Oregon hasn't been a college football power for very long, at least not in comparison to programs like Ohio State or Alabama. A little over 20 years ago, the Oregon program was just one of those west coast schools that wasn't USC or Washington, so we didn't have to pay much attention to it.
If Oregon's not careful, it could soon be right back where it started.
Mike Bellotti took over at Oregon for Rich Brooks in 1995 after serving as offensive coordinator, and while he had success early, it wasn't until 2000 when the Ducks won the Pac-12 (then the Pac-10) that anyone really took notice. The next season, when the Ducks went 11-1 to win the conference again, beat Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl, and finished the season No. 2 in both major polls that we knew we'd have to keep paying attention.
Bellotti couldn't maintain that kind of success, however, as the Ducks would win 10 games in a season only two more times between 2002 and 2008. After that 2008 season, Bellotti would leave his position to become athletic director at Oregon, and like Rich Brooks before him, handed the keys to the car over to his offensive coordinator Chip Kelly.
We all know what Chip Kelly did for Oregon. In his four seasons running the Ducks, Oregon became a national power. Kelly's Ducks played in two Rose Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl, and nearly won a national title in 2010, falling three points shy against Auburn.
Then Kelly left to see if his offense would work in the NFL, and before going, he handed the keys to the car over to his offensive coordinator, Mark Helfrich.
Helfrich hasn't been taking care of the car.
Sure, for the first two seasons, things were fine. While Chip Kelly may have left, Marcus Mariota remained, and Oregon again played for a national title in his final game. The Ducks lost, Mariota left, and things have been going down hill since.
While it's a lot more obvious now following losses to Nebraska, Colorado and Washington State the last three weeks, the signs have been there for a while. The truth is, unless Oregon acts quickly, I don't know if it'll be able to stop the slide.
And I believe the problem that needs to be fixed is Helfrich. It's simply not working, and I haven't seen anything that causes me to believe he's the man to turn it around.
The biggest reasons for this are a massive decline in Oregon's defensive performance, in ability to develop a quarterback, as well as a drop in recruiting. All of these things are no doubt connected to one another.
While Oregon's offense has always grabbed the headlines, Chip Kelly's defenses were pretty damn good. In Kelly's four seasons at Oregon, the Ducks defense allowed an average of 22.22 points per game. In the 46 games the Ducks have played since, it's allowing 28.02 points per game, and 37.17 per game since the beginning of last season.
That's a huge drop off.
While some of this can be explained away as just the ramifications of losing defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti after the 2013 season, I believe the problems stem from talent. Oregon, when it was great, had excellent talent on defense. The kind of players you'd see have their names called in the NFL Draft, and that talent just isn't there right now.
Which is where recruiting comes in.
From 2010 (Kelly's first full season of recruiting) to 2012, the Ducks put together three recruiting classes that ranked in the top 15 nationally using 247 Sports' composite rankings. Those classes featured an average of 10 players that were rated four stars or higher (each class had one five-star recruit). Since 2013, Oregon's recruiting classes have an average rank of 21 nationally, and have an average of seven players rated four stars or higher, with only two five-star players in that span. That doesn't seem too bad on the surface, but the problem is not just that the level of recruiting has dropped off, it's that it continues to get worse.
Oregon's 2016 class ranked 28th in the country. As things currently stand in 2017, its class ranks 32nd. This is fine if you're just looking to compete in your division and get to some bowl games, but for a program with national title aspirations, it's simply not going to cut it.
This shows in the team's quarterback situation. Since losing Mariota, Oregon has had to turn to graduate transfers from the FCS level in Vernon Adams and Dakota Prukop to run the offense. While neither have been a true problem on their own, the fact the Ducks have had to turn to graduate transfers because they don't seem to have a capable player in house groomed for the job speaks volumes -- both about the recruiting and the coaching staff as well.
Remember, this is the same Oregon that once had both Mariota and Johnny Manziel committed to it at the same time.
When Chip Kelly was in charge, Oregon recruited well, but not on the level of an Alabama. What Oregon lacked in five-star superpower, however, it made up for with an innovative coach that knew his scheme inside and out, and knew how to be successful with it and the quarterbacks he groomed for it.
Oregon doesn't have that anymore, but if it knows what's good for it, it'll do everything in its power to find it.
Which is why I believe Oregon needs to move on from Helfrich as soon as possible. Tom Herman is the grand prize for any program looking for a new coach this offseason, and with the LSU gig already open, Oregon should get its hat in on the Herman sweepstakes as quickly as possible.
With all the money this program has behind it in Phil Knight and Nike, it has as good a shot of luring Herman away from Houston as anybody, and Oregon owes it to itself to at least try.
