By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
Oregon rolled Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe, 49-13. For the second year in a row, Dan Lanning expunged desert demons for the Ducks who have had late season stumbles in the state of Arizona in the past. None of that mattered on Saturday because Oregon is playing at a really, really high level right now.
No, the Sun Devils aren’t a good team — yet. I think Kenny Dillingham’s passion and creativity is going to pay off at some point though it may take a bit of time. I’ve written before about one thing that Oregon fans like about Dan Lanning’s teams: their ability to play consistent football and not play down to an inferior opponent. The Ducks’ only good outcome in this game was to dominate as much as possible, and it’s hard to do that more than Oregon did Saturday afternoon. It was 42-0 at the half and Bo Nix had 6 touchdown passes, further cementing his status as the Heisman favorite.
Nix had more touchdown passes than incompletions. He should have had a 7th if not for a questionable offensive PI call against Terrance Ferguson.
As Shrek famously told his sidekick, “That’ll do, Donkey. That’ll do.”
The Ducks only ran for 140 yards, but it’s hard to argue for fixing something that isn’t broken. Bo Nix was spreading the ball around, Will Stein was positively dialed in, and Troy Franklin set Oregon’s all-time single season receiving record with at least two games to spare.
So now Oregon goes into a matchup with Oregon State with the same stakes as last year, only slightly greater. Last year the Ducks had two losses and were out of the CFP hunt, but this year they’re right in the thick of it. Still, the calculation is simple: Win, and you’re into the Pac-12 Championship Game. Lose, and you’re out. Arizona State has played some tough games this year against good teams, but Arizona just did to Utah what Oregon did a few weeks ago. I can’t see the Wildcats stumbling against the Sun Devils. Meanwhile, Oregon State hasn’t won in Eugene since 2007, and the Ducks have opened as an 11.5-point favorite over the Beavs.
This Oregon team feels like when they play at their best, nobody in the Pac-12 can stop them. The trick is getting out of their own way. The Ducks kept the penalties mostly in check with just 45 yards in that department on Saturday, but once again we saw the kicking game struggle. This time it was a bad snap rather than a bad kick, but the bottom line is Oregon fans should be hoping a big game doesn’t come down to a game-winning field goal. That unit has left points on the field in 6 of the Ducks’ last 7 games.
I think 11.5 points is a lot for a rivalry matchup like this, even against a deflated Oregon State team whose Pac-12 Championship hopes are done after a 2-point loss to Washington. I’ll be surprised if that line doesn’t move down closer to 10 points by the time kickoff rolls around on Friday.
Since the loss to Washington, Oregon has felt like a team on a mission. They’re really good, they know it, and they play like it every single week. There have been no close calls as Lanning has continued to remain unbeaten against unranked teams as Oregon’s head coach.
There’s still a ways to go before Duck fans can party like it’s 1999. The Beavers would love nothing more, I suspect, than to play spoiler for Oregon’s title hopes for the second straight season. But the Ducks have put themselves in a position to make the CFP for the second straight season. Now, they just have to finish the job. Winning their next two games perhaps doesn’t guarantee a CFP slot with 100% certainty, but I think Oregon’s chances would be very good.
We are now onto rivalry week followed by conference championship games with a bevy of possible outcomes. Let’s call it the “witching hour” of College Football. As usual, it’s likely to be glorious to watch as fans.
Spencer McLaughlin is an Oregon Ducks football contributor to 750 The Game. He also hosts the “Locked On Oregon Ducks” and “Locked On Pac-12” podcasts and has work featured throughout the season here.