Tag Archives: pac 12 football

Willie Taggart Will Have the Oregon Ducks Quacking All The Way To Levi’s Stadium

Oregon hired Willie Taggart to replace Mark Helfrich as head coach. Helfrich went 37-16 in Eugene. When his teams were good, they were really good having played in the 2014 national championship game. And when Helfrich’s teams were bad, they were bad. His final season was a 4-8 debacle. I wasn’t convinced that Helfrich should have been fired, but can’t fault athletic director Rob Mullens for making a bold decision.

The hiring of Taggart to replace Helfrich wasn’t a choice that blew me away. While I don’t believe Taggart will have long term success at Oregon, I do believe that his 2017 team will win the Pac-12 North. Call it the Muschamp Effect. Take over a program that has talent, win with it, and proceed to fall in a pit when the program is completely your own. That’s what I expect from Taggart. But for 2017, Taggart will look like a masterful hire.

Even with the dismissal of wide receiver Darren Carrington II, Oregon returns plenty of fire power on the offensive side of the ball. The Ducks return quarterback Justin Herbert, the top three rushers, one of the top two receivers, and, perhaps most importantly, five offensive linemen. Oregon will also play a schedule that will test them early. I like the Ducks’ nonconference games against Nebraska and on the road at Wyoming more than Washington’s trip to Rutgers or games against Montana, and Fresno State. Granted Oregon has to actually win those games.

Defensively, things couldn’t be much worse than they were last year. Now departed defensive coordinator Brady Hoke was replaced with Jim Leavitt. While Hoke’s Oregon defense ranked 119th in the nation, Leavitt’s Colorado defensive unit ranked 12th in the country. And the defense that Leavitt inherited at Colorado had ranked 109th in the country prior to Leavitt taking over.

Taggart will be the beneficiary of being at the right place at the right time when it comes to the offense that he will have at Oregon. Defensively he should get all of the credit for prying Leavitt away from Colorado. And Oregon should feel secure with Leavitt provided that Kansas State’s Bill Snyder doesn’t finally decide to retire.

Washington is the trendy pick to win the Pac-12 North. It’s a pick that makes sense. And because it makes sense, it’s also the easy pick. The Huskies have one of the more underrated head coaches in Chris Peterson, have what many consider to be an easy schedule, and return quarterback Jake Browning to go along with a plethora of returning talent on the offensive side of the ball.

While Oregon welcomes Leavitt to Eugene, Washington has a top tier defensive coordinator of its own in Pete Kwiatkowski. The Husky defense gave up a league low 248 points in 2016 conference play. This was due in large part to extraordinary secondary play from Budda Baker, Kevin King, and Sidney Jones. That secondary trio were all selected in the NFL draft.

Crazy stuff seems to happen every year in the Pac-12. Pac-12 After Dark is a real thing. With a sketchy schedule to go along with a revamped secondary, it’s tough for me to be confident in picking Washington to withstand the rigors of the Pac-12 After Dark. I do, however, expect Oregon to be flying high after I’m fast asleep.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Campus Pressbox 63 | Talking Pac-12 Football And So Much More

It’s tougher to win at some schools as opposed to others. Sometimes it’s due to tradition and other times it’s due to academic standards. Even if your school has tough academic entrance requirements, it’s still possible to win at a consistent level. Schools like Stanford don’t want to hear the excuses.

Continue reading Campus Pressbox 63 | Talking Pac-12 Football And So Much More

The Best and Worst of 2016: Pac 12

There were a lot of praise-worthy moments during the 2016 Pac 12 campaign. And in the same breath, I can say with 100% certainty, there were equally plenty of cringe-worthy moments as well. In my opinion, I would say that the Pac 12 took a step back this year. There were some teams that performed extremely well (Pac 12 Champion Washington Huskies) and some teams that stumbled out of the gate, fell, face-planted, and remained on the ground for 12 weeks or so (Arizona, Oregon, Cal, take your pick).

Amongst the peaks and valleys this past season, there were some teams that represented the very best of the Pac 12 and what this conference has to offer to college football. Conversely, there are some teams that flat out stunk and left an ‘un-Febreze-able’ odor, stinging the nostrils of hapless fans up and down the Pacific coast. Depending on your perspective, some of these teams are interchangeable. In the end, we know good football when we see it, straight up. No exceptions. Looking back on this past season, here are my takes on the best and worst of the Pac 12.

