With the Washington State Cougars providing one of the greatest College Gameday atmospheres of all time, it was only fair that they enjoy one of the greatest days in program history. From a strictly biased perspective, I’ve felt that Oregon Football was the best team the Pac-12 had to offer and one of the sharpest offenses in the nation. Instead, we saw a twenty-seven to zero halftime deficit that had shades of years past. So it’s reaction time, how good are the 2018 Ducks? Let’s visit three different fan perspectives, the optimist, the pessimist, and the voice of reason.
The Optimist: “Oregon is still the most talented team in the Pac-12″
The Ducks have battled against ranked teams week after week and proven they are here to stay. It is foolish to overreact to two bad quarters of football against a quality opponent when Oregon remains the best the conference has to offer come bowl season. Over the course of a long season, teams have games when they fall asleep and either lose convincingly to a quality team or lose narrowly to a decent team. With the way Oregon handled the early schedule, winning out is a reasonable expectation as the team matures.
Looking forward, Justin Herbert will return for his senior season and a shot at the national championship in 2019 once a 10-2 record attracts a top recruiting class. Oregon remains an explosive offense with First Team All Pac-12 contenders at Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, and two or three offensive line positions.
The Pessimist: “Oregon remains shaky defensively, undeserving of Herbert’s talent”
After a thrilling overtime game at home, the true colors of this year’s team finally came to light during a miserable half in Pullman. Washington State marching the ball downfield overshadows the progress made last week limiting Jake Browning and the Washington offense. The high octane offense that averaged just shy of forty points per game the last two seasons found themselves running into a wall of Cougars all game. After effectively grinding out yards against Stanford and Washington, a battered offensive line without Penei Sewell was outmanned. Justin Herbert should go be a terrific NFL quarterback. This team has played itself out of Pac-12 contention and the Ducks are exciting, but not a great football team. The rest of the season is a slow march to the Vegas Bowl or Alamo Bowl but at least beating Oregon State will be fun.
Voice of reason: “Don’t overreact in either direction”
Conference play should be seen within its own bubble. It’s important to remember that the conference’s performances in last year’s bowl games mostly carried over to this year’s non-conference schedule. Washington, Stanford, and USC all had high profile non-conference matchups that ended in losses.
A clear five teams have found themselves just not competitive in 2018. Oregon State, California, Arizona, Arizona State, and UCLA holding a record of zero wins and nine losses against the seven other teams in the Pac-12. (Editor’s Note: UCLA won the second half against Washington and was “competitive” … just saying) Among that upper class of seven, we have five ranked teams and south division contenders USC and Colorado. When playing each other, the home team holds a strong eight and three record. So that “Pac-7” is actually quite simple: these games are toss-ups where the home field advantage plays a significant role.
Oregon is good but so is half the conference, so the smart money is on the home team. As a matter of fact, you could take all of the favorites and still make money. Utah over UCLA, Colorado over Oregon State, USC over Arizona State, Washington over California, Oregon over Arizona, and Stanford over Washington State all seem possible if not probably. Twenty imaginary dollars on the money line for all six favorites, and it’s a sharp 37% return on investment. If 5 out of 6 picks are correct you still make the money back – make some money on the predictability. We’ll see next week if the Pac-12 gets any more chaotic or if the bottom tier sinks to 0-14.
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