Oregon Ducks plan to rewrite recent history against Arizona Wildcats


Friday’s Pac-12 Champoinship Game will have a familiar feel.

College football fans have already seen this movie before. The Arizona Wildcats faced the higher-ranked Oregon Ducks and emerged with the upset victory on Oct. 2. However, Mark Helfrich‘s squad hopes to rewrite recent history.

There are plenty of differences already entering the Pac-12 Championship Game, though.

First, the Wildcats are now ranked in the Top 25. Rich Rodriguez‘s program has risen to No. 7 overall. Its ascension began with the 31-24 victory in Eugene. Arizona is now the champion of the Pac-12 South. And they’ll face the Ducks on a neutral field during their second meeting.

Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco will host the Pac-12 Championship Game. It will be the first time a neutral site hosted the championship game since Pac-12 expanded its conference.

Despite losing in the previous meeting, the Ducks, who are ranked No. 2 overall, are still considered the favorite to win the second contest between these two teams.

If that were to happen, Oregon’s approach must vary significantly:

1. Keep Mariota clean

When the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy is leading your offense, the goal is to keep him upright and allow him to work his magic. This hasn’t been easy for Oregon this season. When these two teams previously met, the Wildcats sacked Mariota five times. Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright III, who is third in the nation with 14 sacks, got to Mariota once, and he’ll find ways into the Ducks’ backfield if given the chance. Unfortunately Oregon shuffled its offensive line multiple times this season due to injuries, and Friday will be no different. Senior leader and starting center Hroniss Grasu has been ruled out for the game due to a left leg injury.

2. Limit turnovers

The one team in the Pac-12 Conference to confound Mariota over his career is Arizona. The Wildcats run an exotic 3-3-5 defense which allows them to bring pressure from anywhere. It also puts more athletes on the field with an extra defensive back. And Mariota has struggled to deal with the speed and confusion the defense presents. Mariota can’t make the same mistakes Friday for the Ducks to win, but his history suggests the quarterback may continue to struggle to some degree:

3. Hold Arizona’s rushing game in check

The Wildcats ran for 208 yards during the initial meeting. Senior Terris Jones-Grigsby led the way with 120 yards on 27 carries. Arizona’s rushing attack has only gotten better in recent weeks with freshman Nick Wilson developing into the team’s workhorse. Over the past four contests, Wilson averaged 163.2 yards per game. If the Ducks can slow the Wildcats’ rushing attack, the offense will then be placed in the hands of freshman quarterback Anu Solomon, who was previously sacked four times by the Ducks.

The outcome

While the Pac-12 Conference won’t admit publicly it has a rooting interest in either team, the league should be quietly supporting Oregon.

The Ducks are considered one of the nation’s elite teams. Mariota is on the precipice of winning this year’s Heisman Trophy. And a win by Arizona will likely lock the conference out of the inaugural College Football Playoff. A two-loss team is very unlikely to be named part of the final four.

Oregon is arguably the best team in the nation. The Ducks stumbled against the Wildcats earlier in the season. This is their opportunity to rectify the team’s only blemish.

Wisconsin launches early Heisman campaign for RB Jonathan Taylor

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The Heisman Trophy has generally been synonymous with the best quarterback on one of the best teams in recent years but there have been a few running backs who have broken through to win the most prestigious award in all of college football.

Hoping to become the next tailback to break the signal-callers’ grip on the stiff arm? That would be Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, who appears to have a budding campaign for the trophy that was launched by the school on Thursday:

Herschel Walker. Ron Dayne. Ricky Williams. Adrian Peterson. LaDainian Tomlinson. Dominant running backs. Legendary names. Unrivaled production … until now,” one tagline reads. “There’s a new kid on the block and he’s “Bringing Running Back,” back into the spotlight, just like those that came before him. And his name is Jonathan Taylor.”

The website goes through all of the notable stats that Taylor has piled up in just two seasons in Madison and while it doesn’t explicitly say everything is designed to raise the junior’s awareness ahead of Big Ten Media Days and the upcoming 2019 campaign, it does note that his fellow Wisconsin Doak Walker Award winners have all been finalists in New York at some point in their career.

i.e. hint, hint media this guy is pretty good.

And nobody is debating that after he has set numerous records during his first two years on campus. Key to actually making it to New York though might be how Taylor’s team does around him. If the Badgers can get back to being in contention for the Big Ten title once again in 2019, chances are high that the tailback’s play will play a bigger part in getting him the attention he deserves than a website and a hashtag.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)

Ryan Day isn’t going to name Justin Fields as Ohio State’s starting QB just yet

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Almost as soon as Justin Fields’ waiver to play right away in 2019 was approved, the Georgia transfer was pegged as Ohio State’s starting quarterback.

Ryan Day, however, is picking up this whole being a head coach at media day thing pretty good because the new leader of the Buckeyes offense declined to anoint Fields as the starter despite ample evidence that he’s the guy for the job.

“It’s an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game will be the first time. Justin and Gunnar (Hoak) are going to compete like heck to go win the job,” Day said from the podium at Big Ten Media Days on Thursday. “At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to who can play the game.”

Hoak, who grad transferred over from Kentucky, was a key pickup for the program in the offseason not just to provide some competition for Fields but to provide much-needed depth after a host of quarterbacks left for other schools. While he has experience playing in five games last year with the Wildcats, there’s a gap in terms of natural talent between him and Fields.

Day seems likely to stick to his timetable of naming the starter a few weeks into camp but it still seems pretty clear as to who eventually will take over for Dwayne Haskins under center for the scarlet and gray.

Still though, you have to hand it to the rookie for going full on coach-speak when it came to his signal-caller at his very first media day in charge.

Big Ten’s Jim Delany upset with College Football Playoff Selection Committee

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Thursday marked the final Big Ten Media Days press conference for outgoing commissioner Jim Delany.

While his appearance was fairly low-key all things considered, the longtime college athletics stalwart didn’t hold back when it came to discussing his league and the College Football Playoff, lobbing some critical comments towards the Selection Committee in particular.

“I wish we had a little more continuity. I wish they would demonstrate as well as state the stronger commitment to strength of schedule,” Delany said. “We should be playing comparable schedules and if we’re not, there should be somewhat to differentiate that.”

The Big Ten has missed out on the playoff the past two seasons and saw its champion be skipped over in another year for a divisional runner-up.

Delany also voiced support for something suggested by Big 12 counterpart Bob Bowlsby to require all teams to play at least 10 Power Five opponents in a season, helping even out the difference between eight and nine conference slates.

“I’ve been disappointed, quite honestly, about the strength of schedule,” he added. “We’re not going to change. There may be pressure to change, but I think that’s short-selling our fans, our players, our TV partners. I’m hoping that the committee catches up with the intent of the founders.”