For a Power Five conference that’s been an afterthought in the Playoffs over the past four seasons, Oregon has kept the Pac-12 knocking at the door.
Mario Cristobal continues to rule the league with an iron fist, and last Saturday’s victory over Ohio State was the first signature win of his highly-successful tenure. The upset moved the Ducks into the AP top-four for the first time since 2014. Now Oregon has a clear-cut path to postseason glory if they run the table for the remainder of the year.
With a 27-10 record with Oregon and back-to-back Pac-12 Titles, Cristobal deserves more recognition for what he has accomplished. Not to mention the 50-year old recruits like a monster. Although USC and Washington has been down for the past few years, the Pac-12 is lucky Oregon was able to provide the conference mouth-to-mouth in national credibility.
However, handing the Buckeyes their first loss at home in three years, was enough to put the Pac-12 back on the map. Currently there are only three Pac-12 teams ranked and they’re all undefeated. Oregon is No. 4, UCLA is No. 13 and Arizona State is No. 19. It’s beneficial for the league to have at least one unblemished team from each division.
After all, USC, Utah and Washington have underachieved just two weeks into the season. Now the pressure falls on Oregon to carry the Pac-12 to the finish line, which is nothing new to Cristobal.
The Ducks have been getting it done with multiple quarterbacks also. Justin Herbert and Tyler Shough led Oregon to Pac-12 Championships. Anthony Brown is one of the most experienced signal-callers in the Power Five and is off to a great start. His dual threat capabilities are paying dividends for the Ducks, with 408 yards through the air and 121 on the ground through the first two games.
Veteran running back CJ Verdell has also stepped up for the offense. He has rushed for 235 and scored four total touchdowns this season, including three of Oregon’s five against Ohio State.
It’s unfortunate that the health status of star defender Kayvon Thibodeaux remains uncertain. Not to mention the Ducks may have lost linebacker Justin Flowe for the rest of the season because of a foot injury. Still, other players have stepped up in their absence, including cornerback Mykael Wright and linebacker Noah Sewell.
None of Oregon’s next four opponents have a winning record. So it could potentially be smooth sailing approaching the matchup against UCLA in the Rose Bowl. Cristobal just wants his team to take it one game at a time.
As far as the Playoff race, the Buckeyes could could very well climb back up the rankings, but it’ll be tough for the Committee to put them ahead of the Ducks down the road, even if Cristobal’s team loses a game. There’s a ton of football left to be played. Oregon is currently in a great position to get the Pac-12 over the hump.
After jumping over that that hurdle, there’s no denying the conference should thank Cristobal and his players.