No. 11 Oregon’s 35-28 win at No. 3 Ohio State is a profoundly meaningful result for two teams, two conferences, this week’s USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll and the race for the College Football Playoff.
With the win, the Ducks upended several layers of the status quo to alter how we view some of the defining figures behind this year’s national championship, including the powerful Buckeyes, the Big Ten and the much-maligned Pac-12.
A torrid, borderline historic run that began a decade ago under Urban Meyer has placed Ohio State among the elite programs in the Football Bowl Subdivision, in a subset of five or six teams separated from the rest of the pack.
Losing at home to Oregon doesn’t remove OSU from this elite group but does shake up how this team is seen against the program’s recent past.
But the deepest impact of the Ducks’ win is reserved for how it re-establishes the Pac-12 as a conference worthy of being included in the championship mix with the rest of the Power Five, ending several years of frustrating results for a league that factored heavily into the first three years of the playoff format.
The victory might represent one of the biggest moments in modern Pac-12 history — if the conference is able to capitalize.
Winning in Columbus reflects several years of roster development from Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, who has crafted a team built more like Alabama, where he previously coached, than the vintage Chip Kelly-era teams that sparked an offensive revolution.
Even without star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was injured in the season opener against Fresno State and missed Saturday, the Ducks showed enough brute strength to match with the nation’s most talented roster this side of the Crimson Tide.
The offense ran for 269 yards, the most OSU has allowed in a game since allowing 339 yards to Maryland in 2018. Three different players ran for at least 40 yards, led by junior running back C.J. Verdell’s 161 yards and two scores on 8.1 yards per carry.
And after struggling through the pandemic season, the win vaults Oregon back into the upper stratosphere of the FBS. Not since 2016 has a Pac-12 team made the playoff, and not since the Ducks in 2014 has one advanced to the championship game.
Suddenly, the league has a team in the driver’s seat for the top four.
The benefit extends to the entire conference. The formula isn’t complicated: The best team from the Pac-12 is better than the best team in the Big Ten. Whether it’s Oregon, Southern California or UCLA, an undefeated or even one-loss Pac-12 champion will offer an argument to the playoff selection committee built around the Ducks’ win.
Follow colleges reporter Paul Myerberg on Twitter @PaulMyerberg
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ohio State loses to Oregon, sees playoff hopes take major hit