Despite recent losses, no reason for Ducks or Beavers to panic
We write it, or something like this, every college football season:
The more we think we know, the more wrong we are.
Two weeks ago, it looked like the schedule set up nicely for the Ducks. One week ago, Oregon State looked like it might be the most complete team in the Pac-12 North Division.
On consecutive Saturdays, the angst in these parts was fueled by some peculiar game management and inconsistent quarterback play as a local team found a way to lose a game it should have won and headed into a bye week with a lot to clean up.
Exhibit A, of course, was the Oregon Ducks finding a way to lose a game at Stanford they had won.
Exhibit B, you know, was the Oregon State Beavers turning away from their strong offensive line and ground game and throwing away a good chance to at least force overtime in their loss at Washington State.
Frustrating results for two fan bases, for sure. But, it still remains reasonable to dream of a scenario where the Oregon State visit to Oregon in late November determines the North Division champion. What we know for sure is that the North Division champion will have at least one loss.
In fact, at 2-1 in Pac-12 games, Oregon State enters its bye week atop the North Division. Not long ago, that would have reason to smile in Corvallis. Certainly, if OSU continues to gash defenses with its ground game, there are more wins coming.
But the intrigue this week will be about how Oregon comes out of its bye week. The Ducks have had a series of devastating injuries, and will be without key players such as running back CJ Verdell and safety Bennett Williams the remainder of the season. But the big question entering the bye week, at least for the fan base, was whether or not Mario Cristobal might make a change at quarterback.
Sounds like that won't happen — though there would be no benefit to the coach announcing a change ahead of Friday's 7:30 p.m. game against Cal at Autzen Stadium. Cristobal has said that Anthony Brown Jr., despite being among the least accurate passers in the Pac-12, has the best grasp of the offense and gives Oregon the best chance to win.
Given the injury challenges the Ducks face, strong quarterback play will be a must the rest of this season. Should Brown struggle early on Friday, though, you know there will be rumblings from the Autzen faithful.
Week 7 games
California at Oregon, 7:30 p.m. Friday (ESPN). Trib's take: Cal is 1-4, with the only win coming over Sacramento State. The Ducks should win by two touchdowns, right? Probably not. We have not seen the Ducks command a game, yet. Cal has been within a possession in three of its four losses. And, the Bears figure to be motivated for coach Justin Wilcox's homecoming. The Ducks win, but not as comfortably as they would like. Oregon 31, California 23.
Idaho State at Portland State, 2:05 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, at Hillsboro Stadium (ESPN+). Trib's take: These teams are probably better than their combined 3-8 record. The Bengals are coming off their first win of the season, a 27-17 upset of then-seventh-ranked UC Davis. The Vikings are coming off another loss pinned on a poor start. Let's say this is the week the defense plays the first quarter like it matters. Portland State 35, Idaho State 27.
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