The Best

Washington Huskies

Washington made good on their preseason picks to represent the Pac 12 and possibly crack the top four in the College Football Playoff. With an impressive 12-2 (8-1) record, the Huskies punished would-be opponents en route to the Pac 12 championship. It was their first since 2000. Led by sophomore quarterback Jake Browning, The Huskies jumped out of the gate winning their first nine games before falling to eventual Rose Bowl Champion, USC. However, despite the loss, U Dub was able to regroup after the loss, win the Pac 12 Championship and face Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinal Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. Though the Huskies were put down 24-7, they showed no quit and scrapped it out until the very end.

USC Trojans

The Trojans stumbled out of the gate, losing three of their first four games. They were beyond cross road status. They were picking out a plot and resting in shame for the rest of the season. But, somehow, some way, they picked themselves up by their bootstraps and forged ahead to what was a turnaround of all turnarounds. After a 31-27 defeat to the Utes (Utah), USC went on a torrid win streak (eight straight) and displayed why they are perennial favorites to compete and win the Pac 12 year in and year out. And the ultimate cherry on top, you ask? It was an ‘instant classic’ of a game as you can imagine with an improbable come-from-behind Rose Bowl victory over Big Ten Champ, Penn State 52-49.

Colorado Buffaloes

No, this isn’t a typo. I meant it. Yes, I certainly wasn’t a believer for this pick, but I had to really sit down and catch a few games. And to my surprise, the Buffs were quite good this season. They finished 10-4 (8-1). I think Colorado would have given eventual champion Washington a bit more competition in the conference championship had Sefo Liufao not injured his ankle early in the game. That’s my opinion. But we’ll never know. It’s remarkable what Colorado could do in a course of two seasons. Talk about a serious 180 degree turn around from last season where they went 4-9 (1-8). It’s incredible, especially since it’s with the same group of players. Just goes to show you what continuity can do for a team. Unfortunately, the Buffs had to come crashing back to Earth from a 38-8 smack down at the hands of Oklahoma State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Despite the loss, this was an impressive campaign and their heads should be held high.

The Worst

Oregon Ducks

A very popular acronym comes to mind when I think of the Ducks: W.T.F? To those not up on current social terminology, let’s just say that it’s a serious inquisition into understanding the unlikeliest of outcomes. Going into the season, there were some question marks regarding the quarterback situation. Graduate transfer Dakota Prukop didn’t quite live up to the hype and his position was given to true freshman, Justin Herbert midway through the season. The issues didn’t just end there. Their porous defense was atrocious. During the October 8th game against Washington, the Ducks surrendered 70, that’s right 70 points and a whopping 682 yards of total offense! To complement a passive defense, All Pac 12 running back, Royce Freeman battled injuries throughout the season and wasn’t even close to being a factor. All totaled, the Ducks finished 4-8 (2-7). Subsequently, Mark Helfrich was relieved of his duties at season’s end. His replacement, former University of South Florida head coach Willie Taggart assumed the position and is looking to retool a once proud and dominant program. One notable bright spot is that running back Royce Freeman will return for his senior season.

UCLA Bruins

Injuries to quarterback Josh Rosen quickly derailed what would be been a championship campaign for the Bruins. Without the sophomore quarterback, UCLA stumbled and bumbled to a 4-8 (2-7) record. Despite the record, the Bruins’ defense kept them in most of their games. Unfortunately, the offense could not drum up enough of a rhythm to keep the defense off the field for extended periods of time. The Bruins look to have Josh Rosen back for his junior season. Hopefully, he will be healthy and the defense, though losing some key playmakers, can resume consistent, strong play.

