And honestly, it’s really about damn time.
Oregon has battled the injury bug all season long, and it hasn’t been to the scrubs. It started with preseason all-American John Boyett who went down with a season-ending knee injury – every Portland Trail Blazers fan immediately fell into fetal position and suffered horrible flashbacks for some unknown reason – and then followed with their best offensive lineman Carson York going down to knee injury. Seriously? Did the Ducks start drinking Portland water?
The Ducks have recently seen the return of their best receiver Josh Huff who missed two games due to injury. In his last two returns, though, he’s only caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Decent numbers, but I can’t help but think he’s still fighting through the pain.
Oregon’s star linebacker Michael Clay left during the Washington State game with an undisclosed injury and has yet to return. He was in pads on the sideline during the Ducks’ blowout 52-21 win over rival Washington.
With football, the season is a gauntlet with no rest. Regardless of skill level of the other team, there are big guys out there going full speed who are going to make you hurt in the morning. But, it makes worse that the Ducks have had to play tough competition so far.
Yes they’ve played the likes of Tennessee Tech and Arkansas State, but Arizona and Washington have both been better opponents than originally expected.
Arizona beat Oklahoma State to jump into the top-25 for a brief stint before Oregon put a 49-0 whooping on the scoreboard. And Washington, I don’t think many expected them to take down a top-10 Stanford team. But as I’ve said all season long, you never know with this conference.
Even quarterback Marcus Mariota, the usually soft spoken leader, wasn’t happy with the extra aggression from the Washington players.
“If you disrespect me or my teammates, I’m not going to let that go,” Mariota said after the game. “There’s situations where you can keep your head and there’s situations where you need to say something. I felt at that point in time they were getting a little chippy. I felt I needed to say a little something.”
My point is, with everyone gunning for the Ducks that target on their backs is bigger than ever. There’s no doubt they’ll have to deal with late hits and unnecessary physicality. Oregon has injuries across the board, and the toughest parts of their schedule is ahead of them.
After their bye, they play a Thursday night game against Arizona State, then host Colorado for two relatively light weeks. After that, the real work begins.
Oregon has to play No, 11 USC who will be playing with their backs against the door, knowing they need a win to stay a national title contender. Oregon stays on the road the next week against a Cal team much better than their 2-4 record would imply. Oregon then plays host to No. 17 Stanford, a team who has played spoiler before. Anyone remember 2001?
After Stanford? Oh, just the No. 10 Oregon State Beavers who have been the biggest surprise team in college football at 4-0. The Beavers also have wins over two top-25 teams, Wisconsin and UCLA, at the time. Rivalry games can never be overlooked.
With a BYE and two light games, Oregon should be rested before the thick of their schedule. Here’s to a little R and R.