For Pac-12, it's up to Ducks

With the conference going 3-4 in bowl games this postseason, Oregon will try to even the league's record

Bob Clark / The (Eugene) Register-Guard /

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pac-12 teams have lost more bowl games than they have won. The Big 12 is 2-0 in matchups this postseason with the Pac-12.

And does any of it matter as Oregon prepares to meet Kansas State tonight in the Fiesta Bowl?

“Too much is made of that,” said Steve Greatwood, Oregon’s offensive line coach and a veteran of 15 bowl appearances by the Ducks. “I used to get worked up about that, but it’s all about matchups.”

Does a team with superior receivers find itself playing an opponent whose secondary has been decimated by injuries? Is a team susceptible to giving up large amounts of rushing yardage trying to defend a pass-oriented offense?

And there is always this: How important is the bowl to the team playing in it?

“A lot of it is how bad do your kids want to be there?” Greatwood said. “I’m feeling really good about our group right now. They’re excited to play and I like how they’re handling themselves.

“It’s excitement, but it’s a business-as-usual attitude.”

This is not only the eighth consecutive season in which Oregon has played in a bowl, but the fourth consecutive year the Ducks have been in a Bowl Championship Series game. There have been two Rose Bowls, and in between was the national title game, played at the same site as tonight’s game against Kansas State.

“We know how to get ready for a big stage like this, we know what we have to do and what should be done,” Oregon senior linebacker Michael Clay said. “You feel a lot more comfortable.”

The Ducks have watched seven other Pac-12 teams play their bowl games, and there is some disappointment in the overall results of their conference.

“I think we have pride, not just with the conference, but most of the guys come from one part of the country and we’d like it to be successful,” said injured senior Duck offensive lineman Carson York. “If it’s Oregon State or anybody (from the Pac-12), I’ve been pulling for Pac-12 teams.”

“We all root for the Pac-12 to do well,” Clay added. “It’s disheartening to see them lose games (because) everybody here is a Pac-12 fan.

“I was rooting for Oregon State even though they’re our rivals.”

The reality of the bowl pairings over the past three weeks is that with Oregon and Stanford both in BCS games, it meant the other Pac-12 teams all moved up a step in the pecking order of the selection process. That could have made a difference in outcomes.

As it was, while UCLA and USC put on disappointing performances, it would not have taken much to alter outcomes in other games involving Pac-12 teams.

It can, indeed, be a fine line between winning and losing a bowl game.

“We understand more than most people do how unpredictable bowls are,” York said. “It’s an exhibition where you take a month off before you go play.

“You have so much time to prepare. If one team chooses to utilize that and the other team doesn’t ... it may not reflect the kind of team they were during the year.”

Oregon State lost a close game to Texas, after UCLA had been thumped by Baylor, resulting in the conference’s 0-2 record against the Big 12.

“The Oregon State game was going back and forth, then Texas was able to make more plays at the end, but I can’t really say that means anything,” UO cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said. “I don’t know how a team prepared for every game, so you can’t say how much that (result) matters.

“It always matters how your momentum is ... (a team) could right now not be playing its best football.”

Neither of the Fiesta Bowl opponents has had great success in bowl games. Kansas State is 6-9 in the postseason and has not won a bowl since 2002, dropping its past four.

Oregon is 10-15 in bowls, a winning percentage of .400 that ranks as the lowest in the Pac-12. Even in the recent run of success, the Ducks have not fared well in the postseason, going 3-6 in bowls over the past decade and 1-2 in Chip Kelly’s tenure as head coach.

But what does it really mean? It’s almost like the warning on buying stocks: past performance doesn’t necessarily guarantee future results.

As Greatwood reminded: “All we can control is our outcome (in the Fiesta Bowl). That’s all I’m worried about.”

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