Countdown to College Football: Day 30: Oregon

School: University of Oregon

Mascot: Ducks

Fight Song: Mighty Oregon

Head Coach: Willie Taggert (40-45, 0-0 at Oregon)

Stadium: Autzen Stadium (Capacity: 54,000)

Best Place to Eat on Campus: 

Standard collegiate meals are tough to find in Eugene. Hipsters have overrun Eugene and the food scene smacks of "trendy" and "hip" joints. In the face of such a calamity, one must defend oneself against such madness by returning to the sacred meal of breakfast. Glenwood, which has a location on campus obliges, with a wide array of omelette's, pancakes and scrambles. 

Greatest Moment in Program History: 

Since the beginning of the Chip Kelly era, Oregon has had many great moments.  They have won multiple Rose Bowl's, played in two national championship games, destroyed Florida State by 40 and had a Heisman winning quarterback. Historically, the most pivotal moment happened twenty three years ago. Oregon under Rich Brooks had been a middling program with the occasional winning season sprinkled in. They spent most of their time being thumped by Don James' powerful Washington program.  Brooks and the athletic department, seeking for an edge in jump starting the program, approached Nike founder Phil Knight, an Oregon alum, if he could donate to the program. Knight told them to win some games first. 

By 1994, Don James was gone at Washington, and UW was good, but not as they once were. They traveled down to Eugene for a mid October duel.  Washington was ranked ninth in the country.  In a back and forth battle, Oregon took the lead 24-20 late in the game.  UW raced down the field and into the red zone.  Seemingly primed for victory, quarterback Damon Huard underthrew an out route and Oregon corner Kenny Wheaton picked it off, returning it for the game clinching score.  Oregon went on to win the conference and make the Rose Bowl.  Knight and the donor base, galvanized by the success, helped stir the facilities arms race that helped to make Oregon an elite program and the dominant northwest program for a decade.  Washington, slow to react to coach Jim Lambright's pleas to match Oregon in the facilities race, didn't upgrade decrepit Husky Stadium till 2014, and from 2004-2015, was thumped by Oregon every single year. 

Current State of the Program:

Rarely does a coach whose sole job is to not screw it up succeed.  Michigan, going from Bo to Gary Moeller to Lloyd Carr is a rare exception. Mark Helfrich's job after Chip Kelly left was just to maintain. Even with a title game appearance in 2014, cracks began to appear in the program.  The defense, always an innovative and physical bunch under Nick Alliotti, had slipped under Don Pellum, who, like Helfrich was given a job and a scheme to not screw up.  With the hard edged Chip Kelly leaving to the pro's, and the brilliant offensive coordinator Scott Frost getting a head coaching job, Oregon began to lose its way. Once a relentless offensive machine, Oregon made a habit of fading late in games in 2015.  In 2016, Brady Hoke replaced Pellum, fitting a square peg in a round hole by switching to a 4-3 scheme with 3-4 talent.  The team entered the season looking like nary a weight was lifted.  They were soft, uninspired and out of shape.  Oregon went 4-8 and Helfrich was quickly fired. 

WIllie Taggart has made his name as a coach rebuilding awful small conference teams. This job isn't as difficult as Oregon is a few wind sprints and some fine tuning away from bowl eligibility again. The Pac 12 North isn't the two horse race it was in Oregon's prime when their only tough game was Stanford.  Washington is built to contend for conference titles for years to come, Washington State is likely an eight to nine win team every year, Stanford is Stanford, and Oregon State is feisty and competitive. Taggart has assembled a good coaching staff, especially on defense, but the road to the top of the conference is much tougher than it was three short years ago. 

Prediction: 7-5

vs Southern Utah - W

vs Nebraska - W

at Wyoming - L

at Arizona State - W

vs California - W

vs Washington State - L

at Stanford - L

at UCLA - L

vs Utah - W

at Washington - L

vs Arizona - W

vs Oregon State - W