Don’t look now. The Oregon Ducks are getting better at the right time of the season.
As teams in the Top 10 fall by the wayside each week, Mark Helfrich‘s squad could be one of the last teams standing when it’s all said and done.
Oregon mounted another impressive victory Saturday with a strong 45-20 effort against the Washington Huskies. The win comes a week after the Ducks defeated the formerly Top 20 UCLA Bruins 42-30.
What’s most encouraging for the Ducks is their offense is finally on track.
Over the past two weeks, Oregon posted 468 yards against the Bruins and 554 yards against Washington. This is significant, because the Ducks weren’t able to consistently move the ball during previous games due to an injury-plagued offensive line and a lackluster rushing attack.
Both the offensive line and the running backs played well Saturday for Oregon.
Washington owns one of the most talented defensive lines in college football. Yet, they struggled to apply pressure on quarterback Marcus Mariota. Part of the reason behind the Ducks’ success was establishing the run early. The Ducks gained 218 yards on the ground. Freshman Royce Freeman exploded for 169 yards and four touchdowns.
Oregon should also be proud of its defensive effort. The Ducks surrendered a couple late scores, but they generally frustrated Washington’s offense throughout the evening. Washington gained 317 yards, which was the Ducks’ best defensive effort of the season.
With Saturday’s win, the Ducks currently reside atop the Pac-12 North standings with a 4-1 conference record. The program’s biggest game of the season will come in two weeks against the Stanford Cardinal. But Oregon has to get through an explosive Cal Golden Bears offense next week.
The collegiate season has reached a point where the Ducks can once again aspire to make the College Football Playoff. The team’s victory against the Huskies could be the first step in achieving that goal.
While definitely subject to change, the initial wagering odds for the degenerates in the reading audience are out.
Earlier Sunday, and in a surprise to absolutely no one, the four semifinalists for the 2019 College Football Playoff were released. LSU was given the No. 1 seed by the selection committee and will face No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl. No. 2 Ohio State, which came into Championship Saturday ranked first in the country, will square off with No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl.
According to the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook, LSU is a 7/5 favorite to win the 2019 national championship. Clemson is next at 2/1, while Ohio State sits at 3/1. Oklahoma, which won its way into the playoffs at the expense of Georgia, is a decided underdog at 16/1.
Speaking of underdogs, the SEC Tigers are currently listed as a 12½-point favorite in their matchup with the Sooners. Despite being the higher seed, the Buckeyes have opened as a two-point underdog to the ACC Tigers.
The over/under for Ohio State-Clemson opened at 63; for LSU-Oklahoma, it’s at 75.
LSU and Oklahoma have squared off just twice previously, with the most recent matchup coming in 2004. Clemson and Ohio State have met three times in their collective histories, the most recent meeting coming in the 2016 College Football Playoff — a 31-0 win for the Tigers.
When it came to replacing the fired Chad Morris, Arkansas, as it turned out, didn’t have to look outside of the SEC.
Sunday, with one of its top targets, Lane Kiffin, already having been locked up by SEC West rival Ole Miss, Arkansas reportedly pivoted its attention to Georgia’s Sam Pittman. A few hours later, the Razorbacks confirmed that Pittman has been hired as the school’s next head football coach.
“Sam Pittman has been an integral part of successful teams that have competed at the highest levels, including for SEC and NCAA Championships,” UA athletic director Hunter Yurachek said in a statement. “As one of the nation’s premier offensive line coaches, he has built a remarkable body of work thanks to his tremendous passion for his student-athletes, including teaching the fundamentals and developing his players on and off the field. Sam instills in his players the motivation, grit and determination required to compete and win. Throughout this process, I heard from many of his former players about the tremendous influence he had on them as a player and as a man.
“Sam knows the Southeastern Conference inside and out and is one of the nation’s best recruiters. His connections throughout football will enable him to build a quality coaching staff. In his previous tenure, Sam and his wife Jamie fell in love with the state of Arkansas and with Razorback fans. They know what a special place this is and are excited for the opportunity to come back to the Home of the Razorbacks.”
The hiring marks a return to Fayetteville for Pittman as he was a member of Bret Bielema‘s first coaching staff in 2013. In 2016, he left for Georgia, where he spent the past four seasons as the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach. He also served as Kirby Smart‘s associate head coach.
The 58-year-old Pittman will be officially introduced as the Razorbacks’ 34th head coach Monday afternoon.
Once again, it appears a Power Five program will pilfer a Group of Five school for its next head football coach.
Sunday afternoon, Bruce Feldman of The Athletic reported that Applachian State’s Eli Drinkwitz “has emerged as a strong candidate” for the vacancy at Missouri. Subsequent to that, ESPN.com reported that “Drinkwitz has reached an agreement to become Missouri’s next head football coach and a deal is being finalized.”
An official announcement of Drinkwitz becoming the permanent replacement for Barry Odom, who was fired late last month after four seasons at his alma mater, is expected no later than Monday.
The 36-year-old Drinkwitz is in his first season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, his first head-coaching job at any level of football. App State stands at 12-1 on the season after claiming its second-straight Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday with a win over Louisiana.
Dec. 21, App State will face UAB in the New Orleans Bowl.
A rough weekend for Georgia was underscored on Sunday as reports surfaced saying one of their key young players is done for the rest of this year and likely part of the next one.
As per Rivals’ Radi Nabulsi and a host of other beat writers in Athens, Bulldogs receiver Dominick Blaylock suffered a torn ACL in the loss against LSU in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.
The freshman from Marietta, Ga. had to be carted off the field in the first quarter after making a short catch and planting his knee awkwardly. The team’s top receiver, Lawrence Cager, was already out after undergoing knee surgery on Nov. 29.
Blaylock had made 18 catches for 310 yards and five touchdowns at UGA this season.