Cal Golden Bears

Oh, this pains me so! There is no way I can’t say that this season was an absolute disappointment. Early predictions had Cal contending for the Pac 12 North division title – key word, early predictions. When news that Cal had landed graduate transfer Davis Webb from Texas Tech, it seemed that the Golden Bears’ prayers had been answered as far as a replacement for former signal caller, Jared Goff. Statistically, Webb performed well above expectations- throwing for 4,295 yards with 37 TD’s versus 12 picks. Of course the other side of the coin reveals a much darker, bleaker situation. Cal’s defense, which showed some improvement last season, seemed to have left that improvement somewhere in 2015. Cal’s defense ranked at or near the bottom in several defensive statistical categories. It was a hot mess of a dumpster fire. However, the defensive highlight of the season and a moment which I figured would turn Cal’s season around was the epic goal line stand against then #4 Utah. It was the type of stand that sets the tone for the rest of the season. Alas, it was only good enough to get the win and nothing more. Sadly, it would be only one of two wins to come in the final seven games of the season. The blaze that was the 2016 season saw coaching casualties in Defensive Coordinator Art Kaufman and Head Coach Sonny Dykes. With a new regime taking place in Strawberry Canyon, first-time head coach Justin Wilcox is poised to right a ship that has been astray for some time.

Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.

Featured images courtesy of collegeswimming.com

Time is Ticking Away for the Golden Bears

As a kid, I would watch soap operas daily.  One of my all-time favorites was “The Days of Our Lives.” I know, I know. What’s a child doing watching soap operas? Well, I don’t have a legitimate answer for you. Moreover, I really don’t care what you think anyway. So, for those that are familiar with the popular daytime soap, the introductory line to the show went something like this, “Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives.”  Well, this notion is sadly similar to my beloved California Golden Bears. Fresh off a super-sized beat down from the #4 Washington Huskies, Cal is left picking itself off the turf at Memorial Stadium.

The night’s festivities couldn’t have begun any sweeter, Cal alum Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch whipped and swerved his way across Kabam Field in a golf cart as he did 10 years ago after an overtime win over these same Huskies. This time, Marshawn was accompanied by his mother for the first few whips about the field, but she soon got out and was replaced by none other than Bay Area Hip Hop legend, E-40. With the crowd in a frenzy, this was on the verge becoming something special. Could lightning strike twice, albeit 10 years apart? Let me put it to you this way, it was close for a few moments, literally, but in the end, the Golden Bear secondary was abused, torched, burnt, etc. in rout to a 66-27 drubbing. What a waste of a Beast Mode and E-40 sighting! Their mere presence alone should have garnered at least 50 points from the Bears in pure hype. Alas, all we were privileged to was just another dismal performance from the ever-suspect Cal secondary.

Cal (4-5, 2-4) is now down to its final three games of the season in hopes of winning at least two to gain bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year under head coach Sonny Dykes. Oh, and just in case you were wondering who those next three opponents are, let’s see. There’s #23 Washington State, The Big Game with Stanford, and UCLA. Luckily, the last two games are in front of the home crowd. At this juncture last year, Cal was 5-4 with only one more win to secure a bowl berth. Now Cal is faced with the un-enviable task of taking two wins from these three teams that have a combined record of 124-136 (Cal owns a 46-16 record over Washington State).

I swear, and I swear quite often and frequently, but why oh why must Cal’s bowl chances come with so little margin for error? Yeah, I get it. It’s clearly a sign of a mediocre team. But this is my mediocre team, dammit! I know I should be looking at this situation with the “glass half-full” approach, but why? This is ridiculous! When are we going to learn? Hell, I’m five seconds from reaching out to Nnamdi Asomugha to re-enroll and man the secondary again. Geesh! I don’t ask for too much. Or in Cal’s case, maybe I do.

Time is of the essence and if there ever was a time when Cal needed to play out of its mind (in a good way) and snatch at least two more victories, now is the time. The road isn’t going to get any easier and it would be a travesty to see the Golden Bears regress after they have made steady progress under Coach Dykes. Unless something miraculous occurs on defense in the next few weeks, we’ll be watching bowl season with Oski and friends at the local bar–and the clock will again be ticking on the Sonny Dykes regime.

Although I’m a loyal fan, I can’t escape the reality in which I live. Cal is not a good team overall. There are some bright spots and a lot of glaring deficiencies. These do not have overnight solutions. These are systemic issues that may take some time to correct. Unfortunately, it takes a change in staffing and/or culture to bring about desired results. Let me be clear, I’m not calling for Coach Dykes’ job. I am calling for a change in recruiting strategy. There’s plenty of talent offensively, but for Pete’s sake, can we please hang our hat on somebody on defense?

