he is in total control, as his worst days at Oregon.

Jon Sousa

Who’s 22? I hope that if he’s on our offence that he catches it!


Josh don’t worry about SC, they will not get it done against the new Bluebloods of the PAC! The Mean Green and Yellow. LOL!


Stanford @ Oregon, Nov.7, 4:30 on ABC


ASU @ USC, 9:00 FOX
AZ @ Utah, 1:00 ESPNU
UCLA @ Colorado, 4:00 ESPN 2
UW @ Cal, 7:30 ESPN
WSU @ OSU 7:30 FS1

Pac-12 Opening Lines: https://www.vegasinsider.com/college-football/odds/pac-12-championship/

  • Arizona State at USC (-9.5)
  • Arizona at Utah (-14.5)
  • Stanford at Oregon (-9.5)
  • UCLA (-4.5) at Colorado
  • Washington (-5.5) at Cal
  • Washington State (-2.5) at Oregon State
Jon Joseph

Thanks. All times Pacific, right?



Jon Joseph

I wonder of the late game on FS1 will draw fleas?

These late start times in November are AWFUL!

Jon Joseph

Arizona is a 2 TD + underdog; not a favorite.


It’s been a long time since USC wasn’t favored in their opening game, I guess it doesn’t matter that this time it’s a conference game. Utah -14.5 against AZ seems about right. They’ve lost some talent, but I think still have more than does AZ. UCLA -5 at Colorado, the Buffs must really be bad.

UW -5.5 @ Cal. The Husky Honks are loud on this one, let’s go Bears! WSU -2.5 @ OSU, give me the Beavers and the points!

Jon Joseph

If I has to as of today, I’d take SC and give the 9.5. 1 problem with getting a bet down too early this season, who is going to test positive in the interim?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Joshua … there is only one negative about your writing; I wish we could see it more often!

I believe there is another component that is crucial, and that is depth. I recognize that also comes under recruiting, but quality depth is unknown at Oregon until now.

Oregon fans have seen too many seasons go sideways when the quarterback is hurt for example, and yet if Shough is–we have a two year starter in Brown who can fill the slot just as well. THAT is depth!


Your hypothesis is an interesting one and one which raises a persistent question. QB play is one of the most important elements of a successful program.

Oregon had the best qb in college football last year. This is being played out in the NFL this season.

Why couldn’t he lead us to the national championship or at least the playoffs? One of the other two elements of your hypothesis must be off. Was it recruiting, coaching or maybe both?

I would say both, coaching limited Justin’s effectiveness. He didn’t advance too much since his freshman year. What we are seeing now is how good he could have been. Justin throws a beautiful football, most qb’s can only dream about throwing.

Also recruiting at the receiver position was a limiting factor. Herbert with elite talent at receiver would have been even stronger. Maybe we we’re a Kris Hutson away from what we needed out of the receiver position?

Interesting take on a question we hope to have the answer for soon! It definitely seems like Cristobal is trying to make every element just right, it does take time.


You have to take one of the variables out of the equation when one of the potential problems is looking like he is going to become rookie of the year in the NFL.

Another looks to be struggling at his new job and the third is correcting itself. I just hope the coaching issue has been corrected, that is the special sauce.

There are many programs who have top qb’s, great talent, but it takes the unique coach, coaches to make it all work.

Jon Sousa

Seems obvious, but all Oregon has to do to “win it all” is win two very tough games at the end of a good season. Good seasons should abound the next few years.

The only pieces of the puzzle that might be missing will fall into line with the next two recruiting cycles. If coaches stay around, if recruits are coached up, joining the three top dogs is inevitable. 2021 looks good for getting close; 2022 and following look very good for punching through.

Jon Joseph

What Will It Take For Oregon To Win It ALL? 2020 – Go 9-0. 2021 through 2024/25 – Go 15-0. Kidding! (Kind of.)

1st, you have to receive a Doc Pepper/ESPN Golden Ticket. This means finishing with no more than 1L, and the loss has to be ‘reasonable’ in nature. And in the Pac-12, a 1L conference champ is by no means guaranteed a final 4 invite.

2nd, in Oregon’s case, it almost certainly means defeating 2 teams that on paper, have a better and deeper roster than has the Ducks.

3rd, it also means out-coaching two of the better if not the best, coaching staffs in all of CFB.

4th, it means having all hands on deck for the semi-final and the champ games. Key guys cannot be injured or otherwise unavailable.

5th, the ball has to bounce in the Ducks favor. Oregon cannot be the victim of bad calls or non-calls that help decide a game. For example, without a 50/50 targeting call that went Clemson’s way last season, Ohio State likely wins the semi-final game and plays LSU for the title.

Oh, and his knee WAS down!

Thanks for the ponder point Joshua. It may be easier to win a title when the field goes to 8 teams with all P5 champs in. However, in order to be the champion you are going to have to defeat 3 and not just 2 of ‘those guys.’


I’m not sure I understand who this might be “3rd, it also means out-coaching two of the better if not the best, coaching staffs in all of CFB.” ??

Jon Joseph

Dabo and Nick? Or, Ryan Day?


I think for this year or the next, just getting there will be the goal.

Jon Joseph

This year with 7 games max, I just don’t see it happening. As of know the Ducks has no ‘regular season’ game scheduled against an AP top 25 team.

Week 1 is going to knock 1 of CAL/UW out of the equation. And although not on the schedule, 1 of ASU/USC is also gone after week 1. Where are the big wins going to come from that will allow the Ducks to move up from 14?

2021 will likely hinge on the game at Ohio State. Fields will be gone but there will be plenty of 4* and 5* guys on the field for the Buckeyes.


