Oregon’s Loss To Auburn Not Part Of The Pac-12 Problem

Dallas was teeming with Oregon Ducks fans Saturday afternoon; a veritable sea of green and yellow. The vibe was enthusiastic and spirited, colored with streaks of hope. No problems, no worries – "Hakuna Matata," especially with Justin Herbert back under center.

This was the year – the year the Pac-12 solved its playoff problem starting with a big win over a storied SEC school.

Yeah, that would do it.

Fast forward four hours to Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal sitting in the postgame press conference, fielding questions about botched handoffs and burned timeouts – trying to explain Oregon’s 27-21 loss to Auburn in his patented matter-of-fact manner.

“Certainly like to have a few things back,” said Cristobal in his opening remarks. “And a tough one, a real tough one. Real tough moments in that locker room right now.”

The reality is that Oregon played Auburn tough, and for most of the game the Ducks were the better team. However, the media, particularly of the social variety, wants to paint this loss as the beginning of yet another dead end for the Conference of Champions. One writer even went so far as to ask Cristobal how he will avoid letting this loss beat them twice – a question predicated on Nevada’s big win over Purdue and the presumed assessment by national media that the Pac-12 won’t make the playoff picture yet again based off of one game.

His response, of course was textbook.

“A couple of things,” said Cristobal. “I think our guys all recognize our goals are still in front of us. Number two, I think we all recognize Nevada is a really good football team. And the third thing is, our guys – we have a really good group of leaders, and our program is built from the inside out. We don't hocus-pocus it. We don't build it on a poor foundation. We build it on the right stuff. So when situations like this hit, that you're prepared to bounce back and move forward.”

Linebacker Troy Dye’s response reiterated Cristobal’s onward and upward mentality.

“You just have to get back,” explained Dye. “You have to rely on your leaders. Work on your craft. You have to get back to what you work on. You have to do what you do. You watched this game. You saw what happened. We just have to get better.”

Plus, Oregon played well. They dominated the Tigers in most statistical categories, the defense was staunch and the team played hard, physical football. Cristobal was bolstered by the way his team scrapped.

“We felt we could play physically with anybody on our schedule,” expressed Cristobal. “We have a great schedule. We play a lot of physical teams. So we prepped for Auburn, we prepped for the entire season. But I think we knew that, after our first couple plays, our guys were going to feel confident in the fact that they could hang and play with anybody.”

So okay, yes, Oregon’s 0-1 record doesn’t bode well for the Ducks' future playoff endeavors; Oregon may be momentarily down, but the Pac-12 is in no way out.

Stanford ended up with a win over Northwestern. Colorado defeated in-state rival Colorado State. Cal took down UC Davis. The Washington Huskies beat Eastern Washington handily. And the mighty Utah Utes conquered Holy War opponent BYU, in what was, in my opinion, the biggest Pac-12 win of the weekend.

Speaking of Utah – the Utes received copious amounts of preseason love from media pundits, but I am here to tell you this is the team that will take the Pac-12 crown this year. The South is not as strong as years past, although Arizona State is sneaky and USC is unpredictable. But Utah’s strength lies in the trenches as they control the line of scrimmage, especially late in games. That is the key to the Pac-12 kingdom. And it’s a recipe to absolutely smother teams.

Utah is like an old-school Stanford – physical, calculated, methodical and able to eat up lots of clock. In the Utes' 30-12 win over BYU t,hey held the Cougars to just 92 rushing yards, forced three turnovers and kept the ball for 35:58. Trust me, this is the year of the Ute.

As for the conference - Pac-12 teams are 0-10 against vs. ranked SEC teams since 2008.

Yes that statistic is neither warm nor fuzzy, but it doesn’t mean all hope should be lost after Week 1. It just means that the SEC and Auburn are now someone else’s problem.

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