Football, unlike soap operas cannot be written and rewritten at the drop of a hat. For Cal to make the necessary changes, it will take time and patience. With the “win now or else,” mantra in full bloom among collegiate programs, dutiful program development under a coaching staff is a notion that has run out of sand.

Email David at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin.

Featured image courtesy of Andy Simmons/ Flickr

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It’s Put up or Shut up for Oski and the Golden Bears

It’s moments like these where I hate to be a fan of a teetering squad. I don’t have the heart to throw up my hands and do away with my team, but what the hell gives!? I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Cal Bears all season, and going in I went as far as to say that they actually have a legitimate shot of making a run toward the Pac 12 title. And yes, I was sober when I made the claim.

My Cal Bears are at .500 (4-4, 2-3) with perhaps the most difficult 4-game stretch to come. How on God’s green earth did we get here? Relax, this is rhetorical. I know full well how we got here. Problem is, how can we get out of this all-too-familiar place? More on that later.

Back to what will be, in my humble opinion, a make or break stretch for Coach Sonny Dykes career at Cal in these next four weeks. Like I mentioned earlier, Oski and Bears have their paws full these upcoming weeks and will define the season one way or another.

This Saturday, the Huskies of U Dub (U. Of Washington) pay Memorial Coliseum a visit. Not only are they the #4 ranked team in the nation, but they are quite possibly the best team Cal will face this year, bar none. Hands down. My faith-o-meter for this one is admittedly low. However, Cal did beat Utah, and Utah gave Washington all they could handle. So, there is a glimmer of hope. Plus, we have home field advantage. Stranger things have happened (See Utah at Cal).

The remaining three weeks we have the Cougars of Washington State, Stanford, and UCLA respectively. I mean, hell, these are all quality programs. Cal is going to have to be on its A+ game to have a shot. All bias aside, offensively, Cal can do it. Davis Webb and company have proven they can hang with the big dogs. However, of course, defensively, I plead the fifth. Eh, I can’t put my finger on it. There are times where there is sound defense being played, in spurts. By and large, this defense is bad. Not historically bad, but by Cal standards, they are

However, defensively, I plead the fifth. Eh, I can’t put my finger on it. There are times where there is sound defense being played, in spurts. By and large, this defense is bad. Not historically bad, but by Cal standards they are underwhelming, to say the least. And I can say that as a fan with the utmost of honesty.

Flashback

How on God’s green earth did we get here? Relax, this is rhetorical. I know full well how we got here. Problem is, how can we get out of this all-too-familiar place?

The best way to address this question is to understand the problem. Taking the last three seasons into account, Cal usually comes out of the gate hitting on all cylinders. Why? Well, the good ‘ol non-conference schedule. Granted, there have been some competitive teams scheduled earlier on, but not with the level of talent the Pac 12 has to offer. So, what ends up happening is that Cal usually runs into a buzz saw come conference play and the Golden Bears barely escape the regular season by the skin of their teeth. Good offense and bad defense usually leaves a team in the middle of the road. And that my friends, is Cal’s affliction and subsequent result. Mediocrity.

My wife often tells me, don’t complain about a problem. Instead figure how to create a solution. Well, here’s my four-year, $11.4 million dollar solution. Win early. Take advantage of the easier schedule so attaining bowl eligibility won’t be such a daunting task in the waning weeks of the season- as has been the case the last three years. Also, beat the teams you’re supposed to beat! C’mon, Oregon State takes us to overtime and wins! These cats (I mean Beavers) are 2-6! Really?!

The Golden Bears are two wins away from bowl eligibility for the second consecutive year. Quite the achievement for Coach Dykes, I’ll admit. Of course, which of the remaining four opponents will Cal topple to reach the mountain top? Washington? I don’t think so. Washington State? Well, maybe. Stanford? They need to win, but will they? Which leaves UCLA. (sigh) I don’t know folks. We may have to take a mulligan and try again next year. At most, I see Cal squeaking out at least one more victory. Maybe if we were to grab a win when we were supposed to, this wouldn’t be such a tall order. But these are the cards that are dealt.

Like the post’s title, it’s put up or shut up. There’s no sugar coating it. It’s frustrating to see our season come down to must wins…again! When will we learn? Despite the odds, I’m going all in and going down with the ship if need be. Best believe, I’ll be standing near the life rafts though.

