Does Oregon Have a Challenger In Its Division in 2021?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 20 Comments

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It’s not yet poll season in college football, but rest assured, Oregon will land in just about every preseason top-25 ranking. The Ducks, with a boatload of returning starters and a roster full of elite recruits, are likely favorites to win the Pac-12 in 2021, with their only perceived challenger being USC.

But should Oregon worry about its own division first?

Last season, the Ducks weren’t even supposed to represent the Pac-12 North in the Championship Game; that honor went to “that team up north”. Oregon benefited from Washington’s inability to field enough players due to Covid-19, and the rest is history. Has that much changed in just a year for the Ducks to go from understudy to the undisputed star of the show?

The Huskies return a solid roster that always seems to outperform its recruiting pedigree, and like him or not, there’s no denying that Jimmy Lake can make life hard for opposing offenses. Elsewhere, both Oregon State and Cal caught the Ducks sleeping in 2020, and Washington State is always a tricky out. None of them are expected to make a serious push for the division crown, but stranger things have happened.

So, are you confident that the Ducks will waltz away with the North? Or is the outlook a bit more dicey than the experts would have us believe?

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Eugene Johnson

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I love Joshua’s articles and always enjoy his perspective, however I am so tired of the ‘Oregon wasn’t supposed to be in the Pac12 championship game’ that has pervaded the media.

It was a weird, once in a generation, epically unusual season. And under the rules adopted at the beginning of the season that team up north “won” the division by NOT playing the ducks. I can accept that. What I can’t accept is a narrative that conveniently omits that fact and obliquely tarnishes the Ducks PAC12 Championship.

I understand the reason behind the rules as implemented last season, The importance of not incentivizing a school to pushing players or coaches to compete when that competition could have spread the virus. The fact the Ducks could field a team every week was an accomplishment in and of itself. It’s also an accomplishment our division’s ‘winner’ wasn’t able to achieve.

I completely supported the mitigation measures and rules adopted and I’m grateful we got at least a little bit of Ducks football last season. But I am so very opposed to the idea the the Ducks somehow did not deserve to be in the championship game.

If the game with the hated fuskies had taken place, the winner of that game would have been the division winner. Any narrative that fails to address that fact is flawed.

I’ll be returning the soapbox now.

Thank for your time.


ESPN believes in needing to score to win titles.

Defense still matters, and if you have an ultra-disruptive lineman or a lot of guys who can hold their own in man coverage, then you can frustrate offenses.

But if you aren’t empowering your quarterback, if you aren’t surrounding him with a loaded skill corps and if you aren’t capable of winning a 52-46 game at some point, then you probably aren’t winning the national title.


Taking things for granted sometimes ends in disappointment. There are many performance unknowns with this team. Week two is a hinged tipping point, but won’t make the season. Given the staff, and the depth and skills of the players, there are no more excuses. Is there enough on-field leadership? Are there players that can overcome adversity and carry the team to victory when the chips are down? Will the coaches make situational blunders when facing obstacles? So many questions. So few answers this early. Go Ducks!


Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

All these questions add the fascination, the drama to watch play out–the entertainment. Great fun!


Spot on. For me I’d like to see the Ducks dominate teams with lesser talent. Dominate may be too strong, maybe just be in control.

Right now I only see WA as the team to fear in the north. Mainly because I feel there will be attendance at games and a home crowd can fire up a team if needed.

Oregon has Stanford away and I’m not convinced that they will have enough fire power to beat us. Wst, Ost and Cal are home

games and with some fan support should be winnable.

One thing for sure this season won’t look like last season.

Santa Rosa Duck

We probably have the best talent this year but name me one team in the Pac 12 North that is an easy out for Oregon. IMHO they do not exist and I just hold my breath when we play any of them. GO DUCKS!


I think that Oregon needs to worry about its own division until the point if has reached the Ohio State or Alabama level, which has not happened yet by any means.

The Pac 12 may be disrespected at the national level (for some good reasons) but it’s still quite an accomplishment to get through your division undefeated. I certainly think we could do it this year, but it will take a lot of focus and just general good fortune from the football gods.

Of course it’s that old cliche, but take care of one game at a time to the best of your ability and let everything else sort itself out.


Agree, Oregon State is going to become a bigger and bigger threat going forward. The biggest threat though is the upset, an underdog rising up, and beating the dominant program.

The biggest challenge is playing to each individuals talent level and as a team working together. I saw too many missed blocks by receivers, and others last year at critical times. If we just play for the individual glory, the upsets will continue. This attitude has to be controlled or it will kill the program. Elite talent is only as good as it plays as a team.

The other greatest challenge, which has been stated ad nauseam, is can Cristobal let the coordinators control play calling. The players have to be put into situations where they can be successful. Too often, in the past, the players haven’t been put into ideal winning situations.

If we see creative play calling that takes advantage of mismatches, the challenges will be the ball bouncing the wrong way. If coaching decisions are based on predictable instincts, coaching from the other sideline will win the day, and topple our talent.

I suppose the mantra should be ‘win the play, with guile and talent!’

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I’ve asked a number of times….“Can’t Cristobal win by being smart, and not just being tough?” You are asking, “why can’t we win with both?”

Amen, my Duck-Brother.

Jon Sousa

Walk away with it??? No. Games still have to be won on the field. Yes, we have more 4 and 5* on the roster, and Yes, the coaching staff is probably superior, but in the end these are just 18-21 year olds going up against other 18-21 year olds. Anything can happen on any particular day.

Every week, the men of Oregon need to their mind set on victory and then go out and get it.

Do I think that Oregon will win the North? I think they have a better chance than anyone else.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Isn’t it interesting how different fan bases view this? If the roles were reversed and Washington had brought in all these recruits and coaches along with winning two Pac-12 titles in a row…how would they view their chances at coming to Autzen?

They would be barking and blustering about the “licking” they would put on Oregon, and they would sneer at anyone who doubted their predictions.

Meanwhile Oregon fans acknowledge how our foes can beat us, even if we would be favored. Another reason why Duck fans are better!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

In a few years–I think Oregon State is going to be the biggest threat, but for now it remains Washington. I believe on paper that we have a superior team, but that means nothing when we go up to play in Seattle and the stadium is going crazy as the fans are frothing for a win.

It will be an intense game where all bets are off….


I agree with Hayward. The Duck’s biggest threat is the Ducks.

Also, Charles I live 13 miles across the water from Seattle and subscribe to the Seattle Times. The sports section is nothing but positive Husky fluff. It is so refreshing to read the Oregonlive sports coverage with which I may disagree but is not just a mouthpiece for the Duck and Beaver programs. Likewise FishDuck, the articles and comments reflect a real love of all things Oregon, but are grounded in reality.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Well, I do advocate the writers and everyone to do “critical analysis,” and call it the way it is. We can both applaud and criticize Cristobal as balanced, reasonable fans.

No green Kool-Aid here!

(P.S. Everyone knows I am a BIG fan, waving the Pom-Poms often, and you can be while also doing critical analysis.)