You are kidding, but just barely. With 3 tickets allotted before the season starts to the Invitational, just getting there is the biggest obstacle in Oregon’s way. For now it’s been convenient to get OK. in there. The Committee will have to put names in a hat this season to get the fourth team.

Quarterback play is intriguing. OK has had Heisman winners, Mayfield, Murray, while Alabama has had AJ McCarron and Greg McElroy, Alabama had All American’s everywhere else. LSU certainly rode Burrow to the championship, and of course, Andrew Luck never got a chance.

Oregon looks to be headed in the right direction. Besides the Chosen 3, Oregon is getting the most attention from Talking Heads this season, and I think it will be even louder next season, especially after the Ducks beat the ‘Uckeyes in the “Shoe.

Jon Joseph

Spot on in all respects 30. If you are going to schedule a team like Ohio State in the regular season you have to win or there is zero margin for error. Especially when no team has run the Pac-12 gauntlet and you are playing in a conference that receives little or no respect.

Jon Joseph

Bama won the old fashioned way with McCarron and McElroy and the new way with Tua and now Jones.

BTW, Tua’s little brother starting for Maryland flamed out Saturday at Northwestern. Tell me Tua and his entire family was not a recruiting package deal.


You provided some good questions Jushua.

IMO I believe Oregon has demonstrate one of the three items you say are needed. That is the recruiting, the other two, as you say will have to wait for Nov 7. Most fan’s believe we have improved our coaching staff with Moorhead and Avalos, however some of the assistant coaches I still have questions about, that being primarily the RB coach.

As far as the QB question, again we’ll have to wait for Nov 7 on that. Although looking at the past QB coaching staff we know we had to improve on that. Justin has shown us that we can have talent but without great QB coaching it can not get us there. We seem to have the right QB talent coming into the program but its the coaching that has been lagging behind. Right now Justin is doing very well at the NFL level and I contribute that to the good QB coaching he has received under the Chargers staff.

The biggest thing we need right now, for this season, is time but that seems to be on “backorder” and no place to be found.

Jon Joseph

Good thoughts BDF. Looking to date, at Bama, UGA, UF and A+M in the SEC, Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the B1G, Clemson and Notre Dame in the ACC, and an undefeated Oklahoma State and Cincinnati, I think it will be a stretch for a Pac-12 champ, even at 7-0, to get an invite to the 2020 final 4?

And we can only hope the Ducks get to play 7 games without being COVID interrupted.

I feel for Wisconsin. The back up young QB, Mertz, played a great game in QB starter Coan’s absence. Now. Mertz has tested positive, though asymptomatic for the VIRUS which, pursuant to B1G rules, means he is out for 21 days.

No one knows how this season will play out.


Real bummer about the Wisconsin backup QB. This season sure is turning out to be a disruption to the norm.

I’m thinking the Ducks still have a good chance at the playoffs providing they can go 7-0 without having a close game with any real loser teams. USC should show up in good stile and make a decent fight of things for the national fans.

Jon Joseph

And the back up to the back up has also tested positive. Wisconsin is down to its 4th string QB playing at Nebraska.


Ouch !

Jon Joseph

And the B1G mandates that a positive test = 21 days in quarantine. Not sure what the Pac-12 rule is in 2020?

It’s 10 days in the SEC.

Jon Sousa

Nebraska just got better.

Jon Joseph

Tough for the Badgers but good news for Frosty.

Jon Joseph

BTW, think coaching matters. There he goes again.

James Franklin against Indiana extended his bad end game coaching performances, All PSU had to do at the end of the game was take a knee 3 times, kick a chippy FG and go up by 4 points with about 12 seconds left in the game.

What it could not do is score a TD and give Indiana the ball back. PSU scored a TD against Indiana playing an Ole defense and inviting the TD to be scored. OK, if this wasn’t stupid enough, Franklin than failed to go for a 2 point conversion that could if successful, have iced the game.

PSU recruiting is off, ranked 31 to date with the top 14 players in Pennsylvania leaving the state.

If Helton is let go at USC, Franklin should not be on the list to replace him. IMO, Cincinnati’s Luke Fickel would be a much better coach for Troy. Not only is he a very good in game coach he is an excellent recruiter at the G5 level.


the top 14 players in Pennsylvania leaving the state.” – – – shocking, not a good sign.

I like Helton at USC as he is just good enough to give us an exciting game, but not good enough to beat us. (I hope)

I read about that PSU game. I bet the fans are not happy about that. I wonder what he had to say after the game. How can you possibly justify that call. Maybe the bus leaving the stadium will go without him on it.

Jon Joseph

He said he told the team not to score. Obviously, the message was not received. But why do anything other than take 3 kneel downs and kick a very makeable FG?

He could have had his RB run in the other direction, delay as long as possible, take a safety and probably would have won the game.



Lots of good choices for him but he managed to find a bad one.


Yes on Fickel. In Penn. St. the fans are in hysterics over the 2 point conversion that was ruled good on the field, and again after a 4 minute long review. Turns out that the game wasn’t all that Penn St. lost, starting RB, Noah Cain is out for the season with a leg injury.

In SEC news, Ole Miss Coach, Lane Kiffin isn’t happy: https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/ncaaf/sec/2020/10/26/ole-miss-football-sec-referees-officiating-lane-kiffin-fined-auburn/6049180002/

and Alabama star WR, Jaylen Waddle is out for the season: https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaafb/alabama-loses-superstar-wide-receiver-jaylen-waddle-for-rest-of-the-season/ar-BB1amew3?ocid=uxbndlbing