AP Top 25 Observations: Oregon-Washington Embrace a Kick-less Game; The Heisman Trophy Race Reset

by Ethan Kim
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Football Strategy

Consider this revised text:

Picture a football game without any punts or field goals. No. 8 Oregon and No. 7 Washington provided a glimpse of such a scenario in what could be the most memorable game of the year.

In a rather ironic twist, it was this bold approach that allowed the Huskies to remain undefeated. Both Oregon’s head coach, Dan Lanning, and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer fully embraced the concept of four-down football, even when it didn’t yield the desired results.

During his two-year tenure as Oregon’s head coach, Lanning has made it abundantly clear that punting and place-kicking are only considered as a last resort. Last year, a failed fourth-down attempt against the Huskies contributed to the Ducks’ downfall.

“We’re an aggressive team,” Lanning emphasized at halftime during an interview with ESPN. This was after he had opted to forgo a simple field goal attempt on the last play of the second quarter and instead attempted a fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, which proved unsuccessful. “We’re here to win the game. We saw an opportunity to score a touchdown, and we knew that could be a game-changer for us,” he explained.

However, after the game, Lanning had a different perspective. “I’ll certainly review my decisions. The game is about adapting and improving,” he admitted to reporters. He then took full responsibility, saying, “This loss is entirely on me. There’s no need to look elsewhere; it’s my responsibility.”

The Ducks ended up going 0 for 3 on fourth-down attempts, passing on another field goal opportunity in the third quarter and choosing not to punt on a crucial fourth-and-3 near midfield with 2:11 left. Washington, on the other hand, converted 2 of 3 fourth-down attempts, with their only miss occurring in the fourth quarter when they were down by four points and just a yard away from the Ducks’ end zone.

When such decisions don’t pan out, as in Lanning’s case, they become fodder for sports media debates about whether coaches rely too heavily on “analytics” in today’s game.

In retrospect, there is a valid argument that Lanning should have settled for the field goal late in the first half, especially considering that Penix had just thrown an interception, giving the Ducks an extra opportunity to score while trailing 22-18. Moreover, Oregon was set to receive the ball at the start of the second half, making it a more prudent choice. Lanning, however, opted for a more aggressive approach, hoping to land a significant blow in a high-scoring contest between two powerhouse offenses.

The second fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line came with Washington leading by 11 points midway through the third quarter, making it a more justifiable decision. The same could be said for the final fourth-down attempt at Washington’s 47-yard line with the Ducks holding a 33-29 lead. Given Oregon’s offensive advantage against Washington’s defense, these decisions seemed reasonable as they aimed to secure the game’s outcome and keep it away from the prolific Penix.

While it might be tempting to pencil in Oregon and Washington for a Pac-12 championship rematch in Las Vegas, it’s essential to remember that the rest of the conference, including No. 10 USC, No. 15 Oregon State, No. 16 Utah, and No. 19 Washington State, poses formidable challenges. The Beavers, in particular, should not be underestimated.

Ultimately, Coach Lanning should take responsibility for the loss, as any good coach would. Perhaps a slight adjustment in his fourth-down aggressiveness is warranted, but in the modern landscape of college football, where talented quarterbacks can easily gain yards, Lanning’s approach is reasonable.

Furthermore, it adds an element of excitement and unpredictability to the game, making it all the more captivating.


Caleb Williams’ chances of becoming the second two-time Heisman Trophy winner, alongside the legendary Archie Griffin, took a significant hit in Notre Dame as No. 21 USC’s quarterback struggled, throwing three interceptions that put his team in a deep hole they couldn’t escape from.

While Williams has the potential to bounce back with numerous high-stakes games ahead, the reality is that his supporting cast doesn’t appear to be championship material. Even with Williams’ exceptional talent, if USC doesn’t perform well in the remaining games, Heisman voters will undoubtedly consider other candidates.

At this point in the season, Michael Penix Jr. emerges as the Heisman favorite, having amassed 2,301 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Nevertheless, the race is far from over.

Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel surged in the rankings after a remarkable performance against No. 9 Texas, while North Carolina’s Drake Maye, although consistently good, might gain more attention after throwing four touchdown passes, three of which were caught by recently reinstated receiver Tez Walker, against No. 25 Miami.

