Backing the PAC: The Pac-12’s Must-Win Games

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The 2021 football season starts tomorrow! Yes, some teams have already played, but that is a sideshow to the main event. The early season is when most teams play their out-of-conference schedules and this is the time that these games become vital to a conference’s image.

In the past five years or so, the Pac-12 has not fared well. It’s one of the major contributing factors as to why the conference is seen as a weak one. However, that perception can start to change if Pac-12 teams can manage to win some of these games.

Must-Win Games

Stanford vs. Kansas State – Kansas State tends to be a middling Big-12 team. Though it has been a while since they sat atop the Big-12, they are typically a solid team. Furthermore, Texas and Oklahoma’s departure should propel Kansas State toward the top of the conference in the coming years. Stanford has a Week 1 opportunity to prove that the Pac-12 is better than a middling Big-12 team, especially if that team might become a top team in the Big-12 after the departure of the two biggest brands. In a microcosm, this game will pin the two conferences against each other where a Stanford loss makes the whole Pac-12 look weak.

From Twitter

Jim Harbaugh is no stranger to Pac-12 football.

Washington vs. Michigan – This is a tough one, my fellow Duck fans. So maybe this is an optional game to root for the PAC. Michigan is a struggling program and Jim Harbaugh has his back against the wall in a do-or-die season. A Michigan loss to Washington would certainly put Harbaugh on even thinner ice. However, the Huskies beating Michigan at Michigan would be a win over a B1G blue blood and with that alone it would help the Pac-12’s image. Washington has many potential problems, the least of which is that this will be the first away game Washington will play under Jimmy Lake. That does not bode well for Washington.

Oregon State vs. Purdue – Putting our reputation in the hands of an Oregon State team that hasn’t been to a bowl game since the Mike Riley era seems bad. However, Purdue is not a powerhouse B1G team and is a team that in many ways resembles a similar skill level as Oregon State. Under the leadership of Jonathan Smith, Oregon State is playing well above their talent level and could very well make a bowl game this year. This is a winnable game for Oregon State, and would be a boost to their program and to the conference.

Arizona, Utah and Arizona State vs. BYU – This is really three games. In the first three weeks BYU plays three Pac-12 teams. For the sake of the Pac-12’s reputation BYU cannot be allowed to go 3-0 against the PAC. Ideally these three teams go 2-1 against BYU, with the most likely loss coming from Arizona as they have the weakest roster. Later in the year BYU plays Washington State and USC, and it is likely that BYU will split those games. BYU is a strange measuring stick for the conference due to their independent status, and how they will end up playing schools from all over the country including other Power Five schools. It is vital the Pac-12 makes a strong showing early against BYU.

From Twitter

Utah and BYU play annually and Utah has come out on the winning side in recent history. That must continue.

Winnable Games

Colorado vs. Minnesota – Colorado is probably out-matched in this game. Minnesota has some massive offensive linemen and will probably push the Colorado defense around at will. However, Karl Dorrell did manage to over-achieve last year and with a full year under his belt there is the chance he can score an upset for the Pac-12.

UCLA vs. LSU – UCLA did a good job dealing with Hawaii last week, but Hawaii doesn’t have anything near LSU’s talent and the sad truth of it is that neither does UCLA. LSU had a disastrous year last season and the Tigers are looking to rebound. This game will be played in LA, which is a surprisingly favorable site for a Pac-12 team as SEC teams rarely leave their geographical footprint. It is unlikely that UCLA ends up winning this game, but they can’t get embarrassed in losing. This does all hinge on LSU actually rebounding from their dreadful 2020 season.

Oregon vs Ohio State – This would be an incredible win for the Pac-12 if Oregon can pull it off. Oregon is probably the only team in the Pac-12 that could challenge Ohio State. This game isn’t just important to the Pac-12, but also for Mario Cristobal because he needs to prove he is building a program that can make a legitimate run at the playoff. Making the playoff this year is only truly possible if Oregon looks like they belong on the same field as Ohio State. Outside of a win, keeping it a one score game will prove Oregon belongs in the national conversation — and so does the Pac-12 by proxy.

The Pac-12 has a golden opportunity to prove they belong among the Power Five conferences once again this year. The only question is: will the scoreboard reflect it?

David Marsh 
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By John Sperry

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For Football Season: FishDuck Back to Seven Days a Week!

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
Tuesday: Darren Perkins
Wednesday: Joshua WhittedMr. FishDuck
Thursday: Coach Eric BolesAlex Heining
Friday: David Marsh
Saturday: Mr. FishDuck (GameDay Baby!)
Sunday: Jordan Ingram

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!

Our 33 rules at FishDuck can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) keep it clean, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

FishDuck members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!

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Game Predictions!

