Oregon slips to No. 12 in AP poll, Ducks move on to the Bruins
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon's goal as the Ducks prepare to face UCLA is to put Arizona in the past. Quickly.
"You can't have your whole season decided by this one game, because then it's all downhill from there," freshman running back Royce Freeman said.
The Ducks (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) were upset by Arizona 31-24 on Thursday night, a stunning defeat at home that on Sunday helped jumble the AP Top 25. The Ducks were among five teams in the top ten along with Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and UCLA that lost in a wild week.
Oregon fell to No. 12, while the Wildcats, off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 1998, popped into the rankings at No. 10 for the biggest leap since the poll went to a top 25 in 1989. | More from the AP poll
Coach Mark Helfrich gave his team Saturday and Sunday off before the preparation for the trip to UCLA begins in earnest. The now-No. 18 Bruins (4-1, 1-1) fell to Utah 30-28 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night, and no doubt the Ducks were closely watching that game.
On Monday, they get back to addressing the questions raised in the loss.
Fans blamed some debatable calls, including a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Tony Washington, who bowed to the Autzen Stadium crowd after sacking Arizona's freshman quarterback on third-and-8.
Because of the penalty, the officials moved the ball half the distance to the goal line with an automatic first down. Three plays later, the Wildcats scored the go-ahead touchdown.
The Ducks also have been besieged by injuries, including a possible injury to quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns, and also caught a TD pass from Freeman. He still has no interceptions this season, but he lost the ball to the Wildcats when he was sacked on what would be Oregon'sfinal drive on Thursday night.
Mariota was sacked five times after seven in the Ducks' previous game at Washington State, a 38-31 Oregon win to open the conference slate.
Afterward, offensive coordinator Scott Frost suggested that Mariota wasn't "100 percent" after getting beat up against Cougars. As a policy, Oregon doesn't discuss injuries, so there's no way to know that extent of what was bothering the Heisman hopeful.
Mariota certainly wasn't the only Duck who has been impacted by injuries. Oregon's offensive line has been hit hard, with starters Tyler Johnstone, Andre Yruretagoyena and Jake Fisher all injured. True freshman Tyrell Crosby and walk-on Matt Pierson started their second game at tackle.
The Ducks lost defensive lineman Arik Armstead to a left ankle injury during the first half against Arizona. His status for UCLA is now known, but the 6-foot-8 Armstead's presence would be missed.
The loss also put attention on Oregon's running game, which managed 144 yards against the Wildcats. This season the Ducks, usually known for their stout ground game, are averaging 187.2 yards rushing per game. No running back has rushed for 100 yards or more this season.
Then there were mistakes: Oregon had 10 penalties for 79 yards. Center Hroniss Grasu was uncharacteristically called for a false start and two holding penalties. And there was crushing penalty that went to Washington.
"Execution, discipline, a bunch of things that we control were not good enough," coach Mark Helfrich told reporters Friday after digesting the loss. "It was not good enough to play the schedule we play. We need to play more cleanly in every phase."
The Ducks' straight path to college football's first playoff may have taken a hit, but after what happened over the weekend both nationally and in the conference they are not out of it by any means.
Cal is atop the Pac-12 North standings because the Golden Bears (4-1, 2-1) have played three league games, while Oregon Stanford and Oregon State are all 1-1 in league play. Arizona tops the South Division as the only undefeated team in the conference.
"Every loss is a test of our character to see how we respond," cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said. "Not every team in college football is going to go undefeated so everyone has to learn from their losses and get better."
After a wild weekend, some advice for the forlorn fan: Don't panic. There's plenty of time to recover and win over the hearts and minds of the College Football Playoff selection committee. Condoleezza Rice and the boys don't put out their first rankings until Oct. 28.
The Associated Press Top 25 will have to do for now, and that got turned upside down after Shake-up Saturday which actually started Thursday night. It was that kind of week.
Only two teams maintained their spots from last week: No. 1 Florida State, which must have been having a pretty good chuckle as so many teams considered threats to the Seminoles' national championship crown went down, and No. 13 Georgia.
Five of the top eight teams in the rankings lost, a first since the poll went to 25 spots in 1989. A rundown of the damage:
Oregon dropped 10 spots after losing 31-24 at home to Arizona on Thursday night.
Alabama dropped four spots to No. 7 after losing 23-17 at Mississippi.
Oklahoma dropped seven spots to No. 11 after losing 37-33 at TCU.
Texas A&M dropped eight spots to No. 14 after losing 48-31 at Mississippi State.
UCLA dropped 10 spots to No. 18 after losing 30-28 at home to Utah.
Misery loves company, and the Ducks now have plenty. When so many heavyweights hit the mat at once, it takes some of the sting out of those upsets. It's now more likely multiple teams that have lost will reach the four-team playoff.
"There are several teams around here who have lost games and responded the right way. And they went on to have pretty good seasons," Tide coach Nick Saban said.
Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and UCLA all began the season ranked in the top seven.
Let's leave A&M out of this for now and take a look a brief look at where those four stand and their chances of making a playoff run.
Oregon: The biggest problem for the Ducks is an offensive line that has been beset by injuries. It has left star quarterback Marcus Mariota exposed and the running game sputtering. The defense has been shaky, too, ranking 79th nationally in yards per play. Oregon might not be capable of separating from the rest of the Pac-12, a conference filled with dangerous and unpredictable teams.
Alabama: The Crimson Tide is tied for 104th on the country in turnover margin at minus-4, a startling stat for a Saban team. Turnovers can be fluky. Maybe that corrects itself. Maybe not. The good news for the Tide is if any SEC West team can be said to have an accommodating remaining schedule it's Alabama. The Tide gets Arkansas, Tennessee and LSU (combined seven losses) on the road and Texas A&M, Mississippi State and Auburn at home.
Oklahoma: It wouldn't be fair to lay all the blame for the Sooners' loss on Trevor Knight, but when the quarterback plays a wildly inconsistent game on the road against a good team, it's a recipe for an upset. Most of the Sooners other vital signs are good, including home games against Kansas State, Baylor and Oklahoma State.
UCLA: The Bruins don't block well and injuries aren't to blame, which makes their problems seem worse than the Ducks. It would also be nice if talented quarterback Brett Hundley would get rid of the ball more quickly or be given more plays where that is the directive.
The biggest loser of this weekend might have been the Pac-12. The conference seems most likely to be a cluttered mess, which could be a problem come playoff selection time. And what looked as if it would be one of the league's games of the year Oregon at UCLA on Saturday now has two teams coming off losses.
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