Will ASU Destroy Oregon’s Playoff Hopes AGAIN?

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Editorials

You remember. While our Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin was sweet–we should have been in the Playoff that year. We lost 31-28 to a 5-5 (at that time) Arizona State team…in a game that should not have happened. Stuff like that occurred with the prior coach, and even if the opponent has great players, such as BrandonAiyuk, whose 81-yard bomb from freshman QB Jayden Daniels was the backbreaker–you don’t lose to a .500 team.

The desert down there does that to us, as another very winnable game in Tempe was lost in 2017, 37-35 when Justin Herbert was a sophomore. We had so many chances to win that game, but it seems the breaks fall against us when we play Arizona State–even when we have the superior team. Neither Sun Devil team was particularly impressive, yet we clearly played down to their level. Even the win in 2015 took a last-second miracle throw by Vernon Adams to pull out. Oregon often dies in the desert…

The worst for me was in 2003, when a 4-2 Oregon team had a real shot at beating ASU, or so I thought. Future NFL QB Kellen Clemens threw two interceptions (one was a pick-six) and was replaced by Jason Fife, who with Oregon’s poor defense could not hold up in the heat that day en route to get their butts kicked 59-14. I recall really believing the Ducks had a good chance going into that game, but there is something about the desert air that makes Oregon underperform almost every time we play Arizona State.

Certainly I understand that this ASU team is undermanned at the moment, but they have improved over the season to where they almost beat Washington in Seattle, and did beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl last weekend. Are you getting the same bad vibe I am? Yet the difference in the talent level of both teams is as wide a margin as it ever will be, so should we be worried?

Yes. Good Duck teams have died-in-the-desert.

Justin Herbert lost TWICE in the desert to ASU. (Irina Filenko)

The good news is that Oregon is focused and hungry to make the Playoff, and Coach Dan Lanning has shown that he wants the players to perform at “the standard,” and not play down to the opponent. I have not noted this team “playing down” this year, and thus I have the confidence that the coaching staff will have this team locked in and ready.

Yet I worry, as there is an established track record of the desert air killing Oregon’s Playoff chances.  If it happened before….

There is one difference, a big one, and that is the Oregon offense. The Ducks have not scored less than 33 points in a 2023 game, and I have a hard time thinking that ASU can put up even that many points against Oregon’s defense. In 2019, the offense was stuck with a plunging, plodding Pistol approach, versus the wide open scoring we see in 2023. Oregon is the better team by a mile, and at Autzen I would not be the least bit worried.

Should I be with it at Tempe? Let me know in the only free, civilized Oregon message board because…

“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Ducks!

Charles Fischer   (Mr. FishDuck)
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Irina Filenko

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