If it doesn't, well, a lot of teams have cool uniforms these days.
Gameday Sign of the Week
This is one of the most juvenile, basic signs I've ever seen, and I respect the hell out of whoever made it for not caring, because it made me giggle like a moron when I saw it on television. Mission accomplished.
Your Heisman Favorite of the Week
It's still Lamar Jackson, and nobody else is even close, even after a loss.
It's a strange feeling, honestly, because Lamar Jackson was amazing in Louisville's first four games, but I have even more respect for him following the Cardinals loss to Clemson on Saturday night, because Jackson showed me something he hadn't had a chance to yet.
See, when you're destroying everybody and just having fun, you don't get to show the world what you're really made of when facing adversity, but we had the chance to see it from Lamar on Saturday night. It was late in the first half when Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware had Jackson wrapped up in a pile on the field. And when I say he had Jackson wrapped up, what I really mean is Boulware had him in a rear-naked chokehold that would make an MMA fighter proud.
And this was a mistake. When you do something like this to an opponent, there are two possible outcomes. A lot of times, your opponent will become intimidated, and maybe cower a bit. Then there are the times when it ticks your opponent off, and they become possessed by an undying will to seek revenge upon you and your entire bloodline.
Jackson chose Option B. He got angry, played angry, and dominated Clemson coming out of the locker room at halftime using that anger, and I freaking loved seeing it. Now we know what we suspected all along: Lamar Jackson isn't just a talented dude having the time of his life when things are going well, he's an incredibly talented dude that isn't going to back down from anybody, and will compete until the bitter end.
I love him now more than ever before.
The Crap-Talking Kicker of the Week
I have a love-hate relationship with kickers. It's not that I don't respect their ability as much as it's that I think football would be a lot more fun without them. Once in a while, though, a kicker will show up, drill a 54-yard field goal as time expires to beat Florida State, and then do this.
The UNC kicker has no chill. pic.twitter.com/m3BqsG48u2— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 1, 2016
Oh man, he's tomahawk-choppin' on the Noles' home turf. I may not think you're necessary, Nick Weiler, but you're forever all right with me.
The Worst Block of the Week
Listen, nobody on Stanford's offensive line had a good night against Washington on Friday. As a unit, the Cardinal offense gave up eight sacks against the Huskies, but it was this non-sack that was truly a low-point.
I believe the kids would say that Stanford's Casey Tucker (I bet you were hoping I'd leave your name out of this) got murked by Washington's Joe Mathis, who finished his night with two sacks and one soul crushed.
Creepy Drummer of the Week
This drummer in Indiana's marching band is a bit too into the gig, in my opinion.
The Regretful Fan of the Week
Listen man, it's one thing to show up to a football game dressed like this on your own accord. I mean, I suppose it's good that nobody can see your face, but still, you didn't just do this on a whim. You chose this. At some point in your life, you said to yourself "I want to create a Stormtrooper suit in Georgia colors so that I may wear it out into public where people can see me and surely think that my combined love of Star Wars and Georgia football makes me the coolest person in the world."
So you did. And then you wore it to Saturday's game against Tennessee, in the heat, and saw one of the most dramatic finishes in recent memory, as Tennessee ripped your heart out with a Hail Mary on the final play of the game.
And then, as if all of that wasn't bad enough, you had to go home wearing that. At least nobody could see the tears.
Photo of the Week
Somehow ... some way ... some team 🍊 pic.twitter.com/8364u0RPrM— Tennessee Football (@Vol_Football) October 2, 2016
Speaking of the ending of the Tennessee-Georgia game, this photo is fantastic. I honestly think it's one of my favorite college football photos of all time, as the perspective is amazing, and it's taken at just the perfect moment. A fraction of a second after this photo was taken chaos ensued, but this photo captures that sense of calm, and the anticipation that everybody in that stadium and watching at home on television felt before the "OH MY GOD YOU'RE KIDDING ME" hit.
The Craziest Play You Probably Didn't See of the Week
We've all seen that Tennessee Hail Mary plenty of times at this point, but here's a play you probably missed on Saturday night. I mean, nobody can really blame you for not paying a lot of attention to a game between UNLV and Fresno State while Clemson and Florida State were going on, but check this out.
UNLV quarterback Dalton Sneed went from outhouse to penthouse on that play, dodging a possible safety and turning it into a 91-yard touchdown run.
And look out for UNLV in the coming years, people. There was a lot of reason to be skeptical about hiring a high school coach to take over the program, no matter how successful he'd been there, but Tony Sanchez has this UNLV program heading in the right direction. I think this is a team that's going to be a legit contender in the Mountain West pretty soon.
College Football Playoff Projection of the Week
2. Ohio State
Until next Monday.