Before we get into this piece, let me explain: I'm going to begin by scaring the bejeezus out of you, and will then calmly talk you down from the brink. If you run away screaming somewhere between Cody Kempt and BJ Denker, I can't help you re-establish a healthy breathing pattern and resting heart rate. Stick with me, and we'll be okay.
Today, we'll be examining Oregon's football performance in November. SPOILER ALERT: it's gross. I'll be using 2000 as a starting point, because fuck that outdated 20th century data. In that time:
Oregon's overall winning percentage: .762 (144-45)
Oregon's November winning percentage: .620 (31-19)
Number of undefeated Novembers (in 14 completed seasons): 3
Number of times a November loss derailed a national-title contending team: 4
Number of November wins against Colorado: 0
Lookit those free-range, grass-fed, artisan stats that are completely objective and in no way lead directly to my point.
Oregon has a November problem.
Let's take a look back at past Novembers, shall we?
2000: Oregon enters the Civil War ranked 5th, needing a win to take the outright Pac-10 title and put themselves firmly in the BCS conversation. Joey Harrington throws five interceptions, OSU wins 23-13, sending both the Beavers and the Huskies to BCS bowl games.
2002: The Ducks enter November with a 6-2 record. After a win over Stanford, Oregon goes 0-3 against the Northwest, and finishes with a dud of a performance against Wake Forest in the Seattle Bowl.
2003: Oregon loses 42-10 against Washington, the second win in a row for the Huskies against the Ducks. This isn't really that bad, I mostly wanted to point out that this is the last time Washington beat Oregon. #washingtwelve2015
2004: The Ducks go 0-3 in November, including a 50-21 stomping at the hands of the Beavers that kept Oregon out of a bowl game for the first, and only, time this century.
2006: Another four-game losing streak to end the season, including a 37-10 loss to Arizona that was easily the worst game I ever saw in person as a student, and a Las Vegas Bowl where the Ducks wore flaming grellow helmets and refused to play football under any circumstance.
2007: This November started so well, a big win over #6 Arizona State with GameDay on hand. Then, Dennis Heisman went to the desert and didn't come back. A week later, Cody Kempt's attempts at quarterbacking made us unironically pine for Brady Leaf. And yes, I know pine trees have needles, not leaves. I've never let science stand in the way of a mediocre pun.
2010: A year we actually went undefeated in November, on the way to the BCS title game. But we tried really hard to lose against Cal, and we probably would have if not for Georgio Tavecchio, the savior of Oregon football as we know it. That's still the only false start by a kicker I've ever seen. Grazie, Georgio. Grazie infinite.
2011: Fourth in the nation. Hadn't lost since the opener vs. LSU. Coming off a gigantic win over Stanford. And Lane Kiffin shows up to Autzen and outcoaches Chip Kelly. It defies logic.
2012: This was Patient Zero in the Stanford problem. A Ducks team who had dropped 40+ points on every team they had played, could manage only 14 in a full game plus overtime. Say what you will about Zach Ertz being in bounds, but this game was alarming and sad, and we didn't deserve to win.
2013: Stanford problem part 2, a thorough walloping on the Farm. Mariota was hobbled, sure, but Stanford had their way with an overmatched Ducks defense for the entire game, and Oregon was lucky to make the score as close as it was at the end. After a sleepy win over Utah, the Ducks headed down to Tucson. BJ Denker inexplicably turned into Fran Tarkenton, Kadeem Carey continued to be Kadeem Carey, and Oregon suffered its worst lost since 2008.
Oregon has dispatched with the Stanford problem, and survived a slugfest in Salt Lake City. But pitfalls lie ahead, first with Colorado. The Buffs are easily the best power conference team who is winless in conference play*, and I mean that in the best possible way. Took UCLA to overtime. Took Cal to overtime in Berkeley. Led Washington at halftime. Started the fourth quarter against Arizona down only four. They have lost four conference games by a combined 16 points. This is not a Colorado team that can be beaten by talent alone.
*The rest of that list? Indiana, Iowa State, and Vanderbilt. I absolutely take the Buffs over any of those teams on a neutral field.
And then there are the Beavers, who just weeks ago looked like a complete mess. Now, after remembering that Storm Woods and Terron Ward are good when given the football and pounding Arizona State into the dirt, they demand attention. And a rivalry game, on the road, is a dicey proposition no matter the quality of opponent.
Oregon could absolutely lose one of their last two games this November. But they won't. They can't. They won't, they won't, they won't.
Marcus Mariota, all due respect to Melvin Gordon, is the best player in college football this year. He's been able to put the team on his back and grind out wins against teams both good (Utah) and bad (Washington State). Colorado and Oregon State, dangerous as they are, still fall into the latter category. And with Freeman and Tyner looking stronger and stronger, and Andre Yruretagoyena providing a boost to the offensive line, the offense should be well-balanced and finely-tuned. The defense, oft-maligned and nitpicked 'round these parts, has held three of their last four opponents to under 30 points, and marked improvement from earlier in the season. And with the Buffs and Beavs ranking in the bottom half of the conference in rushing offense and points per game, the D will look to extend their run of improved play.
Novembers haven't been to kind to Oregon lately, it's true. But the toughest games are over for the Ducks, and this year's team has the talent and focus necessary to put together the first 4-0 November since 1915. And after that, it'll be on to December, and Oregon hasn't lost in December since 2007.