Key Takeaways from AP Top 25: Oregon-Washington Opt for Four-Down Strategy; A Rematch Is Uncertain

by Michael Nguyen
Football Strategy

Picture a football game devoid of kicks.

In a highly anticipated showdown on Saturday, No. 8 Oregon and No. 7 Washington provided a window into a world of football with a minimized role for kicks, in what could be considered one of the most riveting games of the season.

It was an intriguing irony that enabled Washington to maintain their undefeated status, as both Oregon’s Dan Lanning and Washington’s Kalen DeBoer endorsed the four-down football approach.

Everyone should consider the merits of this approach, even when the outcomes are not favorable.

In his two-year tenure as Oregon’s head coach, Dan Lanning has made it unequivocally clear that he views punting and place-kicking as measures of last resort.

An unsuccessful fourth-down attempt during last year’s game against the Huskies proved detrimental for the Ducks.

“We’re a team that plays aggressively,” said Lanning to ESPN, following his decision to bypass a straightforward field goal in the last play of the second quarter, opting instead—and failing—for a fourth-and-goal at the 3-yard line.

“We’re in this to win. A touchdown opportunity can be pivotal for us,” he further elaborated.

Post-game, Lanning adopted a reflective demeanor.

“I will certainly reevaluate my decisions. Adaptation is key in this game,” he confessed to journalists, further stating, “The responsibility for this loss lies solely with me.”

Oregon had a zero-for-three fourth-down conversion rate, forgoing another easily attainable field goal in the third quarter and opting not to punt on a fourth-and-3 near midfield with just over two minutes remaining. Washington capitalized on this, securing a crucial touchdown.

In contrast, Washington successfully converted two of their three fourth-down attempts, failing only once in the fourth quarter when they were down by four points at the Ducks’ one-yard line.

When such decisions backfire, as was the case for Lanning and the Ducks, they inevitably become subjects for heated debate among sports analysts. Lanning will likely face criticism, particularly from those skeptical of the increasing reliance on analytics in decision-making.

A compelling argument could be made that Lanning should have opted for the points when Oregon received a bonus possession late in the first half, following an interception by Penix. Lanning’s approach may warrant some temperance, but given the landscape of modern college football, his strategy seems justified—and certainly engaging to watch.

Potential Rematch?

Last week saw Texas and Oklahoma deliver an epic Big 12 clash, leading many to consider a rematch almost a foregone conclusion for determining the conference championship. However, it would be imprudent to prematurely anticipate a Ducks-Huskies rematch in Las Vegas come December. Both teams face challenging matchups, including a game against No. 10 USC, making it far from guaranteed that both will emerge unscathed.

National Landscape

Colorado’s season trajectory would have been vastly different had they not unexpectedly ranked after beating TCU and meeting expectations against Stanford. Other noteworthy updates include impressive conference wins by No. 1 Georgia, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, and No. 4 Florida State, and a job status cloud increasingly hanging over Arkansas coach Sam Pittman following a string of losses. Arkansas currently holds a record of 2-5. Texas A&M’s lackluster performance against Tennessee, leading to a 4-3 record, has cast doubts on coach Jimbo Fisher’s future, especially with the school facing a $77 million penalty if they dismiss Fisher before December 1.

For further updates, follow Ralph D. Russo on Twitter and listen at AP Podcasts.

For comprehensive coverage on college football, visit BigBigNews College Football and AP Top 25 College Football Poll.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Oregon-Washington Game

What is the primary focus of the article?

The primary focus of the article is the recent football game between No. 8 Oregon and No. 7 Washington, with an emphasis on the coaches’ decision to adopt a four-down strategy over traditional kicking.

Who are the main coaches discussed in the article?

The main coaches discussed are Dan Lanning of Oregon and Kalen DeBoer of Washington. Both have shown a willingness to rely on four-down football as part of their strategic approach.

What is four-down football?

Four-down football refers to the strategic choice to go for it on fourth down rather than opting for a punt or field goal. This approach is generally considered more aggressive and is employed with the aim of maximizing scoring opportunities.

Was the four-down strategy successful for both teams?

The strategy had mixed results. Oregon failed to convert any of its three fourth-down attempts, while Washington successfully converted two out of three. The decisions became a subject for debate, especially for Oregon’s Dan Lanning, who took responsibility for the loss.

Does the article anticipate a rematch between Oregon and Washington?

The article suggests that while a rematch might be highly anticipated given the exciting play in the initial game, it would be imprudent to assume it will happen. Both teams face stiff competition in their remaining games, making a rematch uncertain.

What other notable events in college football are mentioned?

The article provides a broader look at the college football landscape, including impressive wins by top-ranked teams like Georgia, Michigan, Ohio State, and Florida State. It also touches on job security concerns for certain coaches and how the performance of other teams, such as Texas A&M and Arkansas, is impacting their season.

Where can readers find more information?

For more comprehensive coverage on college football, readers can follow Ralph D. Russo on Twitter and listen to AP Podcasts. Links to these platforms are provided at the end of the article.

More about Oregon-Washington Game

  • Dan Lanning’s Coaching Philosophy
  • Kalen DeBoer’s Track Record
  • AP Top 25 College Football Poll
  • The Mechanics of Four-Down Football
  • 2023 College Football Season Overview
  • Recent Performance of Oregon Ducks
  • Recent Performance of Washington Huskies
  • Ralph D. Russo on Twitter
  • AP College Football Podcasts

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KevinD October 15, 2023 - 9:14 am

Is a rematch on the cards? With the Pac-12 this tough, I wouldn’t bet on it. Both teams have a helluva schedule ahead.

JennyQ October 15, 2023 - 12:19 pm

The article covers more than just the game. It’s a nice snapshot of what’s happening across college football. But yeah, Oregon needs to rethink their strategy a bit.

Mike J. October 15, 2023 - 9:15 pm

Wow, 4th down football is risky but can’t deny it’s exciting to watch! Oregon and Washington are making the game fun but they gotta be careful, too many mistakes could cost em the season.

Tom42 October 15, 2023 - 9:26 pm

Man, the coaches are really under the microscope this season. Arkansas, Texas A&M and now Lanning. Who’s next? Pressure’s on.

SarahT October 15, 2023 - 10:47 pm

Lanning’s gotta own this one. When you bypass easy points in a tight game, its bound to backfire. Still, props for owning it in the post-game interviews.


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