Oregon's Season is Not Over, But Their Room for Error has Vanished
Over 80 hours have passed since the Oregon Ducks blew a season-defining game against the Auburn Tigers in heart-wrenching fashion on Saturday night.
Are you over it yet? Nope, me either.
The loss still hurts, but we have moved on from self pity and feeling sorry for ourselves; now we're dissecting what went wrong, and pointing fingers at who's to blame. It doesn't matter who receives the bulk of the wrath felt by Oregon fans, at the center of each and every insult thrown towards the program is a veiled love for the team, taking root in many different ways. Fans get mad because they care, and they care because they believe.
To all the Ducks fans who think there is no longer a reason to believe after starting the season 0-1, I am here to tell you otherwise.
This season is far from over, and the path to the playoff still stands.
It will be harder to get there, of course, but what matters is that the Ducks are not playing for nothing — nothing being a trip to the Holiday Bowl or Red Box Bowl. This team can still finish the season among the best in the nation, and if they proved anything on Saturday night, it's that they have the talent to compete with the best of them.
We may have only seen Oregon's potential for 30 minutes of football at AT&T Stadium, but that 30 minutes was enough. While the Ducks were spreading the field and thrashing the Auburn defense early on in the game, the CFP committee was surely watching, and taking note of the ease in which Oregon was dismantling an SEC defense. More than that, they were surely paying attention to the way in which the Ducks' defense was locking down the Tigers on nearly every drive.
When it comes down to it, those voters will remember that, and a fluke blown lead in the end will be less important if Oregon is still around come December.
Now, all the Ducks can do is make sure they remain in contention. With a loss already on their record, Oregon has vanquished all wiggle-room that they entered the season with. No longer can they let a conference game slip out of their grasp; they now must run the table and hoist a Pac-12 Championship trophy at the end of the year if they have any chance of being considered for a playoff berth. A 12-1 Pac-12 Champion can catch the eyes of the committee; an 11-2 champion won't make the cut.
Each week now, the Ducks need to head into Saturday with the mentality that their season is over if they don't come out on top. There can be no more slip-ups, no more coaching mistakes, and no more conservative play-calling.
Oregon entered this season with high hopes of making a statement felt across the nation. That statement took a hard hit on Saturday night when the final whistle blew, but their window isn't closed just yet.