Saturday, January 2, 2016

Good Luck Ducks: Showdown in Alamo City

The Ducks take their high energy show to the Alamo Bowl for the second time in three seasons.

It's been a strange season, but no matter the conversation, every sentence that's been spoken or written about the Ducks has seemed to include some version of "if it wasn't for the broken finger." You can look at the suspect defense, the adjustments to new players and new strategies, but everything seems to come down to the injury Vernon Adams Jr. suffered in the first game of the season. Adams returned the next week, struggled but nearly beat a stellar Michigan State team, then played even worse and was benched while the offense limped around the field. If the finger didn't break, you can maybe put Oregon down for a victory over the Spartans and maybe another one over Washington State. But as long as we're talking hypotheticals, there's no way to say Oregon could have hypothetically beaten a Utah team that destroyed and demoralized them on September 26th. I won't repeat the score in case any easily startled people are in the room looking over your shoulder right now.

Adams may have suffered the injury on the gutless cheap shot he took from his former teammate, one that resulted in a suspension. Most of us are not privy to that information, however, but it's been reported somewhat quietly that the pointless early season penalty was where the finger injury occurred. Since it's not really fun to dwell on the fact that the fate of Oregon's season may have come down to the actions of a jilted ex (teammate), let's focus on the positives: Adams had a Heisman worthy half-season or so, Darren Carrington was brilliant in his return from a recreational drug suspension, DeForest Buckner was one of the best defensive beasts in the entire country, and Royce Freeman is probably going to break the all-time single season Ducks rushing record today.

There's another team on the field today, and that just happens to be the Horned Frogs of TCU. Though their home campus in Fort Worth is not exactly a stone's throw from San Antonio, expect the crowd to be heavy on the side of their state's school. Two seasons ago, Oregon came in as heavy favorites and nearly kept Texas off the scoreboard in Mack Brown's final game as head coach, but this time around Oregon should be a slight underdog even without the biased crowd. This has been a big football season for the Big 12, probably their best since the Great College Football Realignment Wars of 2010, and TCU had been in the national title conversation until a couple of losses in November.

TCU QB Trevone Boykin was in the Heisman discussion until his team's November troubles and injuries intervened. KaVontae Turpin is a dangerous receiver that should challenge Oregon's suspect secondary all game long. The Horned Frogs defense did allow heaps of points to lousy-to-middling teams like SMU, TTU and Kansas State, echoing some problems that the Ducks had at times on the other side of the ball. This should be a fun one with a lot of points. With the exodus of offensive coordinator Scott Frost, Oregon's offense will be interesting to watch today, but I am confident that they can win if they play to their capabilities.

Oregon's last visit to the Alamo was a victorious one. (Thanks to reader Brandon L. for the card used in today's post.)

Game time is 3:45 PST with national coverage on ESPN. Go Ducks!

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