Featured image courtesy of John Martinez Pavliga/ Flickr

E-mail David at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @VirgosAssasin

Does the Sun Devil Surprise Continue in Colorado?

In every football season there are surprises. A team exceeds expectations or drops off the face of the Earth. Well, don’t tell anybody, but the Arizona State Sun Devils are quietly in the mix for the Pac-12 South division title going into their game with Colorado.

We still have a ways to go in this Pac-12 football season, however, there is a low-key confidence growing among the coaches and the players for the Sun Devils.

What has to happen for Arizona State to pull the surprise and win the Pac-12 South?

First of all, the Sun Devils have to get by an upstart Colorado team this Saturday. This is not going to be an easy thing to do. The Buffaloes have proven to be a team to not overlook. They were up big on a talented Michigan team, beat Oregon in Eugene, and fell just short against the USC Trojans.

The Sun Devils are well aware of how important this game is in terms of the Pac-12 South division. If Arizona State gets this win it’ll put the Devils a game up on Colorado and they will then control their own destiny.

The other aspect that can derail this season for the Sun Devils is injuries, especially at the quarterback position.

Starting quarterback, Manny Wilkins Jr., has been out with injury for the past couple of weeks. He is expected to return for the Colorado game. Being at Sun Devil practice, it is obvious that the coaching staff wants Manny Wilkins Jr. at quarterback on Saturday. Wilkins is going through all the drills that don’t involve contact. His replacement, Brady White, who played admirably in relief two weeks ago against USC is out for the rest of the season due to an injury that occurred last week in the win against UCLA.

If Manny Wilkins Jr. can’t play on Saturday it will be a difficult game for the Sun Devils in Colorado.

The next part of the equation for Arizona State is that leaky faucet defense the Sun Devils have. The Sun Devils have to make stops against Colorado. The defense needs to step up and that might include not relying on the blitz so much.

“The Sun Devils blitz when they walk off the bus. We know we will have some negative plays defending the blitz, but there will be chances for us to take advantage of it.” Said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre on the weekly Pac-12 conference call.

Blitzing is the bread and butter for the Arizona State defense. Talented teams like Colorado can take advantage of the over aggressive style to make big plays. The Sun Devils bring pressure from every angle to try and confuse the offense. Arizona State gets to the quarterback, but also gives up many big plays with its blitzing.

I believe the Sun Devils need to dial back the aggressive play a bit. With a division title possible you have to play smart and being so aggressive is not always the smartest way to go.

Will the Sun Devils choose to dial the blitz back?

Don’t count on it. Coaches have a style that suits them. This is the style of Coach Graham.

I believe the Sun Devils will have Manny Wilkins Jr. at quarterback on Saturday, but how effective can Wilkins be coming off of injury? Colorado will be coming after Wilkins and if Colorado can get him out of the game, it’s game over for the Sun Devils.

When the clock runs out on Saturday, I believe the Colorado Buffaloes will be the victors. Colorado doesn’t have as many questions heading into this game, in my opinion. Buffaloes win, 45-28.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Wikipedia

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Huskies Ready to Go Duck Hunting

If you’re an Oregon Ducks fan, think about why you call yourself that before you read on and get all offended.  I’m betting most of you began rooting for them when Chip Kelly got there and won a Pac-12 title in 2009.  Spare me.

You had to know that stretch of success would come to an end.  When did you realize it was over?  Was it that bulldozing you took from Ohio State?  Or, maybe it was before that when Chip Kelly took off for the NFL and left you with Mark Helfrich.  Either way, you’re done.  It’s over.  I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted.

Power in college football is cyclical.  There are no exceptions.  Oregon thrived over the better part of the past decade because a lot of things started going well.  Nike took over uniform design and ran with it.  At the time, it was impossible to know this was the first layer of a new strategy that would go on to revolutionize the sportswear and college recruiting industries.

I don’t think Nike wants to create a whole new Oregon football uniform for every single game, but the expectation is there now.  This one here is my personal all-time favorite, by the way.  To roll out something the Ducks have already worn would be to disappoint those checking in to see what they’re wearing.  That’s all many of us will be doing this weekend.  Seeing the score, we’ll either turn it right back to the inevitably closer game we’re watching or stay tuned to enjoy the duck hunt.

