Oregon beats Ohio State - could the Pac-12 actually be a factor in the playoff race?
It's the question that seemingly gets asked at the start of every college football season.
And unfortunately, it's the question that seemingly gets answered by Week 2 or 3 of the season.
The question: Can the Pac-12 actually get in the playoff mix?
The answer, by mid-to-late September is almost always an emphatic "no."
The year 2021 may be the exception to the rule though, as... PAC-12 FOOTBALL IS BACK, BABY!! Ok, that's a slight exaggeration, but right now there isn't a single bigger storyline than the Pac-12 picking up two marquee wins in as many Saturday's.
Last week, it was UCLA beating LSU 38-27 at the Rose Bowl.
Then on Saturday Oregon one-upped them, in what was unquestionably a bigger and more shocking win - going to Ohio State and dominating the Buckeyes, beating them 35-28.
What was so shocking about the game itself was that - like UCLA against LSU last week - the Ducks were the physically more impressive team. While the stat sheet will tell you that Ohio State had more total yards, it was Oregon who made those yards count.
The Ducks finished with 500+ yards on the Ohio State defense, including 269 yards rushing. Incredibly, they averaged over seven yards per rush, with CJ Verdell averaging over eight yards per carry on 20 carries for the game.
And really, that was the story of the game: Oregon was essentially better than Ohio State in every phase of the game. They were more physical. They looked more athletic. And there's no doubt that they were better-coached as Joe Moorhead kept Ohio State's defense on their heels all day.
Coming out of this game, there are plenty of questions. Some of them come at Ohio State with that defense, that looked not-good for a third straight game dating back to last year's national championship game loss against Alabama.
That conversation is for another day though.
The big question today though: Is the Pac-12 poised to make its first playoff push since Washington made the Final Four in 2016?
It seems likely.
Now admittedly, it seems kind of silly to talk playoff in Week 2.
But at the same time, part of the reason why the Pac-12 has never been able to make serious headway in the playoff conversation is that they simply don't win the games they need to out of conference. They've been close at times (most notably, when Oregon nearly beat Auburn to open the season two years ago).
Well now UCLA has a victory over LSU and Oregon has a win at Ohio State.
Ultimately, we'll see how the LSU win holds up - there's a chance with the way things are trending, LSU might just not be good, and that win won't carry as much weight down the road. There's still time to turn things around on the Bayou, but claiming a win over LSU as a "signature" victory in a month or two might not feel all that "signature."
But Oregon winning at Ohio State? That feels huge. Even if this isn't a vintage Ohio State team, this is still the most talented team in the Big Ten, and will be favored in every game they play the rest of the year. Because of it, this win could hold weight all year, especially when it comes down to the playoff picture. Imagine if Oregon and Ohio State both finish with a 12-1 record at the end of the year? Or if UCLA beats Oregon and finishes 12-1 overall?
Again, it's a long way away.
But, it's the middle of September and the Pac-12 has a bunch of big wins to hang their hats on.
That's something you can't say often.
Unrelated, shout out to all the idiots that liked the Buckeyes in this game.