Mark Helfrich swings his sword with freshman QB

If you were to ask your kid to go ahead the first time he has his driver’s permit to go ahead and drive home in Atlanta rush hour traffic, that’d be giving a freshman a first start against a top 5 football team as your season swirls out of control.

Luckily (for Oregon), they’ve got more faith than George Michael when it comes to such things.

Freshman Justin Herbert will reportedly start for the Ducks this weekend as the 2-3 group hosts white hot Washington, coming off a blasting of conference heavyweight Stanford last Friday, announcing themselves to the world as really damned good.

Herbert looked good against Washington State in meaningless minutes. He was the 52nd rated quarterback in the 2016 class according to Scout.


This is a helluva spot for a freshman. Helfrich surely has to be feeling some frustration, if not total scalding heat from those not in the locker room, the type of stuff that makes you turn off your phone and avoid all forms of media and humanity other than what’s in your house and what’s in your office.

The problem is that Oregon knows it’s floundering a bit, calling for the ole “players only” meeting to discuss the way things are going … before letting Washington State roll up 280 yards rushing on them. Keep in mind, Wazzu committed a bit more to the run, but this is a team that couldn’t crack 150 rushing yards COMBINED against FCS’ Eastern Washington and Boise State.

If you’re looking for defense on Oregon’s slump, the team is banged up. But they still shouldn’t be 2-3, ever, and it’s increasingly beginning to look like the talent left behind had more to do with the success right off the bat in the Helfrich tenure. It seems silly to even consider having conversations like this about a coach who is not even three years removed from a berth in a championship game, but such are the ebbs and flows of college football these days.

The big kicker is, Oregon hasn’t just gone from perennial title contender to middle of the pack. This right now looks like one of the bottom half teams in the Pac-12, going to a freshman as a lifeline against what looks like the odds-on best team in the conference.

Helfrich’s greatest issue as a coach has been the inability to keep the quarterback train continually humming, opting to go to the FCS ranks to for short-term Marcus Mariota replacements rather than growing in-house. Vernon Adams didn’t work, and Dakota Prukop is now benched.

Why Helfrich has not been able to fill that all-important position with anyone other than FCS transfers has much to do with why Oregon is where they happen to be.

The gap betwixt Oregon and Washington looks a lot deeper than just plugging in an inexperience quarterback who got some good garbage time against Washington State. If you think it gives you a better shot at winning, especially at 2-3, you go for it. But if you think it gives you a better shot at winning, why wasn’t this decision made a month ago rather than against fire breathing Washington?

TBD in Eugene, in a place where the only TBD is wins … by how much, and what they’ll be wearing when they do it.