Checking in with the hottest team in football: the Oregon Ducks
It's hunting season in Eugene.
The Oregon men’s basketball team had its media day on Tuesday, which means we’ll start getting deeper into hoops content later this week. But with football interviews happening earlier in the day and the first College Football Playoff rankings arriving later in the afternoon, Tuesday felt like a decent day to check in with the hottest team in college football.
EUGENE — Let’s begin with rankings: It’s November and the Ducks are in the hunt.
Not that you needed some “official” rankings to tell you that after Saturday’s 35-6 domination of Utah on the road. Still, it became a bit more real Tuesday night when the College Football Playoff selection committee ranked the Ducks sixth in its initial rankings.
UO is the highest-ranked one-loss team in the country. At No. 5, Washington is the lowest-ranked undefeated team in the country.
Then, it’s the if-the-season-ended-now-they’d-be-in quartette of:
No. 1 Ohio State
No. 2 Georgia
No. 3 Michigan
No. 4 Florida State
The season isn’t ending now, of course. And while you’d maybe like to see the undefeated Huskies in that top four, it also seems like Washington’s struggles post-Oregon haven’t gone unnoticed.
“The two most recent games at home against Arizona State and on the road at Stanford, from a committee standpoint, gave us some pause and we put them in at No. 5,” said Boo Corrigan, the College Football Playoff Selection Committee chair.
Added Bill Hancock, the CFP executive director: “Washington, because of their play in the last couple of weeks, was a notch behind that group.”1
Reading between the lines: The Huskies are vulnerable. And should the Ducks and Huskies happen to land a rematch in the Pac-12 championship game, there won’t be much of an argument for purple should Oregon come away with a victory.
The margin for error, however, is zero until that point. That’s among the three things I learned at practice on Tuesday.
The Ducks know what’s at stake
Brandon Dorlus isn’t stuck in the past.
He’s moved on to Cal week — it’s Oregon’s ability to maintain focus for each matchup that has made the Ducks defense one of the best in the nation. Still, the Oregon defensive lineman admits he’s had a certain song stuck in his head since Saturday’s 35-6 win.
“I can’t say the name of the song, it’s: ‘Get Back, MF’er,’” Dorlus said after practice. “It feels so good to get my get back against that team.”
Dorlus remembers too vividly the pair of beatings the Utes placed on the Ducks in 2021, and says it would be impossible to not have any of that emotion carry through. But going into the most important November of his football career, he also knows he’s got to dial up that sort of effort every Saturday the rest of the way.
“Every game is a must-win game for us, that’s playoff football,” Dorlus said. “If you lose, you’re done. We all know that. We all know what’s at stake.”
Oregon’s defense is playing like it. The Ducks are just one of three teams in the nation to hold five opponents to 10-or-fewer points, they haven’t allowed more than 100 rushing yards in six consecutive games and Oregon’s sack count is rising.
Take this into consideration: Oregon’s 2014 playoff team finished the year with 37 sacks. This year’s Ducks already have 27.
They’ll have their work cut out for them against a read-option Cal offense that’s coming off a 49-point performance against USC.
“The game plan this week is to stop the run, get them in second-and-long and make them throw the ball,” Dorlus said.