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Tako Tuesdays: House Money

Oregon faces a tough task Saturday against Michigan State. But the fate of their season does not rest with Saturday night's outcome.

Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

So that Eastern Washington game was a little underwhelming, wasn't it? Bet nobody saw that coming last week.

After all the hoopla surrounding the QB battle, it turns out Oregon's problems were on the other side of the ball as Jordan West, Vernon Adams' replacement at Eastern Washington, comes out firing in a revenge game. Along with All-American wide receiver Cooper Kupp, West abuses a young and inexperienced Oregon secondary, throwing for over 300 yards in the first half as EWU takes a 34-28 lead into the locker room. Oregon clamps down in the second half to win 59-43, but the questions linger with Michigan State on the horizon.

Say, that's not too far off. What did that smart person's article say about this week's game against Michigan State?

As talented as Vernon Adams is, his lack of experience with the Oregon offense rears its head in East Lansing; miscommunications between quarterback and receiver lead to three interceptions, including a pick-six. A second-half charge isn't enough, and Oregon loses a regular season non-conference game for the first time since 2011.

Well, crap.


Regardless of whatever the drunk chimpanzee who wrote that article says, Oregon faces a tall order next Saturday, traveling to East Lansing to take on Connor Cook and the Michigan State Spartans. In 2014, Cook threw for 343 yards in the Spartans' 46-27 loss at Autzen Stadium, and did it against a far more wily and experienced secondary than the one he will face this weekend. Granted, Cook's 15/31 Week 1 throwing line last week against Western Michigan doesn't exactly strike fear into the hearts of his enemies, but he's a senior quarterback, in his house, in the biggest game of the season to date, against a secondary that struggled against Eastern Washington's second-string QB.

It wouldn't surprise me if Oregon lost on Saturday. And if they do slip up and fall to Michigan State, they'll be just fine. Because as far as the 2015 season is concerned, this game is nothing more than a bonus round.

Let's take a look at the major goals and benchmarks Oregon has this season, and how much a loss to Michigan State could affect them:

Pac-12 Championship: None. Literally none. Oregon could lose this game a thousand to negative four, and it would have no effect whatsoever on their chances of winning the conference. I'm not sure how Oregon would go about scoring negative points, but it surely involves The Duck dry-humping the back judge repeatedly.

A spot in the College Football Playoff: Okay, so losing 1000 to -4 might be a problem here. But realistically, Oregon isn't going to get blown out, even if they do lose. Michigan State is 3-1 against top-10 competition over the last two seasons, but doesn't have a top-10 win by more than 10 points in fifteen years, a 30-10 win over Purdue on November 11th, 2000. So let's just assume that should Oregon lose this game, it'll be by ten points or less.

A close loss to a top-10 opponent on the road doesn't sink Oregon's chances at finishing the season in the top 4. The Ducks would probably have to run the table in the Pac-12 to do it, but Oregon's conference slate doesn't look as scary as it did a week ago (looking at you, Stanford, Washington State, and Arizona State). A second-straight win over Sparty would definitely give Oregon some wiggle room with the CFP committee, but the committee sees this game for both teams as about a forgivable a loss as you'll see this season.

An undefeated season: A loss dashes the dream of an unblemished season, but I'm gonna go ahead and assume that Oregon isn't particularly interested in being perfect. I think they'd be perfectly happy with any outcome that gives them an opportunity to play for another national championship, and you don't have to be undefeated to do that. Six of the last nine FBS national champions can attest to that.


Oregon is certainly capable of going into East Lansing and winning, and a win over the Spartans would almost certainly boost Oregon into the top three, establishing them as a legitimate national title threat. But a loss is not the end of the world. Hopefully, the Ducks will know this, and will enter Saturday's game playing with house money: playing loose and instinctive, taking chances, and having a good time. That should make, win or lose, for a fun Saturday night.

Plus, I'm betting we'll see some new uniforms, too.