It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like 2014

David Marsh Editorials

2014 is without a doubt the best season in Oregon history, so far. Marcus Mariota won Oregon’s only Heisman, Oregon won the conference championship and the Rose Bowl, and appeared in the National Championship Game but couldn’t quite seal the deal to bring home the “Natty.” It was a special season and we haven’t reached that height since. There have been a lot of Oregon seasons that have felt like they held the potential to make a playoff run, but something tripped up the Ducks along the way (along with a conference that is all too happy to cannibalize itself on a yearly basis).

Oregon stumbled this year against Washington but it wasn’t a season-ending loss, and in 2014 Oregon stumbled against Arizona. Both were games the Ducks should have won, as they were the better team, but they were not the better team on that day. There were some critical mistakes made at key moments of the game and the refs seemed to put their fingers on the scales a few times to tilt the balance against the Ducks.

But just as in 2014, the Ducks can still get revenge for their sole loss in the Conference Championship Game, hopefully. In 2014, Arizona surged and won the South, while Oregon won out and had complete control of their own destiny in the North.

This year, like last year, the Pac-12 Conference Championship Game doesn’t feature division winners but simply the best two teams — and the good news for the Ducks is, if they continue to roll and win out, they have complete control of their own destiny. The only two teams Oregon doesn’t play this year are Arizona and UCLA. We can thank Washington and USC for knocking Arizona out of the conference race by handing them two losses. As for UCLA, we can thank Utah and little brother Oregon State for giving them two losses and knocking them out of the current conference race.

Marcus Mariota wears the 1994 throwback uniform against Washington — the last time Oregon wore this uniform until 2023.
(Photo by Craig Strobeck)

This means the Ducks must win out to hold the tie-breaker over every other team in the conference, except Washington — which makes their lone loss irrelevant. And the Ducks have responded to that one loss in a similar way as they did in 2014. The last two weeks, the Ducks have been dominant on the field. the score against Washington State looks closer than the actual result, and last week’s win over Utah was unequivocally dominant.

Furthermore, in 2014 Oregon played at Utah during the end of season stretch, was the catalyst for the Ducks to finish strong. In 2014, Oregon won 51-27 which included Joe Walker’s 100-yard scoop and score. This year Oregon left Utah with a 35-6 win and a highly-efficient offense that faced one of the best defenses in the conference. On defense, Oregon held Utah to 241 total yards and only two field goals.

Oregon dismantled Utah so thoroughly that the Utes didn’t even look like a team ranked in the Top 25. This Utah team is good, but certainly not great. This Utah team beat USC in a shootout the week before, beat a UCLA team in a defensive slug-fest, and battled hard and lost to the Beavers in Corvallis. The Ducks made them look pedestrian.

Oregon is down to the last four games of the regular season, and that includes some dangerous opponents. Cal is showing some signs of life, USC doesn’t believe in defense but has an offense that can make up for that deficit, and traveling to Arizona in November has been unlucky for the Ducks in the past. ASU is just good enough to cause problems. Then the Beavers are going to make for an incredible season finale and should not be underestimated.

Royce Freeman runs against the Beavers in 2014.
(Photo by Kevin Cline)

But this Oregon team can get it done and win out, and just like in 2014 can take their revenge on the team that beat them during the regular season when they meet again in the Conference Championship Game. If Oregon can win the conference, there is a good chance Bo Nix gets an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy and could even win it, just like Mariota did in 2014.

And if Oregon does somehow manage to win out and make the College Football Playoff, there is an opportunity to make things look even more like 2014. Florida State is undefeated in a very weak ACC this year and they have been lucky in a few of their wins against inferior competition. There is still a chance the Ducks and Seminoles can meet for the second time in their histories in the Rose Bowl for a College Football Playoff game.

The Ducks still have everything in front of them to play for, and the coaches and team are developing. The team that destroyed Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday is far better than the team that lost in Seattle three weeks ago. If the Ducks continue to grow and live up to their potential, Oregon could be on its way to the best season in school history.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by Kiffer Creveling

 

Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in technology in SLC, Utah.

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