Is it PLAYOFF or BUST for Oregon in 2021?

Joshua Whitted Editorials 26 Comments

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For years, Oregon Ducks fans have been told, “next year will be the year”. If they can just remain patient and trust the process, the results will soon follow.

To a degree, that has come to fruition. When Mario Cristobal took over for Willie Taggart as head coach, Oregon was a good-not-great team that showed flashes of brilliance, but was still a ways off from contending for the conference title, let alone the College Football Playoff. Just two years after his hiring, Cristobal and the Ducks have earned back-to-back Pac-12 Championships, and are now borderline Playoff contenders.

But progress never sleeps.

There was a time not too long ago when conference championships were merely stepping stones for the Ducks. They had their sights set on nothing short of winning it all. Through the down years, fans stayed the course, waiting and watching as the program steadily built itself back up. But make no mistake, despite its endurance, the Oregon fanbase is eager for their Ducks to emerge as a national threat once again.

Amazing Moments Photography

Remember when De’Anthony Thomas dissed the Rose Bowl?

Is it fair to hold the 2021 Oregon Ducks to the same championship-or-bust standard that Chip Kelly‘s Ducks were held to? Cristobal has assembled a more talented roster on paper than even Kelly’s best teams, after all. There’s no overwhelming threat in the conference. And aside from a daunting trip to the Horseshoe (a game Oregon can afford to lose and still make the Playoff, by the way), the Ducks should be sizable favorites in every game on their schedule.

Is the time for “waiting and seeing” finally over, or is it still too premature to declare Oregon “back?”

Joshua Whitted
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by UO Athletics

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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:

Monday: Mr. FishDuck
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A couple of writers could not join us as they have new projects in their lives, and cannot write for anyone at the moment–but perhaps we will see them back later.

Things rarely work out so well for all parties in agreements, but this time it has and truly….everyone wins!

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Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Please Remember….the “Eyes” have it….

Old eyes that is. Please hit the Enter or Return key on your keyboard twice after every third sentence to make it easy on the rest of us.

We want to read your thoughts, but it is harder when there is line-after-line in your post.

My thanks!


Remember since the start of the 4 team playoffs, only 1 conference champion has failed to make the final 4 with only 1 loss. That was in 2018 when Notre Dame went undefeated and Oklahoma beat out tOSU.

In 2014, the Big 12 was left out, but that was before they had a conference championship game to determine a champion. Baylor and TCU split the title at 11-1.

If the Ducks were to go 12-1 with their only loss to tOSU, I give them more than 50% chance of making the final 4. It would be helpful if the Ducks played more than a couple of ranked Pac 12 teams.

Losing early helps your case with the committee.


I feel we have a good team not an elite team. This is my grade by position for our team.
Offense overall grade is B
Offensive Line- B+
RB- B+

Defense overall grade is B+
D Line- C+
DBs- A-

Place Kicker- A-
Punter- B+

My analysis is just based on watching past games and the spring game this year. I did not break film by position because I am not an expert at football.

Our team is good enough to win the PAC 12 this year but not elite to compete with the big 3 this year. I hope I am wrong because I would love to see our Duck go to the playoffs this year. It will not be a playoff or bust for me- just a step in the right direction if we win the PAC and our bowl game.


Robby Ashford in no longer on the baseball team for the remainder of this season. He is solely focused on football. Things could, if they haven’t already, become interesting at the qb position.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

I don’t get that at all; Spring Football is over and Baseball remains for a month more, at best?

I do know that he has not had any playing time in weeks, as Anthony Hall is batting so well that you cannot displace him out of Center Field at this time. The other outfielders of Aaron Zavala and Tanner Smith are hitting even better, thus…

This is a stuff-behind-the-scenes-that-we-don’t-know as to why he is doing it.

Much like the transfer portal, if a talented player doesn’t get playing time, he moves on. Ashford wants to be the man, time to try to be the man on the football team.

I doubt any football coach promised him anything, but they may have advised him to spend more time on football if he wanted a chance. My dark horse favorite just lost his penalty weight, and it just got even more interesting.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Great topic Joshua, and it is not bust for me. We do not yet have the talent of the top three, and frankly–we do not have the proven coaching at that level either yet.

When we are scoring the same as those big-3, and that is an average of 45 points a game as they have over the last three years….and when we beat all the teams we should beat–then we have the proven coaching to make the Playoffs and have a shot at succeeding in them.

This is why achieving a No. 5 ranking at the end of 2019 was the peak of our potential that year–and we got it. I would say that No. 6 to No. 10 is our highest potential level this year, IMHO.


If the D returns to the 2019 level and AB plays out if his mind, I think we can make at run at the playoffs, but I’m not counting on it. The Ohio State game will tell us plenty. We don’t have to win that game but we have to look like we belong on the same field as Ohio State and have a chance to win in the 4th quarter. If they control the game, then the Rose Bowl is our ceiling.


