All week, the Ducks were asked if they were looking past San Jose State and ahead to next week’s matchup with Pac-12 North rival Stanford?
I mean, the Ducks are ranked No. 20 in the nation, Stanford No. 9. Oregon has an elite offense, the Cardinal counter with an equally great defense. The winner of that game vaults itself into the College Football Playoff conversation, not to mention being the front runner for the Pac-12 championship. And to top it off, ESPN’s famed College Gameday was rumored to be heading to Eugene for the game, making it the national game of the week with the best TV time slot in college football — 5 p.m. on ABC.
But, Oregon remained committed to the notion that it wasn’t looking ahead. The Ducks were solely focused on the task at hand; an 0-2 San Jose State squad with the nation’s second worst pass defense. The Spartans were so rough that in their first two games, they lost to FCS UC Davis and got shut out 31-0 against Washington State.
After Saturday’s dismal performance against the Spartans, a 35-22 victory, I hope the Ducks were looking ahead to the Cardinal. If not, then Oregon could be in for a long season because the game against San Jose State was that bad.
The Ducks are supposed to be an elite offense. It’s supposed to have one of the best quarterbacks in the nation, a surefire first-round pick in the NFL draft. The offensive line is talented, and battle tested. The skill players are aplenty.
Yet, Oregon faltered when it had no reason too.
The offense made too many mistakes. Quarterback Justin Herbert wasn’t accurate, his receivers dropped too many balls, the offensive line couldn’t find holes for the running backs.
Herbert finished just 16-of-34 for 309 yards with three scores and two interceptions. His receivers dropped at least a half-dozen balls. The running game averaged 2.7 yards per carry on 49 carries. All of this came against the nation’s fifth-worst total defense.
One way to look at the performance is to say Oregon was playing its third consecutive game against an over-matched opponent, a game in which the Ducks could’ve sleep-walked to victory (I mean, they basically did). The Ducks are bored with their opponents and ready for a true challenge.
Or, one could look at the game and think that Oregon’s offensive numbers are a byproduct of those early-season cupcakes. Maybe the Ducks don’t have the athleticism at wide receiver, maybe the offensive line isn’t as physical as expected and maybe, just maybe, Herbert isn’t worth the hype.
Either way, not only will the Pac-12 find out if the Ducks are a legitimate contender or not, the entire nation will know by the time next Saturday night is over. I believe Oregon is good… very good. I also believe that the Ducks have suffered from facing these opponents thus far and that they were looking ahead to the matchup with Stanford.
But, at least I’m willing to say it. Hopefully Oregon will have something to say about it next weekend as well.