Noah Sewell (1) attempts to block a pass coming from Stony Brook quarterback Tyquell Fields (4). The Oregon Ducks defeated the Stony Brook Seawolves 48-7 on Saturday night, September 17, at Autzen Stadium. (Will Geschke/Emerald)

At a bird’s eye view, you’d think it’s been a relatively normal year for Oregon football. Sitting at 4-1 while ranked No. 9 in the country, most people would be ecstatic. But the standings and a near-perfect record don’t tell the whole story.

Oregon’s 2021 season has been riddled with highs and lows. After a week two statement win in Columbus, Oregon was deemed a serious playoff contender by many, and rightfully so. The offense seemed to have a great tempo, while the defense was able to make plays at the right times.

But, in recent weeks, it hasn’t been quite the same. Injuries, poor time management and lackluster play from transfer quarterback Anthony Brown led the Ducks to a loss at Stanford.

Fortunately for Oregon, a much-needed bye week helped the team heal up, while also preparing and working out the kinks for the remainder of the season.

Going down in the AP Poll now in back-to-back weeks has some people concerned about the remainder of the season. But the level of concern should not be as high as it’s made out to be. The Ducks still look like a playoff contender, but the margin of error now compared to weeks prior is smaller.

Why not to worry

Oregon has seven games remaining on its regular season schedule, four of which will happen at home. The Ducks’ only loss this year came on the road, and that seems to be the story recently. The program’s last loss at home was a little over three years ago.

Oregon does not have any ranked teams left on its schedule, at least for now. The Pac-12 always brings upsets, as it loves to shoot itself in the foot in old, familiar fashion.

Conquering the rest of the regular season will not be an easy task for the Ducks, but it will be less of a contest knowing they are the most dangerous team whenever they touch the field.

If Oregon wins out, which is still a possibility, it will be right in the conversation to make the playoff. With only one loss, they join teams like Alabama, Ohio State and Penn State as one-loss teams still very much in the hunt. As weeks go on, more and more teams in front of Oregon will pick up losses, allowing for Oregon to continue to rise. Winning out is almost a must for the playoff.

Previewing the rest of the season:

10/15 vs Cal: This Friday night matchup brings the well-rested Ducks back home against a one-win Cal team. This will be a litmus test for Brown as he looks to earn back the trust of the starting quarterback role. A win here looks probable and could bring back the confidence that this team had in abundance just one month ago.

10/23 @ UCLA: This is probably the toughest game left on the schedule for the Ducks as they travel down to California to play the previously-ranked Bruins. UCLA has a high-powered offense that relies on dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and electric running back Zach Charbonnet. This will be a massive test for the defense, which will be missing Bennett Williams and Justin Flowe who are out for the remainder of the season with injuries.

10/30 vs Colorado: Back at home against another team who has only won once so far looks great for this Oregon team. Coming off a tough bout with UCLA, the Ducks will need to keep up their level of pace to beat the struggling Buffs whose only win came against Northern Colorado.

11/6 @ Washington: Washington surely hasn’t been as dominant as expected at the start of the year, but this game should not be overlooked. Washington is Oregon’s biggest rival, and the game will surely have lots of tension. Oregon barely survived its last matchup against the Huskies in 2019, leaving Seattle with a four-point victory. This year’s game will likely be close, but the Ducks will still enter the game as the favorite.

11/13 vs Washington State: The Cougars have a prolific passing offense, coming off a near 400-yard passing performance from sophomore Jayden de Laura. Oregon’s secondary has had some trouble this season and has been a little banged up, so their performance will be crucial for any chance of victory.

11/20 @ Utah: This is another huge test on the road for Oregon. Utah is a previously ranked team who appears to be back to their winning ways. The Utes’ sound offensive game plan will make it tough on Oregon. The Ducks will have to keep up with their amazing turnover ratio if they want this win.

11/27 vs Oregon State: The final regular season game of the year brings on the cross-state rival Beavers who are always looking to play spoiler. The Beavers always circle this game on their schedule and play it like a championship game because of what it means to their program. It will be another tough test for Oregon, but playing in front of home fans will be a big advantage to secure a win before a likely Pac-12 championship opportunity.