Pamplin Media Group – Ducks Aim to Break History in Ohio State

Oregon enters the 9/11 Columbus showdown 0-9 against the mighty Buckeyes.

Is Saturday September 11, 2021 the day the Oregon Ducks make football history?

Or will Ohio State University lead their football dominance over Oregon to 10 unbeaten wins, a record that includes one National Championship game and two Rose Bowls?

The game – scheduled to kick off at 9 a.m. on FOX – is the Ducks’ opportunity to finally beat the Buckeyes. It’s also an opportunity for Oregon to gain respect for itself and the Pac-12 conference, and maybe, just maybe, get into the college football playoff talk.

Despite some tough times in the comeback win over Fresno State to open the season, Oregon, ranked No.11 / 12 this week, is not expected to be significantly outscored against No.3 Ohio. Mario Cristobal’s three consecutive top 10 recruiting classes and a culture of physical play on the line of scrimmage make this game an important measuring stick.

And Ducks fans would certainly enjoy beating the Buckeyes, for once.

To be fair, most of the nine games between programs – dating back to a 10-7 Ohio State win at the 1958 Rose Bowl – have been competitive. And only once did the Buckeyes venture to Eugene (ironically, a 30-0 game in 1967 which is the most one-sided of the nine games). This will be the sixth trip to Columbus for Oregon, the first since 1987 – a time when such trips were made for program pay days.

This whole story, however, doesn’t matter. The painful loss of 42-20 in the 2014 national championship game has no impact on this game.

It is however a chance for Cristobal to show that he can win big beyond the recruiting track. If one of Oregon’s top rookies – Kayvon Thibodeaux – is healthy and playing, the Ducks’ chances of victory improve dramatically. It seemed possible, though perhaps unlikely, entering this week. Thibodeaux injured his ankle after dominating early against Fresno State.

That injury seemed to take energy from Oregon in Game 1, and when Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener had time to find receivers, he did – taking advantage of the loose coverage from the Oregon defensive backs up to 298 passing yards. Having Jamal Hill and DJ James available this week might help, but Oregon will be challenged to limit Ohio State’s big plays like it did against Fresno State (just three games over 20 yards). The Buckeyes had four touchdowns from 55 yards or more in their first win at Minnesota.

Ducks QB Anthony Brown was inconsistent, but made some timely big plays, including his winning TD run on a fourth down play. He will need to play confident and decisive football this week.

Winner or lose on Saturday, Oregon should still be favorites to win the Pac-12. Win or lose at Ohio State, going through the conference undefeated will be tough.

But it’s a tremendous opportunity – one that was sadly lost last fall when the pandemic scuttled Ohio state’s planned visit to Autzen Stadium. A victory in the famous Ohio State “Horseshoe”, whether or not it helps Oregon to land a playoff berth, can impact rostering for years to come.

The Ducks-Buckeyes clash isn’t the only important game for the Pac-12 this week. Later Saturday, Washington visited Michigan in need of a huge improvement after scoring a touchdown in a home loss to Montana. Cal at TCU is another intriguing game, and Colorado hosts No.5 Texas A&M.

Open the beaver house – Oregon State entertains Hawai’i – a game that starts at 8 p.m. (TV on FS1), 11 hours after the Ducks-Buckeyes. Military service members and veterans, first responders and those on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic can receive two free tickets to the Hawaii game by contacting the State of Hawaii box office. ‘Oregon.

After a frustrating opening loss to Purdue, a game that was winnable, the Beavers offense has a chance to gain confidence this week, whether Chance Nolan or Sam Noyer starts out as quarterback. Hawai’i allowed Portland State for 400 passing yards last weekend. It happened a week after UCLA ran for 244 yards against the Rainbow Warriors.

Nolan (10-16, 157 yards) played better than Noyer (10-21, 94 yards interception) at Purdue, but not enough to become the clear choice to start this week. Coach Jonathan Smith said the decision would be made based on this week’s practice.

The defense kept OSU in the early game and limited Purdue to 88 rushing yards. But, the Boilermakers’ Jack Plummer threw for 313 yards and was sacked once.

A key play came midway through the fourth quarter when Oregon State faced the fourth and -2 to their own 37. Nolan threw deep for Tyjon Lindsey but the pass was cut short. Purdue then amassed 37 yards to increase his lead to nine with less than five minutes to go. As frustrating as the result of this piece is, if I’m a Castor fan, I love his aggressiveness.

And, as frustrating as OSU’s loss was, it was the second-best result for a Pac-12 North team on opening weekend. In addition to UW who scored just seven points at home to Montana, Washington State lost at home to Utah State, Cal lost at home to Nevada and Stanford did was not competitive against Kansas State.

UCLA’s victory over LSU was nice. But if Oregon, Washington, Colorado (vs. Texas A&M No.5) and Cal (at TCU) struggle this weekend, the conference’s reputation likely cannot be saved in 2021.

The power supply is promising – The State of Portland will try to further tarnish the reputation of the Pac-12 and replicate its last visit to Pullman, Washington. In 2015, in Bruce Barnum’s first full season as Vikings coach, PSU beat Washington State 24-17 for the program’s only win against a Pac-12 team. Kick-off is at 3 p.m. (Pac-12 Network).

PSU showed a lot of promise in the loss to Hawai’i. After falling 28-0 in the first quarter and looking like a team that had missed an entire season, the Vikings won the remainder of the game 35-21. QB Davis Alexander pitched for 400 yards. Freshman receivers Darien Chase and Nate Bennett and juniors Beau Kelly and Mataio Talaemotu had productive evenings, including a few circus captures of Chase.

In defense, junior All-American Anthony Adams had a fumble and an interception and first-year linebacker Justice Pagan had 10 tackles, including two sacks.

This week’s games:

Oregon at Ohio State, 9 a.m. Sept. 11 (TV on FOX). Trib’s pick: Ohio State 38, Oregon 24. The Ducks make a few plays, but the Buckeyes take over in the second half as they did in their first game.

State of Portland to Washington State, September 11 at 3 p.m. (TV Pac-12 network). Trib’s pick: WSU 38, Portland State 31. Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Cougars will be motivated by last week’s loss – and PSU’s 2016 victory at Pullman.

Hawaii, Oregon, 8 p.m. Sept. 11 (TV on FS1). Trib’s Pick: Oregon State 45, Hawai’i 20. The Beavers’ offense gets some willpower against a team that allowed 79 points in two games.

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