For those of you who had Oregon in the four-team playoff pool, thanks for playing.
Just four games into the season, and with admittedly no dominant team or two on the national landscape, Oregon likely has played its way out of contention for the 2015 College Football Playoff, with No. 18 Utah throttling and/or drubbing and/or woodshedding the 13th-ranked Ducks 62-20 in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium. The loss drops the Ducks, who played for the national championship just eight months ago, to 2-2 on the season, with its other loss coming to Michigan State. While it’s still possible for them to run the table and win the Pac-12, it would seem highly unlikely that a two-loss team from any conference could earn one of the four spots in the two semifinal games. Then again, as weird as this season is shaping up to be, you just never know what’s going to happen seven or eight weeks down the road that will impact how the CFP shakes out.
As it stands now, though, the Ducks have much bigger and more pressing things to worry about than the postseason, like fixing a suddenly-wobbly offense that was made to look even more wobbly by a physical and swarming Utes defense. A defense, in fact, that you could say is playoff-caliber.
The Ducks came into the matchup averaging 50 points and 567.3 yards per game; the Utes limited that high-powered attack to just 13 and 237 late into the third quarter, before garbage time kicked in. Even then, the Ducks totaled just 400 yards of offense for the game.
And it’s not just that the defense was dominant. After the Utes were forced to punt on the opening possession of the game, they scored on each of their next nine possessions — not including the end of the half — with seven of those drives ending in touchdowns. And, between the eighth and ninth drives, they returned a punt for a touchdown to step down a little a little harder on the Ducks’ throats.
Now, four weeks into the season, if you’re looking for playoff contenders from the Pac-12, you look UCLA and Stanford and… Utah? Yep, unbeaten Utah. And why not? The season-opening win over Michigan looks more impressive by the week as the Wolverines have turned it around in a hurry under Jim Harbaugh. And what happened late Saturday night speaks for itself, throttling UO in its worst home loss since a 54-0 beating at the hands of Washington way back in 1977.
And the kicker to all of this? Utah’s game next week against Cal actually means something as both are unbeaten at 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference play.
While the Ducks may be dead, the Ute movement in the Pac-12 is very much alive and well. Through four weeks, anyway.