Friday, December 5, 2014

Good Luck Ducks: Pac-12 Championship Game

Oregon plays for all of the Pac-12 marbles today, as well as a berth in the first top level college football playoffs.

Here we go. Straight off a resounding Civil War win, Oregon faces their final conference test in a conference championship game... that... is being played on a Friday. No other conference has to deal with this except the MAC (sorry, MAC), which makes me wonder just how much this conference is getting screwed on their various television deals. Oregon's opponent is a very familiar one, a team they lost to just two months ago. In fact, in head coach Mark Helfrich's two seasons at the helm, he's lost just three games and two were to these Arizona Wildcats.

Also working against Oregon today is that the Ducks are coming off of a short week, while Arizona (and the other two would-be contestants had things gone differently) played their last game on Friday instead of Saturday. I'm clearly not qualified to say anything that resembles wisdom here in this space, as my previous Arizona preview shows:

This feels like a "return to form" game for Oregon. In front of a nighttime home crowd on national TV with the students finally back in school in full force, I'd be very surprised if this isn't an emotionally charged game with a lot of points for the guys in... well, apparently they'll be wearing pink (and black). As long as the makeshift O-line can sneeze on the defense long enough for Mariota to do something with the ball without getting his brains beat around, the Ducks should win this one comfortably.
Yeah, so, I didn't do so well with that one. And I really don't want to go back and look at what I said about the Wildcats last season. What I do know is that Scooby Wright is a beast of a player and he ripped through the Ducks offensive line like the Kool-Aid Man running through a wet paper bag last time around. I'll just leave you with three things that I do know for sure about tonight's game:

  1. Oregon's offensive line is healthier and has improved significantly since the last meeting.
  2. Oregon's defense has also solidified. Troy Hill, of late, has been impressive as teams continue their season-long trend of staying away from Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
  3. Oregon hasn't played anyone nearly as good as Arizona since they last played Arizona.

Oregon's pivotal 10-9 win over #11 Arizona in 1994 came the week after the stunning Kenny Wheaton game and is often overlooked. This was the lone touchdown and remains one of my favorite sports experiences ever. It doesn't hurt that I was in the front row of the end zone where the TD pass was caught at the time.

Game time is 6:00 PST with national TV coverage on FOX. Go Ducks!

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