Oregon Ducks reject role as spoiler to Stanford's College Football Playoff dream – OregonLive.com
EUGENE — Spoiler alert: Oregon isn’t keen on framing itself as the upstart to Stanford’s entrenched favorite.
Though the Cardinal, ranked seventh in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, have a higher ceiling for their postseason than the three-loss Ducks, Oregon’s players and coaches contend they have as much to gain as Stanford has to lose Saturday at Stanford Stadium (4:30 p.m., FOX).
“I haven’t heard or talked about any type of spoiler role,” said UO coach Mark Helfrich, who is 1-1 against the Cardinal as head coach. “We’re attacking with total confidence, total commitment and total belief in all angles.”
The Ducks have rejected the role in which they’ve been cast because this “spoiler,” which connotes a season beyond saving, still harbors a shot at repeating as Pac-12 North champions. To do that, Stanford must lose its next two games, against UO and then Cal, to enter into a tiebreaker with UO and Washington State that the Ducks would win.
“With the trials this team’s gone through, I don’t think anybody’s looking at the big picture in this whole situation,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “We’ve got a really good team to play Saturday and we’re preparing as well as we can for that one.”
The Cardinal (8-1, 7-0 Pac-12) opened as 8.5-point favorites Sunday and that spread has since grown to 10 points, fueled perhaps by projections of Heisman Trophy candidate Christian McCaffrey at running back and four-year starting quarterback Kevin Hogan going against Oregon’s defense that ranks 115th in points allowed. There is also the matter of Stanford losing just three games at home since 2010 (though one came against the Ducks, in 2011).
“It is just one of those games here you can’t take anything lightly,” said quarterback Vernon Adams Jr., who is facing Stanford for the first time but said he watched previous UO-Stanford matchups while at Eastern Washington. “We’re just worried about us winning games and fixing whatever we need to be fixing.”
Playing as an underdog is a relatively new phenomenon for Oregon, which prior to its Sept. 12 matchup with Michigan State had been favored in 46 consecutive games, according to ESPN.
Though they’re riding a three-game winning streak the Ducks (6-3, 4-2) understand full well why they’re expected to fall flat on The Farm.
They simply have chosen not to allow such talk to follow them into the locker room.
“It hasn’t really been talked about,” senior defensive end DeForest Buckner said. “It’s Stanford week.”
Well, at least one person has publicly broached the topic as a positive. In the past, UO coaches have dismissed story lines such as revenge as motivational factors, yet acknowledge they don’t really care what a player uses for focus, so long as he is.
In 2012 and 2013, Stanford derailed Oregon’s chances at playing for a national championship. And Saturday marks a role reversal.
“I know the kids are excited to play this game and it’s kind of neat that we’re going in as the underdog and the spoiler,” Frost said. “That’s a role our guys aren’t used to playing. I think they’ll rise to the occasion and play well under the circumstances.”
— Andrew Greif