When is it too early to start dissecting the 2017 football schedule? Whenever it was, it is behind us...
We're taking a look at some of the most important games each Pac-12 team has waiting for it in the fall: the must-wins and the trap games. Next up: Oregon.
Must-win game: Nov. 24 vs. Oregon State
Oregon returns so much offensive talent from 2016 and it seems safe to be optimistic that its defense, under Jim Leavitt, will take a major step forward (a la Colorado two seasons ago). So, even though wins might be less difficult to come by than they were a season ago, there remains one game on Oregon's schedule that's a must win: The Civil War. Sure, it'd be great for Oregon to beat Washington State after the results of the past two seasons. And beating Stanford -- sans a Christian McCaffrey -- would be nice. And taking down Washington after the 49-point stomping from the Huskies a season ago would be sweet revenge. But The Civil War is different because Oregon needs to stop the in-state tides that began turning when Oregon State snapped the Ducks' eight-year win streak. New coach Willie Taggart has made it clear that he wants to own the Pacific Northwest. But, he can't even get started on that until the Ducks own the state of Oregon and the best way to do that is with a win over Oregon's in-state rival. Every other game might be tough to swallow, but it's easier to explain away in Taggart's first year than a second-consecutive loss to Oregon State (at home, no less).
Trap game: Sept. 23 at Arizona State
It's highly unlikely that the Ducks will be overlooking anyone this season given that the disappointments of 2016. It also seems unlikely for Oregon to get caught up in a trap game during their first Pac-12 game of the 2017 season (at ASU), but the temptation to overlook the Sun Devils could exist. The Ducks follow up the Arizona State game with three consecutive Pac-12 North matchups (Cal, Washington State and Stanford) and with the opportunity to re-establish themselves as an elite team in their division, Oregon could find itself looking past the Sun Devils and onto three prime opportunities to grab power in the North. Oregon lost its games with each of those opponents a season ago and allowed all three to put up at least 50 points in each game, whereas the Sun Devils were one of the two conference wins from 2016, so there isn't quite as much bitter blood there.