It is time to start a thread of our predictions, and as tie-breakers, tell us how many turnovers Oregon will create and how many sacks the Ducks will tally against Fresno State. (Along with a score, of course!) I ‘ll start…

Oregon 42-24 with three and three.

48-20, 2, 4.

UtahDuck

Oregon wins 44-29 with 5 sacks and 2 turnovers. one turnover being a strip sack by Thibs!

DuckUp

48 to 20 Oregon 2 and 4
Let’s go Ducks!

Santa Rosa Duck

I am actually concerned about this game (looking forward to Ohio State, etc). DUCKS 42 Fresno State 21.

CJ

I am not quite as confident as others on here based on the performances of last years team.

I’ll go Oregon 38 Fresno 28 2 turnovers 2 sacks

30Duck

The Braxton Burmeister led VT Hokies are up 14-0 at halftime over #10 UNC.

30Duck

VT wins, 17-10

Jon Sousa

Alabama beat Fresno State 41 – 10 in 2017, a year they won the national championship.

Therefore our goal is to do better.

Oregon, 41 – 9 3 turnovers, 5 sacks

Fresno scores only 3 field goals. Oregon’s Katleman scores 2.

CJ

Pac12 is 3-0 with wins over cupcakes so far and I think we will win all the other cupcake games we are expected to win, save for maybe AZ.

Stanford vs. KSU – This is a tough one to predict. I’ll go Stanford 20 KSU 17 Pac12 1-0

Washington vs. Michigan – Even tougher to predict this one. I’ll go Washington 34 Michigan 31 PAC12 2-0

Oregon St. vs. Perdue – I am a Beaver Believer at heart (never root against them unless they are playing the Ducks) OSU 35 Perdue 28 Pac12 3-0

6 Pac12 Teams vs. BYU – I think we go 4-2 in these matchups with losses by AZ and WAZZU PAC12 7-2

Colorado vs. Minnesota – Another tough one here Minnesota 35 Colorado 31 PAC12 7-3

UCLA vs. LSU – I have a special feeling about Chips team this year. The D looks extra stout and his running backs are too. I will go out on a limb here UCLA 38 LSU 35 PAC12 8-3

Oregon vs. Ohio State- as much as I would love to see the Ducks pull off the major upset I think there is still TOO MUCH talent disparity at TOO MANY positions = Suckeyes 45 Ducks 34 (Disclaimer: this prediction could change after I see the game tomorrow)

So my prediction is the PAC12 goes 8-4 in the meaningful non-conference games this year. Not as bad as the past few years and should help a bit with perception, but not enough to get anybody from the conference into the CFP this year.

DanLduck

Yes, it’s time for the Pac to show it’s stuff!
I believe they will.

I’ve read that the Pac12 has more super seniors than any other conference.
Virtually every team is returning an experienced O-line.
Teams starting new QB’s have experienced transfers, mostly.
With a new commissioner there is a sense of hope and excitement missing past few years.
All together I believe this bodes well for our success this year.

I see Stanford, OSU, UCLA, even the dawgs winning games mentioned above. BYU plays the Pac12 6 times?! And will be lucky to get 2 wins, showing they aren’t up to the Pac yet.
The Ducks will have a great opportunity to beat tOSU but until I see tomorrow, I don’t know.

So tomorrow’s prediction:
Our defense plays stellar and gets 3 takeaways, giving the offense short fields.
51 – 10 and 4 sacks, 2 by KT.

Get those IPA’s chilling now!
Go DUCKS!

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Yeah Baby!

I love the predictions and the sentiment. It is only fitting that my favorite Oregon Craft Beer IPAs are with the official Craft Beer of the Pac-12…Deschutes Brewery in Bend!

NJDuck

From Former head coach Mike Bellotti on the upcoming Ducks football season:

For former University of Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, he sees something special in Mario Cristobal’s team.

“I fully expect the Ducks to win the division title. And then win the conference championship, Bellotti said. “I think that they are the best team overall in the league. Now they still have to play like that.”

With a stacked Pac-12, the road to lifting a trophy won’t be easy for the Ducks. “I think USC will be tough in the south. Utah’s always tough. Don’t sleep on Washington. Stanford is always lurking. Cal can play some defense and they have a veteran quarterback,” Bellotti explained. “So it’s not going to be easy. And that’s why the Pac-12 is a struggle because it is a cannibal conference in terms of they play nine elite games and that’s more difficult than anybody else.”

One thing that is not lacking for the Ducks is athletic talent and a world class coaching staff. A question, however, that still lingers over Autzen Stadium is how quarterback Anthony Brown will perform in his first full season for the Ducks.

“I do think that Oregon has the talent and they have the coaching acumen. It’s just keeping people healthy, making the right decisions in terms of the quarterback play. And I say that because you have to have a special guy in a quarterback, and I think Anthony Brown has the combination of experience and talent right now. It’s going to be interesting to see as we go over several games.” For Coach Bellotti, there is a challenge in store for Oregon in the opening stretch of games. 