Breaking news: Dakota Prukop is not Vernon Adams, who was not Marcus Mariota.  I smell a couple picks.  If he even starts, that is. Really, it won’t matter who starts behind center.  The Washington Huskies are going to make sure there are no smiling Ducks this weekend.

Did you see what Washington did to a good team last Friday?  Now imagine what’ll happen Saturday against an Oregon team that’s lost to Nebraska, Colorado and Washington State its last three times out.  I mean, the Huskies laid a beatdown on Stanford the likes of which we haven’t seen since 2014.  That was the last time this game was played in Eugene, when the Ducks blew out the Cardinal, 45-16, on their way to that lopsided national championship duel with the Buckeyes.  More breaking news: this isn’t 2014 and the Huskies aren’t pushovers anymore.

If there is a bright spot for the Ducks this weekend, it’s that they’ll be remembered as the second-best road win on Washington’s Playoff resume.  The Autzen Stadium crowd brings the noise and it’ll be fun for them to have at least this one big game this fall, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re so clearly overmatched on the field.

There’s a new top dog in the Pac-12 North and you’ll get your double confirmation when the Huskies wipe the turf with the Ducks, no matter what they’re wearing.  I hope you like Chinese turkey.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Great Gatzke

Photo: Wikipedia

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Can the Oregon Ducks Come Out of their Downward Spiral?

Success can be a difficult thing to attain. It can also be a difficult thing to hang onto. If you doubt that, just ask any Oregon Ducks fan right now. There are more Duck fans flying off the bandwagon than there are actual ducks heading south right now. What has happened to the Oregon Ducks?

Depends on who you ask.

I believe it has come down to recruiting and the inability to develop a quarterback, but not Mark Helfrich.

Let’s start with recruiting.

The Ducks don’t recruit the type of player they have in the past. The lack of playmakers on the team is apparent to anybody that watches Oregon games. Players like Marcus Mariota, Ed Dickson, Jonathan Stewart, and Patrick Chung aren’t walking through the doors of the football facilities at Oregon anytime soon.

From 2010-12 the Ducks put together recruiting classes that ranked in the top-15 nationally. Let’s also remember that this was during the Chip Kelly years. The recruiting classes that Kelly put together had an average of 10 players that had a four-star rating attached to their name. Getting that many quality players for three years was bound to make a difference for the Ducks. Here’s the issue though:

Since 2013, the average rank of Oregon’s recruiting classes has been 21st. The amount of four-star players has dipped to seven on average, and the Ducks have only had two five-star players since 2013.

Let’s face the reality that coaches face. Talented players make their coaches look brilliant, but when the talent is running thin, that same coach doesn’t look so amazing anymore.

For the Ducks to get back to what the Ducks were a few seasons ago, they have to hit the recruiting trail harder. Oregon has to sell the University of Oregon much better. The mistake I think the Ducks make is that the their coaches believe that players are just lining up to come to Eugene. They are not lining up anymore. Not that they really were.

Oregon is not Ohio State or Alabama.

Secondly, since Marcus Mariota took his Heisman Trophy playmaking skills to the NFL, the Ducks haven’t had any consistency at the quarterback position. It’s hard to replace a legend at a school, but you need to at least have a plan in place to find someone to fill that role.

The logical choice may have been Jeff Lockie, but he came in and looked like he had never played football before. He was dreadful. Vernon Adams Jr, a graduate transfer, came from Eastern Washington University and played pretty well, but injuries hurt Adam’s overall effectiveness with the Ducks.

You would think the Oregon coaching staff would have a redshirt-freshman who might be able to take over the offense for the next few seasons.

Nope.

Oregon went fishing in the graduate transfer waters again, bringing Dakota Prukop up from the depths of Montana State. What has he provided?

Well, Prukop hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t horrible either. In effect, he has been a game manager. Prukop isn’t throwing for an insane amount of yards per game, but he’s not Jeff Lockie either.

With Oregon’s recent struggles, some have questioned whether or not Prukop can stay in his starting role. Some media types and fans want the Ducks to see what freshman Justin Herbert can do.