Just being real here but I don’t think we’re beating Ohio St on 9/11. Even winning the P12 won’t get us in with a loss to Ohio St.

Yes things can change but when you have lesser talent across the board than the other CFP teams and a coaching staff that has yet to play a full season I don’t think playoffs are in the conversation yet.

If AL, Clemson, GA and Ohio St lose a game it might stir up some interest in Oregon, but I doubt it since the P12 sucks as a whole and eats their own every year.

Not sure we have RB’s that can take us there unless one of the young guns steps up. QB play is still suspect.
When you watch those teams play it looks like a mini NFL scrimmage.

IMO Oregon’s not quite ready for prime time yet.

I’m thinking 2022 is the year of the Duck.


I agree with your assessment. We are not at the elite level yet. Also, our two senior WR are good but not elite. I think we have two true freshman WR that will be elite in 2022. Not sure of our D-line as well. I think our team will win the PAC 12 this year but we are not ready for the big 3 in the playoffs yet.

With that said, I do not see this as a playoff or bust season. We are still working towards being elite.


Sad that the best team in the P12, (a power 5 conference) can’t field a team good enough to compete with the other P5 teams.

Duck Phan Phil

Not quite. AL, GA, Clemson and tOSU are in the “playoffs or bust” category. We are in the “playoffs would be fantastic!” category. We’re not quite there as far as the talent stockpile, especially along the interior D Line. And let’s be honest, last year’s Pac12 trophy has an asterisk inscribed on it ; we were 4-3 with league losses to Oregon State and Cal and a sound defeat at the hands of Iowa St. Anyone who expects a berth in a four team playoff coming off last year, with a new, previously good but not great (albeit experienced) QB and a good but not great and possibly average interior D line has to be diagnosed with a severe case of homeritis.


Could not agree more Phil. Last season 3 of the 4 teams in the playoff had first round draft picks playing quarterback. The last time Oregon made the final four the Ducks had Mariota. The quarterback position is clearly an indicator of a team’s potential for postseason play. Sure, there are exceptions, but it’s no secret why quarterbacks are often the top picks on the draft……the position is critical to a team’s success. Anthony Brown is a reasonably talented, experienced quarterback, but to think that he’ll lead the Ducks to the playoffs is fantasy. On a related topic, I don’t think Shough would have left the Ducks had he been treated with more respect. Yanking him from the bowl game, after he posted relatively good numbers, was a head scratcher. I think that had a huge impact on his decision to bolt. But Shough was not going to lead the Ducks to the promised land either. So who’s next up? Butterfield, Ashford, Thompson?


There were more receivers drafted in the first round than qb’s. When was the last time we had a receiver drafted in the first round?

When we have receivers who make our qb’s look better than they are, will be the day our program changes for the better.

Up to now our qb’s have carried the load with our offense. We have had some RB’s who have helped out, but we haven’t had the marque WR, yet.

I would contend that the WR position is the one to watch. Will we finally have a receiver who can take over a game, help our young qb’s?

No disrespect meant toward Maehl, Sammie, and other great Oregon receivers, but we haven’t had NFL caliber receivers, or developed talent to that level yet.

Duck Phan Phil

Great point Hayward. Look at Alabama: elite WRs in Amari Cooper, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith have made sub-elite QBs look elite at the college level- Greg McElroy, AJ McCarron, Blake Sims, Jake Coker. Justin Herbert, a better QB than any of these guys, was limited by the talent at WR. Anthony Brown may very well be good enough to get us to the playoffs IF one or two of our younger WRs emerge as elite, but as long as more experienced non-elite guys are in the way that won’t happen, and that looks to be the case this year. Now next year or the year after, with guys like Franklin or Thornton possibly emerging as elite, and with some luck recruiting D linemen…THEN maybe the playoffs or bust attitude becomes warranted.


Bama had two receivers drafted in the first round, one a Heisman winner, and a National Championship.

The qb is important, but a receiver can make the qb. This is something the talent evaluators don’t seem to understand.

This is also something which makes our success with qb’s all the more astonishing. Our qb’s have excelled without elite WR
talent. I can’t wait until our receiver talent reaches the level our LB’s have. You want impact get an elite WR, elite programs know this, and so does the NFL.


Valid point. Have the Ducks ever had a wide receiver selected in the first round? A couple of years ago Dillon Mitchell had an outstanding season for Oregon, then decided, prematurely in my opinion, to turn pro and was picked in the 7th round, and is now a free agent. Had he stayed another year and capitalized on Herbert throwing passes to him as the primary target, I’m sure his stock would have risen. Years ago Cameron Colvin out of Bay Area high school power DeLasalle was an elite heavily recruited receiver……the Ducks signed him and he never did a thing. Oregon has some very highly regarded freshman receivers this year, which is promising, but are they elite? The jury is out, and the track record is not good.


