Listen, it’s been a weird year.
A year in which we’ve faced, and continue to face, a global pandemic. A year where over 74 million votes don’t make you the next president. And a year where the bachelorette finds a husband within the first four weeks.
It’s been a year full of anomalies, and Friday night in Corvallis was no different.
As the clock hit zeroes, it shouldn't have been a surprise that Oregon State beat Oregon if you’ve been paying close attention to how the season has transpired thus far.
Oregon looked vulnerable the past couple weeks, and especially in its 38-35 victory over a spiraling UCLA team prior to its matchup against the Beavers.
Despite the embarrassing 41-38 loss, something that only happened six times since the start of the century, the Ducks are still not out of the race to win the Pac-12 by any stretch.
But people lack patience.
Oregon’s had quite the journey to get to this point in the abbreviated season, but if Mario Cristobal and the Ducks don't right the ship, eyebrows will start to raise.
Following a Rose Bowl win, Oregon’s first since 2015, many praised Cristobal as he seemed like the bright spot in a coaching carousel that has stopped for the foreseeable future in Oregon.
But, no one knew what Oregon football was going to face this season.
Prior to the abbreviated season, there wasn’t even going to be a season. After facing pressure and backlash, the NCAA and Power Five conferences decided to partake in an abbreviated season.
Oregon’s players got caught in the crossfire.
Thomas Graham Jr., Brady Breeze, Jevon Holland and Penei Sewell all elected, respectively, to forgo the season and prepare for the NFL Draft. They were all certified superstars for Oregon and leaders for Cristobal.
Going into the 2020 season, Cristobal was already behind the eight-ball. He had to replace four key cogs, an entire offensive line, a quarterback and a good chunk of a stout defense. Regardless of all the replacements and the inability to have a spring or summer to prepare for the season, nobody wanted to dub this season as a rebuild season or to count the Ducks out of a chance to make the Playoff.
Oregon was not going to make the Playoff. Let’s make that clear. Compared to the likes of Alabama, Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State, the Pac-12 conference does not boast the teams nor the talent to elevate Oregon to the status of a Playoff contender. And Oregon has not looked like the caliber of a Playoff team this season.
Despite the loss to Oregon State, fans need to sit down and look to the horizon.
The Ducks can finish the season on a high note. If they are able to get past Cal, who is 0-3, and No. 22 Washington, who’s been Oregon’s measuring stick for the past two seasons, then they will have a date in the Pac-12 championship with a contender from the South. Given the Rose Bowl is a site for a Playoff game, Oregon will not be eligible to be repeat Rose Bowl champs. But they will likely be eligible for a New Year Six bowl.
Given recent history, Cristobal rallies his troops. In 2018, following a troubling loss to Utah, the Ducks rallied to win the final three games which included a win in the RedBox Bowl against Michigan State. In 2019, following a loss to Arizona State that derailed the Ducks chances at making the playoff, they won their final three games, which included a Rose Bowl win.
If Cristobal is the coach he has shown himself to be, then this Oregon team will rally. If this team does not use this loss as “fuel,” then the season will be a wash for Oregon.
This year has brought us a lot of twists and turns, but Cristobal needs to turn this ship in the right direction. Either way, Oregon fans have something to look forward to: a 7-1 season, with a bowl game win, or a top-five recruiting class in 2021.
There is something in store for Oregon. So, sit back, relax and appreciate that college football is being played in a year like this.