Crystal ball gazing for UO's bowl chances
We won't know destinations for sure until Sunday, when league championships have concluded, deals have been struck and the trickle-down touches all teams with six wins or more — including seven-win Oregon.
There are more than enough bowl-eligible, six-win teams. So, 5-7 won't get ya into the party this year.
Oregon finished the regular season 7-5 (4-5 Pac-12), thanks to the return of quarterback Justin Herbert and simply all-around great play in wins against Arizona (48-28) and Oregon State (69-10) in the final two weeks.
Will the Ducks be heading to El Paso, Santa Clara, Las Vegas or Phoenix? Depends on who you ask.
Here are some bowl projections for Oregon, with only Saturday's Pac-12 championship game between Stanford and USC to be played, and with a few tidbits:
Sports Illustrated: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 29, versus Louisville (and 2017 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson).
ESPN: Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 16, vs. Boise State (which beat the Ducks in 2008 and '09); or, Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 26, vs. Texas Tech (a pass-happy team coached by former QB Kliff Kingsbury).
CBS Sports: Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 26, vs. Texas Tech (where Washington State's Mike Leach coached before being fired).
NBC Sports: Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 26, vs. Kansas State (which is coached by 78-year-old Bill Snyder, who wanted to hire Jim Leavitt before he became Oregon's defensive coordinator).
Sporting News: Foster Farms Bowl, Santa Clara, California, Dec. 27, vs. Purdue (which the Ducks beat in 2008 at West Lafayette, Ind., with Justin Roper, Jeremiah Masoli and Chris Harper at QB).
Bleacher Report: Las Vegas Bowl, Dec. 16, vs. Fresno State (which is coached by former UO coordinator/Cal head coach/Washington adviser Jeff Tedford and quarterbacked by former OSU player Marcus McMaryion).
SB Nation: Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 26, vs. West Virginia (which plays in the Big 12 Conference, so playing in the Southwest wouldn't be too much out of the ordinary in terms of travel).
Athlon: Cactus Bowl, Phoenix, Dec. 26, vs. Kansas State (which the Ducks waxed in the January 2013 Fiesta Bowl in the same metro area).
College Football News: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 29, vs. North Carolina State (which was the team Seattle Seahawks' QB Russell Wilson played for before Wisconsin, which lost to UO in the January 2012 Rose Bowl).
And, for good measure, USA Today does very solid bowl projections, but the newspaper hadn't updated its projections before the Tribune's deadline. Before the Civil War game, USA Today had the Ducks headed to play Louisiana Tech in the Independence Bowl, where the "modern era" started in 1989 when the UO administration bought the team's way into the game at Shreveport, Louisiana.
• Oregon's 117 points on offense and 38 points allowed on defense in the past two games helped the Ducks settle into some sound, 12-game team statistics.
The big finish also helped the Ducks off-set being outscored 151-34 in four losses without an injured Herbert.
The Ducks averaged 36.7 points per game (third in the Pac-12) and 454.4 yards on offense (fourth), and gave up 28.2 points (seventh) and 359.8 yards defense (fourth).
• The defense improved greatly under Leavitt. It gave up 28.2 points, 359.8 yards and 129.9 yards rushing (second in the Pac-12 to Washington) and 32.4 percent on third-down conversions (second to Washington State).
Last year, the Ducks gave up 41.4 points, 518.4 yards, 246.5 yards rushing and 48.5 percent on third-down conversions — all 11th in the Pac-12.
In 2015, the Ducks gave up 37.5 points and 485.3 yards, both 12th in the Pac-12.
• Sophomore linebacker Troy Dye backed up his strong freshman season by leading the Ducks in tackles with 103, while adding 13 tackles-for-loss and four sacks.
He had a team-leading 12 stops against Arizona QB Khalil Tate and the Wildcats and a team-high eight against running back Ryan Nall and Oregon State.
Defensive lineman Jalen Jelks led the Ducks with 15.0 tackles-for-loss and 6 1/2 sacks.
• Kicker Aidan Schneider, a senior from Grant High, went 59 for 59 on extra-point kicks and 9 for 12 on field-goal attempts. He hit two field goals against OSU to establish the all-time UO mark (51), and he had 15 points in the game to move into second place on the all-time scoring list (361, behind running back Royce Freeman's 384).
Schneider is 51 of 60 on field goals in his career (85 percent), which is close to the NCAA record of 90 percent set by Brett Baer of Louisiana Lafayette (2009-2012) and would be the Pac-12 record, eclipsing Kai Forbath of UCLA (84.16 percent, 2007-10).
• The Ducks had 111 penalties for 1,043 yards, by far the worst in the Pac-12 and the nation.
They are ranked 129th and last in the NCAA, behind 128th South Florida — coach Willie Taggart's former team — which has 100 penalties for 932 yards in 11 games.
• Freeman owns many UO career records, including the prestigious ones of all-purpose yards, rushing yards, total touchdowns and rushing TDs.
More important, he rebounded from a sub-par, injury-riddled 2016 to post 1,475 yards and 16 TDs on 244 carries (6.0 yards/per). He averaged 122.9 yards rushing, third behind Stanford's Bryce Love (168) and Arizona's Tate (135.3) and ahead of Colorado's Phillip Lindsay (122.8) and USC's Ronald Jones (122.4).
Love and Jones will square off in the Pac-12 title game.