Jayden Daniels has been a driving force for No. 23 LSU, and Oregon’s Bo Nix remains a contender. Keep an eye on Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and Georgia’s Carson Beck as the top two ranked teams in the nation engage in more high-profile matchups.

If you’re looking beyond quarterbacks, consider Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison and Georgia tight end Brock Bowers, both of whom could make a significant impact in late-season games on the big stage.


Imagine how different the Colorado Buffaloes’ season could have been if they had lost the expected game against TCU, never earned a ranking, and won the anticipated game against Stanford. The Deion Sanders coaching experience will be intriguing, particularly as he navigates a program with a long road to improvement.

While Iowa’s offense faces challenges and injuries, their stalwart defense and exceptional special teams continue to propel them forward. After a dominant performance against Wisconsin, Iowa seems to control the relatively weak Big Ten West, potentially leading them to the conference title game with an 11-1 record.

Pitt made a statement by ending a four-game losing streak with a convincing victory over No. 14 Louisville, just a week after the Cardinals defeated Notre Dame. With Oregon, USC, and Louisville experiencing losses, there are now only 11 undefeated teams in FBS.

It’s time to acknowledge Air Force’s achievements, as they remain unbeaten despite facing challenges, including a late injury to quarterback Zac Larrier in their victory against Wyoming. No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 4 Florida State dominated their conference games, outscoring their opponents 171-37.

Rutgers staged a remarkable comeback win against Michigan State, thanks in part to the Spartans’ struggles on special teams. The Scarlet Knights, now 5-2, need just one more victory to secure bowl eligibility for the first time since 2014.

Arkansas, on the other hand, suffered its fourth consecutive loss, further raising questions about Coach Sam Pittman’s job security. Their schedule does get easier down the stretch, but it’s worth noting that Pittman’s buyout decreases significantly if his overall record falls below .500, which currently stands at 21-22.

In the SEC, Texas A&M’s offense sputtered against Tennessee, dropping them to 4-3. This means Coach Jimbo Fisher is unlikely to achieve a 10-win regular season in his six years at College Station. Despite the staggering implications, it remains to be seen if Fisher’s tenure will extend beyond December 1, as it would entail a substantial cost for the school.

For more insights and updates on college football, follow Ralph D. Russo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen to his podcasts at http://www.appodcasts.com.

Explore AP college football news at https://bigbignews.net/college-football and stay updated with the latest AP Top 25 College Football Poll at https://bigbignews.net/ap-top-25-college-football-poll.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Football Strategy

What was the key strategy showcased in the Oregon-Washington football game?

In the Oregon-Washington football game, both teams embraced a bold strategy known as “four-down football.” This approach involves forgoing punts and field goals in favor of going for it on fourth down, even in challenging situations. It was a high-stakes gamble that added excitement and unpredictability to the game.

How did Oregon’s coach, Dan Lanning, explain his aggressive approach in the game?

Coach Dan Lanning emphasized that Oregon is an aggressive team focused on winning games. He saw fourth-down opportunities as a chance to make a significant impact on the game, even though it didn’t always work out. He believed that going for touchdowns in critical moments could be a game-changer for his team.

Who emerged as the Heisman Trophy favorite after USC’s Caleb Williams struggled?

Following Caleb Williams’ three-interception game, Michael Penix Jr. became the Heisman Trophy favorite. Penix had an impressive season, throwing for 2,301 yards and 20 touchdowns. However, the Heisman race remains competitive, with other standout candidates like Dillon Gabriel, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels.

Are there any notable non-quarterback Heisman contenders mentioned in the article?

Yes, the article mentions two non-quarterback Heisman contenders. Ohio State receiver Marvin Harrison and Georgia tight end Brock Bowers are highlighted as players who could make a significant impact in late-season games on the big stage and potentially enter the Heisman conversation.

What other insights and updates on college football are provided in the article?

The article offers a variety of insights and updates on college football, including discussions about Iowa’s strong defense, Pitt’s victory after a losing streak, unbeaten teams in FBS, Air Force’s achievements, and the performance of teams like Rutgers and Arkansas. It also touches on the coaching situation at programs like Deion Sanders’ and Jimbo Fisher’s.

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1 comment

FootballFan91 October 15, 2023 - 4:26 pm

oregon and washington, goin’ 4th down all the way. Lanning really goin’ 4 it, even tho it didnt work, respect!


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