Despite losing to Stanford this past week, Oregon still has a legitimate shot to make the College Football Playoff this year.
I know many of you may assume it’s time to pump the breaks on this notion, and as we have talked about at FishDuck for a fair bit now, the Oregon community buzz is falling away from the program with how the team’s played in the last couple weeks. But let’s just consider what I believe to be the primary avenue in which Mario Cristobal’s program could make it to that fourth seed through the rest of the regular season.
Our Beloved Ducks just laid an egg against Stanford. Offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead not making the trip can act as a glaring asterisk in any other season, but after beating Ohio State, the Ducks needed that sense of urgency to carry over and find them the will to win against adversity. Unfortunately, what we ended up seeing was only some of the most brutal Oregon football in recent memory, ending ugly in overtime. With one loss for a PAC-12 team, the team’s fire to continue an undefeated season after getting a victory against Ohio State seemingly extinguished against Stanford, turning the rest of the season from Oregon’s potentially first ever banner year to another slightly above average season.
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However, there’s still time to turn it around, and that turnaround needs to happen this week.
The Ducks have had extra time to prepare for this Friday against Cal and I expect to see a completely different squad mentally on the field. Standing as a one loss team, how you finish the season is all the more important piece of College Football Playoff seeding. That one loss against Stanford will be quickly forgotten if Cristobal can take that next step with the supreme talent he’s acquired over the last few seasons, along with a nearly-complete identity change.
The question we have been going over though recently here at FishDuck is: can he change? With the quarterback situation and how Cristobal has played Anthony Brown through some agonizing games, it does not seem so right now. But it’s necessary.
A new identity can come in many forms, with a quarterback change being the most common for football teams. This is the identity shift necessary to give Oregon a glimmer of playoff hope, and Ty Thompson needs to be that guy. If he can light it up the rest of the year, even just the last few games of the season with an expected learning curve, he may be what puts Oregon into the entertaining up-and-coming team that earns a playoff birth.
It will be a tough road for Thompson, but Oregon just cannot let the season go to boring football and barley scrape past far less talented squads in the PAC-12. That new identity with Thompson makes it possible for Oregon to make that leap up to the No.4 seed, and with that, the rest of the top-10 teams will have to give Oregon a whole lot of help. Three other teams sit ahead of the Ducks with a single loss, one of them being Ohio State. If Oregon can just get past a couple of them, and a few other upsets can come for maybe a Cincinnati or an Iowa, I see no reason that Thompson and the Ducks couldn’t make it to the Playoff.
What do you think? Is this necessary identity shift possible? Even if Thompson started, could he make the team exciting enough to be CFP-worthy TV? Can Cristobal make this change in year four, or is this something more for the Ducks down the road?
Los Angeles, California
Top Photo By: Craig Strobeck
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Alex Heining is a third-year student at the University of Oregon. He’s working towards a bachelor of arts degree as an English major and media studies minor in journalism. Growing up in the Los Angeles area of southern California, Alex ended up a Duck through family ties, a quality football program, and the beautiful green of Lane County. Currently finishing his first science fiction novel, he wants to end up in the sports world of journalism on the west coast. Particularly, covering high school football, recruiting commits, and all things Ducks.
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