Eugene Daily News
Alex Shoemaker

Fiesta Bowl Win Could Tie for Highest Final Ranking in Oregon History

With the mighty performance of Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals, the No. 4 Oregon Ducks just became one step closer to tying history.

The No. 22 Louisville Cardinals (11-2, 5-2) pulled the largest upset in BCS history by not only beating the No. 3 Florida Gators (11-2, 7-1), but crushing them in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. Florida’s loss has the Ducks ready to move one spot closer to a No. 2 final BCS ranking, should the Ducks take care of business against the Kansas State Wildcats tonight.

And how ironic is that Oregon’s highest final BCS ranking came following the Ducks’ last appearance in the Fiesta Bowl?

The No. 3 Ducks blew out Colorado to finish the season 11-1 and jumped the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who lost to the Miami Hurricanes in the national title game, to finish the 2001 season at No. 2. That No. 2 ranking stands alone as the greatest final ranking in Oregon football history.

The circumstances for 2001 and 2012 are vastly different, though. Oregon once again shared one-loss with the No. 2 team (this time it being the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide), but this Tide team is much better than the 2001 Nebraska Cornhuskers.

For one: Alabama actually won its conference, as opposed to Nebraska who limped into the national title game. Also, there is no controversy this time around. Oregon was ranked No. 2 in both major human polls, but was hurt by the computer poll and ultimately sat at No. 3 in the most important poll of all… the BCS.

What do both of those seasons have in common? Those pesky Cardinal from Stanford played spoiler at Autzen both seasons. Stanford has been a recurring thorn for Oregon several times since 2001, including the 2009 Rose Bowl season.

I now pose the question to you fans: which team do you think was better? Would you go with the 2001 Oregon Ducks or the 2012 Oregon Ducks?

To me, it’s pretty simple. You have to pick the 2001 Ducks! Let’s go position by position.


2001 vs 2012


joey-harrington-112309jpg-0d838e58b1506ccbQuarterback: 2001 Ducks

This is probably the biggest debate of all positions on this list. You’re comparing senior Heisman finalist Joey Harrington to the bright young freshman in Marcus Mariota. One is a pro-style drop back QB while the other a speedy laser beam that can take off on an 80-yard run in the drop of the hat.

Each one was perfect for the system ran at the time. Oregon, under then head coach Mike Bellotti ran a traditional offense led by a solid running tandem and consistent quarterback play. In 2012, Oregon runs the spread-option offense where a mobile quarterback is required.

So: Mariota or Harrington? Edge goes to experience, age and Harrington.

tumblr_lnvfbgjc7p1qecqtto1_500Running backs: Tie

This is another great debate. Which tandem was better? Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith or Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas. This one is so heated, that I don’t think I can give an edge to either one. You could make a solid case for either.

It’s hard to imagine the Ducks ever had as much talent at RB than they do right now, but the same was said 11 years ago. This one is too close to call.

howry2003jpg-f6d16cc3fdeec770Receivers: 2001 Ducks

This one is a landslide for the 2001 Ducks. I mean, look at the talent they had. The Ducks of old had stars Sammie Parker, Keenan Howry and legendary tight end Justin Peele. This one is the most one-sided of the positions.

Oregon has talent in WR Josh Huff and TE Colt Lyerla, but it still needs more time to develop to be even in the same breath as the 2001 Oregon receiving corp.


Oregon v ArizonaOffensive line: 2012 Ducks

This one is another incredibly tough one to call. Oregon didn’t have any players from its 2001 o-line drafted, but did see some guys picked up on NFL rosters. The depth in 2012 is much stronger, however.

From center Hroniss Grasu to Kyle Long, there isn’t really much comparison. Both offensive lines were good, and even with the loss of Carson York to a season-ending knee injury, advantage goes to 2012.

DSC05595-1024x577Defensive line: 2012 Ducks

If Oregon is completely healthy at defensive line, there is no comparison. The 2012 Ducks feature a dominating defensive line with Taylor Hart, Wade Keliikipi, Isaac Remington and Dion Jordan.

Jordan, a likely top-10 pick in the NFL Draft and Hart, team leader with 8.0 sacks, make one of the strongest d-lines in team history. The team has struggled to stay healthy all season long, but they should be back in A+ form for the Fiesta Bowl. This one is easy to pick.

SONY DSCLinebackers: 2012 Ducks

I never thought I’d say Oregon’s 2001 linebacking corp led by Wesley Mallard would be beat, but 2012 has them beat. Oregon is loaded inside and outside with Boseko Lokombo, Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso. Alonso is a freak athletically, Lokombo a turnover machine and Clay a sack master.

It’s incredibly close, though. These two units both had/have talent.

398555_314420581996951_1796989775_nDefensive backs: 2001 Ducks

Now, had Oregon stayed healthy this season, I would have called this a tie. But with the loses of John Boyett, Avery Patterson and more, the advantage has to go to the 2001 Ducks that had Fiesta Bowl MVP Steve Smith and Rashad Bauman.

Both teams have/had talent across the board, but the injuries to the 2012 team makes this one easy to pick.



As you can tell, they each take three positions as an advantage with running backs being a tie. As a tie breaker, look at the difference in special teams. 2001 Oregon featured Keenan Howry at punt returns, while 2012 has De’Anthony Thomas. You can that a tie, but at field goals and punts is where it becomes clear.

2012 Oregon is dead last in the Pac-12 in punting and kicking. If this was a close game, which it would be, you have to go with the team that can win special teams.

I’d go with 31-28 in a 2001 Oregon victory.

Comment below on which team you think was better: 2001 Oregon or 2012 Oregon

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