5 Thoughts: Oregon 51, Arizona 13

Fiu Thoughts 
– 627 yards of total offense while holding Arizona to 199 yards until the final meaningless play. It doesn’t matter whether or not Oregon is the No. 1 team in the nation, but it looked the part. Get ready College Football Playoff, because this isn’t the Duck team of past seasons. This version doesn’t have to resort to gimmicks – this is a complete football team that can pound with anyone. 

– However, against the biggest of the playoff big boys, the 13 penalties and mistakes early aren’t going to play. Unless the Ducks face Florida State, who’ll be more than happy to start out sloppy, too. 

– The amazing part about the complete and utter destruction of the No. 7 team in the nation is that Oregon was so, so bad early. It was as if the offense wasn’t really ready for the big moment, with a slew of major mental errors, a horrible end to a drive right around the goal line, a missed field goal, and a 6-0 first quarter lead. Everything appeared to be right there for Arizona to take the game over after weathering the early storm, but instead, the offense had absolutely nothing. Why? The Duck defensive front seemed to take the game personally. Anu Solomon completed 6-of-12 passes for 34 yards while finishing with -23 rushing yards? Really? Marcus Mariota will get the headlines because he probably locked up the Heisman, but the D was the star. 

– It’s going to be easy to point to Mariota’s stats – 25-of-38 for 313 yards and two touchdowns, and ten carries for 33 yards and three scores – but it was the way he overcame a rough start. It helped that the defense didn’t let Arizona breathe, but right after Arizona finally got on the board midway through the third quarter with a busted coverage 69-yard touchdown pass to make it 30-7, Mariota basically said, “enough of this.” Four plays, 68 yards, two runs from Royce Freeman, two passes to Darren Carrington – Pac-12 championship and playoff spot. Forget the spectacular and forget the numbers. If you wanted to see a Heisman-winning drive to quash any of Arizona’s comeback hopes and dreams, that was it. 

– How do you possibly put Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl now? Granted, the big New Year’s Six bowl wants to sell tickets if Boise State is making the trip – assuming it’s Boise State – but there’s no justifying a top ten spot at this point for the Wildcats. Michigan State at 8, Mississippi State at ten, and Ole Miss at 12 – with three “elite” wins over teams with two losses or fewer – all have to be ahead of the Wildcats. 

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– All that’s left now for Oregon is to go out and win a national championship, possibly over Alabama to really make a profound statement. It’s been a season of redemption and answering critics for the Ducks. Michigan State in September. Stanford in November. And now Arizona in the Pac-12 title game. 

– Game ball obviously goes to Marcus Mariota, which he can put in the trophy case next to his Heisman. But an awful lot of credit goes to defensive coordinator Don Pellum, who did a brilliant job of shutting down the Arizona ground game. If the Ducks play on D the way they did tonight, no one is beating them in January. 

– What happened tonight in Santa Clara takes absolutely nothing away from what Rich Rodriguez is building in Tucson. RichRod milked 10 wins and a South Division title out of a team led by two freshmen in the backfield. He’s just getting started in the desert. 

– There’s still three games left to be played, but I’m already dreaming about Mariota versus Nick Saban, Kirby Smart and the Bama D. The best of the Pac-12 facing the best of the SEC would be sinfully delicious. Maybe an upset in Atlanta or in a semifinal game spoils the fun, but that’s the game every unbiased college football fan wants to see on Jan. 12. 

– The Ducks might be even better the next time you see them a month from now. Injured Hroniss Grasu isn’t just any center. He’s one of the best centers in the country, and a crucial leader on offense. He’ll be ready by the time Oregon arrives in Pasadena for its semifinal game.

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– Oregon doesn’t look like an imposing football team stepping off the bus. The collection of players appear undersized and out of place for a brawny man’s game. Then football ensues and a track meet breaks out, leaving most opponents in the dust.

– With the win, Oregon has officially punched its way into the College Football playoff. That’s one down, and three more spots to go. There was no upset here, meaning chaos is on a collision course with disappointment for many in places like Columbus and Waco.

-Mariota is a supreme talent, but does he really deserve the Heisman over Melvin Gordon who is having one of the best single-seasons a running back has ever had?

-Remember when the Ducks were supposed to have a broken wing once Chip Kelly departed for the NFL? Not only has Mark Helfrich kept the program at an elite level, he may just get the ultimate prize when it’s all said and done.

-This game will do nothing to improve the image of Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. There continue to be games in which his teams inexplicably leave their effort on the bus. He’s a great offensive mind, but there’s just something missing that might result in being a bridesmaid with no chance at ever walking down the aisle.