by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Oregon. Flippin’ Oregon.
Turn on the tube the other night and we got ESPN talking heads going back and forth about the Ducks’ chances at the College Football Playoff — Are they out? Do they still have a shot? What has to happen for them to make it?
Ummm, how about a stay of execution from some higher power … or, better yet, a time machine to take Mario Cristobal’s bunch back to when things started to crumble Saturday night at Autzen Stadium against Pac-12 rival Stanford. Get it right this time, and maybe, just maybe, there could be a shred of hope for Oregon.
What in the world are people smoking? In this new day and age of major college football, if you ain’t an elite — or viewed as such — you ain’t got no shot.
Frankly, came away more impressed with Oregon that, well, ever have been. These Ducks, to me, looked better — a lot better — than any outfit Chip Kelly or Mark Helfrich ran out there, with or without Marcus Mariota, national title in the balance or not. Even a little better than the 2001 edition under Mike Bellotti that finished No. 2 in the country back before Nike made Oregon the poster child for hideous uniforms that somehow “speak” to the nation’s youth.
That, for me, was the program’s standard.
After watching Justin Herbert sling it — and run it — against the Cardinal, with toughness, grit and power showing all around him throughout the contest, no more.
But, seriously, the Ducks are out as of now.
They’re not viewed as elite anymore — whether they actually are or not. They went into that contest ranked 20th in the country, lost and now stand at No. 19.
The upward movement there isn’t so much a sign of respect for how they played vs. Stanford, but, rather, a reality check to how far they had fallen from 2014 season national finalist — needing a near-win against a quality opponent to actually be recognized as decent, if not good.
Make no mistake, Oregon is good. Damn good.
But it wasn’t seen as being at that level, and it lost. To a team, while ranked No. 7 in the nation now, that just might lose this week at No. 8 Notre Dame.
For the record, those two soon-to-be South Bend combatants represent only a fraction of the unbeaten obstacles that currently stand in the way of Oregon being to battle its way back into contention — a contention it never was in anyway.
Face it. Here are the facts:
-There are four berths in the playoffs.
-Two of those, save for the apocalypse, are reserved for the SEC champion and the Big Ten champion.
-Unless Clemson stumbles somewhere along the line against what appears to be a shockingly weak ACC slate, it’s in, too.
That leaves very little room for error, never mind a mountain of others’ perceptive doubt or non-belief to climb, in order to grab a spot.
It’s called a stacked deck, and it’s working against the Ducks these days, just as much as it may have been working for them under Kelly and Helfrich.
Of course, things could be worse for Oregon.
It could be Central Florida, which hasn’t lost since 2015 and can’t crack the nation’s top 12, not to even to surpass one-loss Auburn, a team it beat not 10 months ago in the Peach Bowl.
Or California, a conference colleague that has yet to lose and counts ballyhooed Brigham Young among its victims, yet somehow stands behind the Cougars — and Oregon — in the AP poll at No. 24.
There really are only a handful of teams that will be considered for the CFP, with an outlier having only the minute of chances.
Oregon was never in the first group there — that’s only for the likes of Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State, Clemson and Oklahoma — and, now, having lost, no matter what type of fashion, it isn’t in the second, either.
MY HEISMAN FRONTRUNNERS
Will Grier, West Virginia QB
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama QB
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State QB
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma QB
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson QB
MY PLAYOFF FRONTRUNNERS
GAME OF THE YEAR?
Not sure No. 4 Ohio State at No. 9 Penn State is worthy of that billing, which seems to have swept the college football media nation this week. But it’s big, no doubt.
Whichever team wins is in the driver’s seat to grab that “reserved” CFP bid for the Big Ten. Then again, the Nittany Lions topped the Buckeyes two years ago, won the conference title … and still didn’t get the bid — the powers that be irrationally and illogically opting for Ohio State to go instead.
Looking at the entire campaign, PSU probably was the Big Ten’s best again last year, losing squeakers at Ohio State and Michigan State by a combined four points, but didn’t get the nod again.
It will this time. If it beats Ohio State, and wins the conference.
Ohio State? It still may get in, even if both of those things happen … and PSU quarterback Trace McSorley goes all Baker Mayfield and wins the Heisman.
TEAM OF THE YEAR ... SO FAR
It’s Kentucky. Not only did the Wildcats exorcise decades-old demons against then-No. 25 Florida three weeks ago, they manhandled then-No. 14 Mississippi State this past Saturday night in Lexington while improving to 4-0 and earning a place in the polls at No. 17 in both.
Fellow basketball powers Duke and Syracuse are turning some heads with spotless records, too. But Kentucky stands out most with its style of play and quality of competition. In short, the Wildcats’ tough-defense, ground-dominated game plan is a winner anywhere — no matter how ugly it may look at times.
Mississippi State had been giving up just 85 rushing yards per game, at 2.5 yards per pop, and had yet to give up a touchdown on the ground before facing Kentucky. Wildcats junior running back Benny Snell Jr. promptly went off for 165 yards (at 6.6 yards a pop) and four TDs against the Bulldogs.
Yeah, Kentucky looks legit.