College football’s postseason is in a state of crisis. Bowl games have become almost entirely irrelevant due to opt outs, transfers and coaching changes. Even the most intriguing matchups on paper lose their luster, as the roster teams field in bowl games hardly resemble the ones they’ve fielded the rest of the season.
In the past, today’s matchup between Oregon and Oklahoma would have been must-see TV. But now, with most of the superstars on either side sitting out, and both programs undergoing major coaching changes, this game doesn’t seem to matter that much.
Don’t tell that to the Oregon Ducks, though.
Oregon has some egg on its face after its second head coach in five years bolted for another job. Although the fanbase is excited to see what Dan Lanning brings to the table, there’s no doubt Mario Cristobal’s abrupt departure was an unanticipated setback for a program that was trending in a very positive direction.
But with a big-time performance tonight, the Ducks can validate to fans and recruits alike that the University of Oregon is indeed bigger than one person. The Alamo Bowl is more than just an exhibition for the Ducks; it’s a chance for them to right the ship and kick-off a new era with momentum.
The Alamo Bowl Is Oregon’s Sales Pitch
Despite his flaws from a coaching standpoint, there was never a doubt that Oregon wanted to keep Cristobal as long as possible. It is impossible to win on the biggest stage in college football without dominant recruiting, and Cristobal recruits better than just about anybody in the country. He is by far the biggest reason the Ducks landed top-10 recruiting classes in two of the past three recruiting cycles. Perhaps more importantly, he proved that it is possible to recruit at a dominant level at a program such as Oregon, even though it’s far from talent-rich areas.
Cristobal simply connects well with people. That’s why his players loved him, that’s why he’s such a good recruiter, and that’s why his departure practically decimated Oregon’s 2022 recruiting class. By all accounts, Lanning is an equally talented recruiter and will be able to provide similar results on the recruiting trail given some time. But in the short term, he has to scramble to fill a class that ranks outside of the top 50.
There’s no easy way to get back in the good graces of recruits after an entire staff change. In some cases, coaches from the previous staff spent years building relationships with prospects. That can’t be duplicated by the new staff in just a couple of months.
The biggest sales pitch Lanning and company have right now, with time working against them, is the Alamo Bowl. Recruits aren’t going to base their decisions entirely on the result of the game, of course, but any prospect who is at least considering Oregon will likely tune in. And how the Ducks look will probably be more impactful than the actual result.
If the Ducks have the look of a team and a program that’s dejected, disjointed and unmotivated, nobody would blame them. It would be totally understandable considering the circumstances. But it certainly wouldn’t be a good look. If Oregon looks like it doesn’t want to be there, what would make recruits who have every reason to look elsewhere suddenly change their minds and commit to a program that seems defeated due to the loss of its head coach?
Conversely, if the Ducks play with energy, passion and showcase all of the young talent that exists on the roster, it could go a long way in convincing recruits who are on the fence to give Oregon a serious look. This is Oregon’s chance to put its money where its mouth is. The talk from alumni, to current players, to the athletic director has been that Oregon football is a brotherhood that is bigger than any particular individual.
Sure, Cristobal was one of the more impactful figures in recent memory for the Ducks, and his individual skill set can’t be replicated. But the program has undergone more drastic changes than this in the past, and it has continued to thrive.
If there’s any way the Ducks can exude a confidence and swagger tonight that reassures everyone watching that the program is as strong as ever, that could give Lanning and his staff the boost they need to close out this recruiting cycle strongly and enter the offseason on a high note.
Although bowl season has devolved into little more than background television for the most part, the Alamo Bowl tonight is certainly worth a watch. What are you looking for in tonight’s matchup, as we say goodbye to the Cristobal regime and move towards a new era of Oregon football? Let’s discuss it in this thread at the forum before, during and after the game!
Morgantown, West Virginia
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck
Joshua is an adopted Duck fanatic, originally hailing from southwestern Pennsylvania. His love for the University of Oregon began as a young child when he became mesmerized by the flashy uniforms and explosive offenses of the Chip Kelly era, and now, he follows the team religiously. His fondest memory of the team is seeing De’Anthony Thomas race past Wisconsin defenders back in the 2012 Rose Bowl. A true football enthusiast, Joshua loves studying the intricacies of the game, and he aspires to become a professional sports journalist. Joshua now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia where he works in customer service. When he’s not watching Oregon replays, Joshua loves reading, writing, and spending time with his family. Contact: email@example.com
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