It was an opportunity rarely seen in college football, something a great deal of teams probably dream about but don’t ever get to experience.
The chance to redeem yourself against the same team during the same season.
The common motivation is “we’ll get em’ next year!”, but for Oregon that was not necessary heading into Friday’s Pac 12 Championship game in Las Vegas. A mere two weeks after getting completely throttled by the Utah Utes Oregon stepped on the field with them again with payback, a third straight conference title, and a trip to Pasadena on the line.
Then they proceeded to...get blown out again.
It was almost spooky how much of a mirror image this game was of the first meeting. Utah ran through gaping holes and established the line of scrimmage, Anthony Brown delivered errant throws that resulted in interceptions and overshoots, and Oregon dug itself into a halftime hole too large to escape from.
There’s a lot of changes swirling around the Oregon program, a team that was on the cusp of a CFP appearance who’s two losses to the same team left a very sour taste to the finish off what was overall a good season.
Oregon won 10 games, they defeated Ohio State in the Horseshoe, they went undefeated at home for the third consecutive year. There’s a lot to look at and be proud of.
However, the two losses to Utah, and the way Oregon lost those games, leaves a feeling of disappointment looming.
Oregon lost two senior receivers to injury and a third walked away. Offensive Coordinator Joe Moorhead will depart to become the head coach at Akron. Former Head Coach Mario Cristobal is now with his alma mater, Miami, and at this moment it's unclear who will be the interim coach for the Alamo Bowl. It’s a stressful time for Duck faithful.
Cliche’ as it may sound, that all has to be put aside and the focus put squarely on Oregon’s Alamo Bowl matchup with Oklahoma.
The last time the Ducks faced the Sooners in a bowl game, they lost a heart-breaker that ended up being a disappointing end to a great season. The last time the Ducks played in the Alamo Bowl...they also lost a heart-breaker that ended up being a disappointing end to a great season.
Oregon must not let itself become complacent because they are not playing in a New Year’s Six game for the first time in the last three years. Bowl games, regardless of prestige, matter.
They are a chance to show a national TV audience what you are made of. They are a chance to potentially nab some recruiting momentum heading into the next season. But above all, they are a chance to end the season on a positive note.
Prior to the matchup with Oregon State, I claimed Oregon cannot allow Utah to beat them twice. They didn’t.
Now that Utah has, in fact, beaten Oregon twice, the focus must again shift away from the Utes. Oregon will get a shot at Utah next year at Autzen, where Oregon has been invincible the last few years. But that will be then.
This is now, and locking in on playing as good a game as they can and getting a win over a heralded program like Oklahoma could be the perfect remedy to a frustrating duo of losses and send the Ducks into 2022 with new life.