“They will be tested early. Fresno State’s a good football team, Ohio State’s an excellent football team and one of the odds on favorites to be in the college football playoffs,” 

Bellotti said. “I’m excited. I’m optimistic. I believe that Mario Cristobal has done a tremendous job recruiting both coaches and players, and this is the time to put it all together.”

I would like to see PAC12 change from 9 to 8 conference games. Hopefully this will be one of many changes the new commissioner will accomplish.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

Cool. Thanks for sharing that!

Mike Bellotti in 1996_Video_FP.jpg
NJDuck

Oops, that last little paragraph was my personal comment and not from MB. Just realize how that looked.

Jon Sousa

It didn’t have quotes, so you’re good.

30Duck

Oregon 47 Fresno State 20, 2 TO’s – 3 Sacks
As to the Huskies; can’t actually want them to win, but should they do so and help the conference in the process, so be it. Beavers over the Boilermakers, Bruins over the Tigers, oh yeah!

Drake

The PAC 12 should be more competitive top to bottom. A couple of teams are on the uptick…UCLA looks much better, ASU will be dangerous, and the Rodents look to be improving.

The Ducks, and one other team need to climb the rankings ladder, and the conference starts to dig out of its hole on the national level.

Prediction Ducks 45 Fresno 24…3 turnovers, 4 sacks

GODUCKS15

Ducks 45
Fresno 20
2-5
Ducks turn it over once
I will root for any P12 team in important OCC games as well as Bowl games.

Mudslide

I have been touting restraint on the Duck’s season record and also the score in this game. This morning my gut suddenly upped and said “WHOA!, the Ducks DeRuyter defense will dominate FSU”. (At least I think that’s what my gut said. It could have just been telling me it’s really hungry.) Anyway…4 and 4! Ducks give the Bulldogs the boot, 56-21.

NJDuck

Game prediction:

Oregon 49-21 with three and four

I enjoyed this read. The only thing I can’t abide by is losing respectably to THE osu. A win is a win and a loss is a loss. Yes don’t get blown out. But losing at the shoe means another season short of expectations. The real measure is winning, not the margin of loss.

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck

For me the Washington game is “good-or-good” with the result either being the conference gets a good win, or the Huskies lose.

Good-or-Good!

NJDuck

Thanks David for the article,

I agree, I will need to swallow my dis-like for the Huskies, hoping they will beat Michigan for the sake of the PAC. I even think UCLA will be able to pull off a win against LSU. This game is going to be played at the Rose Bowl. Hoping UCLA fans will come out in full support of their team to beat LSU and not let it be an LSU home game.

Most of the games, like you stated, I believe are winnable. Hoping Oregon pulls off the BIG win at the Shoe! It has happen in the past where Ohio St. has lost at home. The year they beat us for the championship, lost to VT at home. Hoping Oregon will do the same and beat them on their home turf.

Go Ducks!!

VandownbytheriverDuck

I live in the woods. I have dogs. I like dogs. I have my dogs chase varmint critters like wolverines. I’m rooting for the dogs. Good dog. Now go sleep outside and eat kibble you mangy mutt.

UtahDuck

Is this blasphemy?? I understand the sentiment but I can not support the Pooches up north. I’d rather them go 0-12 then win a game for the sake of the conference.

NJDuck

Well, I do agree with you. I have to say when I said I had to swallow my dis-like for the Huskies for the sake of a win for the PAC, it’s like swallowing Cod Liver Oil with prune juice. BLAH!!

VandownbytheriverDuck

The problem with allowing our collective hatred of the pound puppies to take over is that the Ducks need the PAC-12 to shed its reputation as a weak conference.

We must swallow our disdain for the culls of the north and hope they are a top ten team when we go to the house of mange.

Strength of schedule matters quite a bit and the short term dopamine rush for enjoying watching the flea bitten itch and scratch only hurts Ducks national perception in the end.

There will be plenty of time to loathe the purple and gold, the frothy mouthed rabid scroungy yappy culls of mangeland.

But as distasteful as it may be we want them to be undefeated when we euthanize them in the dog shelter so that the taste of disappointment is all the more bitter.

“You talk prettier than a 20 dollar….dog.”

Mind is Raging Torrent_YouTube.jpg
Notalot

“to prove it belongs in the power five conferences” is a sad commentary to what the PAC-12 has become, in not your own, but the national sports commentary. It is no longer the proud conference of champions on the field or in the media.

It is what it is. The only way back to glory is to become more competitive and winning OOC games. The matchups you highlighted are where the PAC-12 must shine for the 2021 slate. The PAC-12 will probably win 50-60% of them.