There sure seems to be a lot of quacking going on in Eugene, Oregon these days. Despite being 9-1 and on track for a Pac 12 title game appearance, the No. 5 Oregon Ducks seem to be doing more talking than
waddling walking lately.
If Oregon wins out, the Pac 12 champs would be headed to a fifth straight BCS bowl game, but they might not be happy about that unless there’s a crystal ball on the line. Apparently, an appearance in the Rose Bowl means nothing to this team, as highlighted by two high-profile players’ comments this week.
“I don’t want to play in a Rose Bowl unless I’m playing for a national championship,” wide receiver Josh Huff told reporters Monday. His offensive teammate echoed that sentiment. “It’s not a big deal at all,” running back De’Anthony Thomas told reporters. “We already won a Rose Bowl, so it feels like, ‘Whatever.’”
Doesn’t this qualify as counting your ducklings before they hatch?
Remember, Thomas is also the guy who infamously said Oregon would drop 40 points on Stanford, which dominated the Ducks in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the 26-20 final score. But I guess that’s “whatever” too, huh?
Until USC’s upset of Stanford last week, the letdown in Palo Alto was the defining moment for this Oregon team. Maybe Thomas should listen to his boy Huff. “If we would have handled our business like we were supposed to, we wouldn’t have had to rely on USC to get back in the Pac-12 championship game,” Huff said. “We wouldn’t have to be in the situation we are now.”
And the Ducks would be ranked No. 2 and be in line for a BCS title shot, too.
What kind of numbers did the two Ducks who quack the loudest put up against Stanford? Huff had just three catches for 42 yards, as well as 42 yards on three kick returns. He scored no touchdowns and had very little effect on the game. Huff’s enduring highlight that night was crying on the sideline late in the third quarter. Thomas didn’t do much more against the Cardinal. He gained just 75 total yards and also failed to score.
Now that Stanford has lost another game and Oregon is back in the Pac 12 North driver’s seat, they’re back to talking a big game. Maybe Huff and Thomas should strive for more on-field production in big-time games rather than talking about how much they can’t stand the thought of not being able to play in the biggest game of all.
And for argument’s sake, what exactly has Oregon accomplished this season to deserve a shot at a national title? The Ducks’ nine wins, and most of their gaudy statistics, have come against eight FBS opponents with a combined 34-47 record and Nicholls State, which is 4-7 in FCS. They have only beaten one currently ranked team, a banged-up No. 14 UCLA.
Look, I get what these guys are saying. Every major program that wants to be elite should operate under the ‘national title or bust’ premise. However, when you haven’t really done anything on the field to warrant a berth in the BCS title game, it’s probably best that you appreciate what’s still attainable — especially when that attainable goal is an appearance in one of the most legendary games in college football.
But even that’s not guaranteed. Oregon controls its conference destiny at this point, but assuming Stanford wins out, the Ducks still have to beat Arizona (6-4) and Oregon State (6-4) to reach the Pac 12 title game. They would then have to knock off the winner of the South division just to get invited to Pasadena. One slip, and they’re right back where they were ago — staring up at the Cardinal.
They’re quacking the quack. Now it’s time to waddle – figuratively, of course, if they want to win – through these final three games.
If Huff, Thomas and the rest of the Ducks slip up again, they won’t have to worry about the disappointment of going to (brace yourself) the Rose Bowl in January. Maybe that would be for the best. I hear El Paso, Texas (Hyundai Sun Bowl) is nice that time of year.