I think the question comes down to QB play, I think the potential is there but i wouldn’t say it is guaranteed potential either. QB play needs to exceed a certain level. the only teams that can make it with an average QB are the superior teams( clemson and OSU).

Oregon is good but they don’t have the talent level of Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State or clemson. right now those teams are the 1.A level teams by comparison oregon is probably a 1.C or 1.D. We far exceed most of our conference and most football teams but in perspective alabama just signed 7 5-stars, georgia signed 4, ohio state signed 5. clemson only signed 1 but signed 5 the year before.(all 247 numbers)

so if we aren’t a 1.A team we need to have significantly above average/elite QB play. so to date only 19 QB’s have played in the playoffs. you can scratch the teams from the 1.A category and you are left with QB’s like baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, Joe Burrow, Jake Browning, Jalen Hurts(Oklahoma), Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Ian Brook and Connor Cook.

I think this is a fairly varied field that leaves some room, you have some players that at best can be described as good but not amazing college QB’s – Cook(MSU), Brook(ND), and Browning(UW). While you have other Qb’s that may have literally willed their team to the playoffs specifically Winston who without him FSU doesn’t even go bowl eligible.

I think What Oregon will need, is a significantly above average college qb, a QB that has a 3or4-1 TD-INT Ratio. that completes 65-75% of passes. What I think will be a valuable skill is a qb who isn’t afraid to pull out a winning TD drive.

If oregon doesn’t have this QB(or the staff doesn’t play this qb) then oregon will inevitably loss a game that they shouldn’t keeping them out of the playoffs.


That’s the standard we expect as Oregon fans and enough time has passed for MC to own the program. The honeymoon is over. The Ohio State game is a huge barometer check for the season. Play well in that game and we’re on the right path, get blown out, then we have some work to do.

Santa Rosa Duck

What a surprise. I am shocked.Well, not so shocked. College football is back to being big time business after a year off.


We are creating the depth to make a legitimate run at the playoff. I would feel more confident about our chances with a “proven” QB. Too big of a question mark at QB for me to get overly excited about a playoff spot.

I don’t think it is playoff, or bust this year. But, from the standpoint of recruiting…it would certainly give Oregon a needed boost up the contender ladder. From the recruiting standpoint we need to get into the playoffs soon.


Until there is an actual “playoff” to “make” I find it difficult to judge the vast majority of college football teams seasons by whether or not they are selected to participate in the ACC/SEC Invitational sponsored by ESPN and it’s affiliate s in the east coast media.

Until the playoffs are expanded and become a real championship tournament, in which everything associated with tournaments may occur – upsets, dark horse winners, Cinderella stories – I personally will be more than happy to call a season in which the Ducks win the North Division, the Conference, and a major bowl a great success.


An 8 team playoff is the way to go. Possibility for upsets, heightened interest (if that’s possible) and a chance for a Cinderella winner, like Villanova beating Georgetown to win the NCAA basketball title in 1985, or Boise State surprising Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in a mild upset by utilizing a couple of trick plays at the end, promoting a sour grapes diatribe by Bob Stoops.

Or how about Maryland Baltimore County, a 16th seed, shocking No. 1 Virginia a couple of years ago in the opening round of March Madness?

Granted, upsets are more likely in basketball, but they happen in football, too.


Ducked, 8 teams would be a good start.
There are other changes which would get college football out of the malaise in which it has languished for at least the recent past.

Standardize scheduling: all conferences play the same number of conference games. I think people underestimate what an advantage the 8 game conference schedules of the ACC and SEC is. Two early season weak opponents with another scheduled mid season.

How about only one none conference game? That would be a nine game regular season. A shorter regular season would accommodate an expanded tournament.

Reduce the number of scholarships. How about a total of 70. There’s plenty of talent out there with fewer scholarships that talent would seek playing time at lesser programs and improve overall quality of play across the college game.

These are just a few suggestions, none of which will happen with the current NCAA. College football needs its own governing body.

Until that is put in place and given teeth, the Ducks and other fine teams will continue to be tasked with almost impossible odds and made to dance to the tune called by media and other outside interests which are perfectly happy with things the way they are.

As I continue to post, unless the current model changes drastically and a real tournament is established the Pac 12 Championship and major bowl will remain my barometer for Duck football success.


The talent is there, the coaches are there, it is just putting it all together that will still take time.

We are more like Georgia than the elite programs which win championships. Georgia has the talent too, maybe more so, but can’t quite stop losing the games they should win and win the really big ones.

Being like Georgia isn’t bad, but we have to be dominate to really win it all. We aren’t dominate yet, so a two loss season seems like a noble goal, until Oregon gets it’s magic back.