The most popular player on the team is always the back-up quarterback. However, Herbert has not taken any meaningful snaps and people want this young kid thrown out onto the field against the Husky defense this weekend? If you do that you risk his confidence being shattered into a thousand pieces. The Washington defense is nothing to take lightly. Put Dakota Prukop out there. It’s the smart move to make, Oregon.

Lastly, the coaching always comes under fire when things don’t go well. Especially considering the fragile mental state of most Oregon fans. The program has not been relevant for long, but the program acts like they have been around forever. This little downturn with their win/loss record is a reminder that you have to work hard to keep the talent coming.

Should Mark Helfrich be fired?

No.

Who do the Ducks think will come to Eugene? Not Les Miles or Tom Herman. Mark Helfrich is not Urban Meyer or Nick Saban, but those type of elite coaches are the exception, not the rule. I don’t see a better candidate available for this program.

The Oregon program has always wanted their football coach to represent the school in a classy way, positively represent the state of Oregon, and to conduct his life with integrity. To anybody outside the state of Oregon that may be hard to understand, but that is how it’s always been. Mark Helfrich does those things.

This is Helfrich’s first season of losing and now people want him gone. You want to fire a coach with a 35-11 record? That translates to a 76% win percentage. Yeah, that makes lousy sense. The tendency to have these knee jerk reactions is a symptom of social media. A quick fix is not going to change anything for Oregon. Helfrich knows the game and he relates to his players well. Helfrich is the guy for this football program.

You know what changes things for football teams? Talent. Recruit playmakers, Oregon. You got great talent to come to the little town of Eugene before. You can do it again.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson

Email Mike at mike (dot) wilson (at) campuspressbox (dot) com or follow Mike on Twitter @pigskinopinion

Mark Helfrich Is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis

These days, the only thing more aflame than Oregon’s uniforms is coach Mark Helfrich’s hot seat.

Just two seasons after finishing runners-up in the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Ducks stare down the barrel of extending a three-game losing streak to four in this week’s matchup against the #5 Washington Huskies. They’re allowing 210 rushing yards per game, they’re the sixth-most penalized team in college football, and they’re endangering their shot at earning a bowl invitation.

How have Oregon fans responded? By launching a GoFundMe page to bankroll Helfrich’s massive buyout.

Have faith Oregon fans. At the time of this writing, there’s only $10,999,790 left to go.

To his credit, Helfrich isn’t making any excuses. “Anything that’s bad in this program is my responsibility,” he insisted after a disappointing loss to Nebraska. “Anything you think of that’s bad is my fault.” Don’t get me wrong- that degree of integrity and accountability in a head coach is truly admirable. I like Mark Helfrich. Maybe he doesn’t know a lick about how to play defense (or how to choose a defensive coordinator), but Mark Helfrich is still a quality individual.

Except, quality individuals make awful head coaches. As far as I can tell, that’s the college football reality we live in. Show me a coach with 409 career wins, and I’ll show you someone who reprehensibly covered the tracks of a child rapist. Oh, is it too soon for those questionable Joe Paterno references? Apparently, it isn’t too soon for Penn State to roll out the red carpet in questionably honoring him.

Also, I’m almost certain one of the top five coaches in college football spends his Sundays posterizing middle schoolers at the local YMCA. Is that coach Jim Harbaugh? The world may never know.

Enabling sexual assault. Committing blatant recruiting violations. Hiring coaches recovering from alcoholism. That’s the kind of college-football-isn’t-supposed-to-be-fun mentality you need to coach in college football. Mark Helfrich lacks that mentality. Mark Helfrich looks more like Kermit the Frog than somebody willing to drown a litter of puppies to secure a five-star recruit. When I see Jimbo Fisher, I see a man who would trample a sea of helpless baby orangutans just to re-polish the encased ACC Championship trophies perched so prominently atop his mantle.

Helfrich is clearly more understated than his mentor and predecessor, and while that can have its benefits, it doesn’t help him in either recruiting or developing players and assistant coaches. Helfrich earned his reputation under Chip Kelly by tutoring a number of high-skill quarterbacks, including, most notably, Marcus Mariota. Truth be told, Chip Kelly and Scott Frost (currently at UCF) deserve an enormous amount of the credit assigned to Helfrich. As luck would have it, both men have surfaced in coaching carousel discussions surrounding a potential Helfrich departure.

