Another year has come and gone, which means it’s time to check the scoreboard and see what your local columnist got right and wrong about 2018.
This column, which we call Hits and Misses, looks back at a year’s worth of predictions to find out which ones came true and which ones fell flat. So grab a pencil and scorecard, and let’s get started.
• On Aug. 28, I wrote a column with game-by-game predictions for Oregon’s football season. I pegged the Ducks at 9-4, which still could happen, but there were quite a few misses along the way.
I picked the Ducks to beat Stanford, and I didn’t see them knocking off Washington on Oct. 6. Of Oregon’s game at Utah, I wrote:
“Oregon’s Rose Bowl hopes take a hit as the Utes sack Herbert five times. A local columnist writes a snarky lede about Oregon playing in the Cheez-It Bowl, prompting several days of angry emails. L, 30-14.”
Totally wrong. I made the Cheez-It Bowl joke several weeks earlier.
• Writing about Cristobal’s first recruiting class last February, I noted that it was difficult to put a finger on what Oregon’s offensive identity would be. From the column:
“Cristobal is a trench warfare guy. Talking about offensive line play makes his face light up. He’s made it clear that the team he wants to build will be modeled after the ones he coached or faced in the SEC: dominant up front, with a power running game and a hard-hitting defense.
“At the same time, Cristobal says, ‘We want to be what Oregon has always been.’ He also says the Pac-12 is a conference of quarterbacks and wide receivers, and that Oregon will try for a 50-50 run-pass split.
“I don’t think I’m reaching to say that the Ducks can’t be all of those things.”
I think that passage anticipated some of the issues Oregon would encounter over the course of Cristobal’s first season. The Ducks were a dominant running team at times, and at times they showed the explosiveness we’ve come to expect from their offense. But I’m not sure those two elements ever meshed on a consistent basis.
• I’d like to formally apologize to Washington State, Mike Leach and the entire city of Pullman, Wash. I thought the Cougars would have a down year and said so many times. Instead they set a school record with 11 wins, culminating with a victory over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.
“If I were a betting man, I would make a sizeable bet that Washington State is under 6 ½ (wins),” I said in August. “I’m not bullish on the Cougars this year.”
I continued to doubt the Cougars all the way until the Apple Cup, when I reversed course and picked them to beat Washington. (They lost, of course.) To end the year with a final whiff, I had them losing to Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.
I’m hardly the only person who failed to foresee Minshew Mania, but I’ll take my lumps nonetheless.
• A few miscellaneous hits and misses on Pac-12 football: I was right about Oregon State going 2-10 and mostly right about UCLA struggling in Chip Kelly’s first season. I misfired on USC winning the South.
• My preseason MLB column always yields a few swings and misses, though I had fewer this year than in previous seasons. I picked four out of six division winners and had eight of the 10 playoff teams. I had the Dodgers facing a team from the AL East in the World Series, but my pick was the Yankees, not the Red Sox.
• Back in June, I wrote about Oregon softball coach Mike White leaving for Texas. I was critical of Oregon’s failure to appease one of its most successful coaches, and I worried about what it could mean for a program that has been a model of success and stability.
“Losing a softball coach to a higher bidder isn’t the kind of thing that’s going to make a big splash outside of Eugene,” I wrote. “But if you know Oregon, you realize White’s departure is going to reverberate for a long time.”
It’s reverberating, all right. When I wrote that, I didn’t expect six players from Oregon’s World Series team to transfer. Oregon’s handling of the softball situation looked like a mistake at the time, and it looks like an even bigger one today.
• Finally, I wrote a column in November about Oregon’s new-look basketball roster, which was weighted heavily toward the frontcourt. Though I liked the talent Dana Altman assembled, I wondered how it would translate in an era when a lot of teams are finding success by playing smallball.
“It remains to be seen whether a team constructed as they are, with so much depth inside and so little on the perimeter, is one that can win big in modern college basketball,” I wrote. “Altman has made the pieces fit before. But he’s never had a puzzle this big.”
At the time, we didn’t know the Ducks would be decimated by injuries. But even when Bol Bol and Kenny Wooten were healthy, this Oregon team never seemed to mesh.
I would have liked to see what Altman could do with this roster at full strength over the course of an entire Pac-12 season. It doesn’t look like we’ll get that opportunity, nor does it appear the Ducks will be going anywhere in March.
Well, that wraps up another year of lucky guesses and half-baked predictions. Thanks to everyone for following along, and as always, we’ll try to do better next year.