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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Playoffs could be next for Ducks

  • SAN ANTONIO — If all goes well next fall, Oregon will not play in a traditional bowl game.
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  • SAN ANTONIO — If all goes well next fall, Oregon will not play in a traditional bowl game.
    The College Football Playoff begins after the 2014 regular season. A 13-person selection committee will decide the four teams that will compete for the national championship at rotating bowl sites.
    Next season the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl will host the national semifinals on Jan. 1, 2015. The championship game will be played on Jan. 12, 2015 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
    The Ducks, who have a chance to finish the 2013 season ranked in the top 10 with a win over Texas on Monday in the Alamo Bowl, figure to be in the mix for the four-team playoff with the return of Marcus Mariota to lead an experienced and talented roster.
    ESPN has Oregon No. 5 in its early 2014 preseason top-25 projections, with Athlon Sports tabbing the Ducks No. 6.
    Mark Helfrich said he didn't have a problem with the BCS. In fact, Oregon's coach is a little nostalgic about the outgoing system.
    "I love the bowl system. I guess I'm one of those weird guys that I think the BCS has been great for college football," Helfrich said. "Without the BCS there is no Boise State story. I was at Boise State and we won 10 games "¦ people couldn't find Boise on a map. Those kind of things are unique with the current system."
    Teams not selected for the four-team playoff will still have an opportunity to have a postseason experience at bowl games.
    "Nobody knows how the next thing is going to (affect the bowls)," Helfrich said. "Obviously, (teams) five, six, seven and eight will argue about being in the four-team playoff. That I can predict."
    Texas still talented
    Despite the Longhorns' 8-4 record and Las Vegas making the Ducks a 14-point favorite in the Alamo Bowl, Helfrich said the film indicates Texas is still blessed with plenty of physical ability.
    "Their sheer talent, we can't match up with that in terms of just man-for-man talent," Helfrich said.
    Texas' defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, the Ted Hendricks Award recipient and the Big 12 defensive player of the year, will present a challenge for the Oregon offensive line. Two freshmen tight ends, Evan Baylis and Johnny Mundt, will also have to deal with the 6-foot-2, 238-pound senior.
    "Don't play like freshmen," Oregon tight ends coach Tom Osborne said of the matchup. "That's the key."
    Offensively, the Longhorns are led by running back Malcolm Brown, who has nine career 100-yard games. The 6-foot, 225-pound junior is probably looking to follow the Stanford and Arizona ground-and-pound game plan against the Duck defense.
    "Everything seems to have worked well with our defense," Oregon safety Brian Jackson said of improvements made in bowl practices. "Nothing is completely different. We just got a couple different things to help with a different style of football we're playing against. I think it's going to work out well."
    A study of offense
    Texas struggled against fast-paced, spread offenses this season. Brigham Young was able to get 99 snaps off and piled up 679 yards (550 rushing) during its 40-21 victory over the Longhorns.
    Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz and replaced him with veteran Greg Robinson. Texas responded with a 6-0 start in the Big 12.
    But the Longhorns' losses to Oklahoma State (38-13) and Baylor (30-10) proved costly for Brown, who has announced the Alamo Bowl will be his final game after 16 seasons on the sidelines at Texas.
    Oregon's coaches and players studied the high-scoring Cowboys and Bears in preparation for Texas.
    "We do things a little bit different than Baylor. It was fun watching them and seeing what they did," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. "Oklahoma State does some similar things, Oklahoma does some similar things, Kansas State does some similar things. We definitely had some tape to look at."
    Back on the field
    Oregon practiced on Thursday morning at Alamo Heights High School. There were no post-practice interviews, but Helfrich is looking for his team to turn it up a notch.
    "Our effort has been good, our enthusiasm has been good, our execution isn't where it needs to be to beat a team like Texas," Helfrich said of last week's practices after arriving in San Antonio on Wednesday.
    "That's what a couple more days will do. Hopefully we can knock that rust off and execute at a high level."
    Team activities
    Selected players, including Mariota, visited the Center for the Intrepid on Thursday. The mission of the facility is to provide service veterans who have sustained amputation, burns or functional limb loss with cutting-edge rehabilitation.
    Friday, both teams went to SeaWorld with select players getting a chance to swim with beluga whales.
    Setting the pace
    Helfrich said he has not made any changes that "anyone would notice" from the bowl preparation of the Chip Kelly era. Players are expecting some hard practices this week with a gradual tapering off from the physicality before Monday's game.
    "These short couple days we have to ramp it up early," Jackson said. "We don't want to be too tired before the game. I have a feeling coach really knows how he's going to plan it out."
    Notable
    Mariota only needs one more touchdown pass, run or catch to tie Joey Harrington's program record for career touchdowns (77). "¦ Oregon is 3-3 against Big 12 teams in bowl games, including a 35-30 victory over Texas in the 2000 Holiday Bowl. "¦ The Ducks need 444 yards to set a school record for total offense in a season. Oregon had 7,319 yards in 2011, a 14-game season.
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