Helfrich is the Larry Coker to Chip Kelly’s Butch Davis. The latter halves of the comparison each continued onto questionable coaching careers in the NFL. The former half failed to fill the shoes of their coaching mentors. The University of Miami has finally left a downward spiral triggered by inept coaching. If the Ducks don’t act fast, now may be only the beginning of that spiral.

Chip Kelly and Mike Bellotti built the Oregon program to stardom in the previous two decades, yet a decision to stand pat with an average coach in Helfrich threatens every last ounce of that stardom. The Ducks are currently trending away from a winning season and trending away from the offensive firepower that led them to a national championship. A handful of graduate transfers at quarterback have kept the program momentarily afloat, but in a matter of years, the full incompetence of the Helfrich regime will become fully exposed.

And by then, it’ll be too late.

Oregon tried and failed to maintain operations in-house. It’s time for the athletic department to expand the coaching search beyond the boundaries of Eugene- and whatever the hell they call that offense- to bring in an regularly-credentialed asshole with some know-how. If the Ducks waste the 2017 season with a proven lost cause at the helm, who knows whether the former glory of the Oregon program can ever be fully salvaged.

Then again, at least they’ll always have those jerseys.

Email Cole Hankins at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Photo courtesy – Wikipedia

Washington Huskies Look for the Upset Against the Stanford Cardinal

As college football fans turn the corner into October, we start getting into match-ups that will determine division titles. The Washington Huskies and the Stanford Cardinal will battle each other on Friday night to gain an advantage in the Pac-12 North division.

The Washington Huskies are the team on the rise. It’s been a long time since the Dawgs have been even remotely relevant. Washington will have the opportunity to make a statement against the team that is the current big dog in the conference.

The Huskies have a lot going for them. The Huskies have a quarterback that one could argue is the best in the conference,  have running backs that can break off a big play at any moment, and have a physical defense that can also make plays.

Jake Browning, Husky quarterback, is one of those dual-threat quarterbacks that makes life miserable for defensive coordinators. He has led the Huskies to perfect start so far and was instrumental in the Huskies overtime win last week against Arizona.

However, Browning has his first big test of the season with Stanford. The Cardinal defense will certainly try and go the physical route with trying to contain Browning. The Cardinal have to make sure Browning doesn’t get out and extend plays. If Jake Browning is able to extend plays and make big plays it will be a long night in Seattle for Stanford.

Not only do the Cardinal have concerns with Browning, Stanford doesn’t have either starting cornerbacks. Quenton Meeks and Alijah Holder went down against UCLA last weekend. That plays right into the hands of the Husky offense. The receivers are fast and having new cornerbacks on the perimeter will be something to watch as the game progresses.

The offensive line for Washington has to hold strong on enough plays so the Huskies can make plays down the field with Jake Browning’s accurate arm. In my opinion, the offensive line of Washington will be the key to victory for the Huskies.

Husky Stadium will be loud and rocking. I’ve been there for games and it is one of the loudest stadiums in the country. You can’t underestimate the effect that a loud crowd can have on an opposing team. Stanford is experienced in playing in big games, but having a new quarterback in this type of situation can be an adventure.

Myles Gaskin, the ultra-quick running back for the Huskies, has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for. Gaskin is listed as the starter and certainly could make this game his 2016 coming out party. However, look for running back Lavon Coleman to get some more touches. Coleman came into the game last week against Arizona and ran for 188 yards. Having a combination like these two could prove deadly against a weakened Stanford defense. I look for the Huskies to try and exploit this advantage when the Washington offense is on the field.

Defensively for the Huskies, the goal will be to hold Christian McCaffrey in check. I know, easier said than done. Look for head coach Chris Peterson to try and make some adjustments in the kicking game. Peterson will want to limit McCaffrey to as little return yards as possible. I would kick at angles to make the sideline an extra defender. We all know all dangerous Christian McCaffrey is when he is on the field, so controlling him is a must. The Huskies have to limit McCaffrey to 150 all-purpose yards to be in the game. With the speed the Huskies have, this is a possibility.

When it’s all said and done at Husky Stadium, I believe this will be the first big upset in the Pac-12 this year. The Dawgs will come out on top in a tight game. Huskies win 35-24.

Email Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @pigskinopinion.

Image: Courtesy of Mike Wilson