Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal said Friday that he has no desire to schedule easier games in order to improve the Ducks' chances of reaching the College Football Playoff in future seasons.
According to ESPN's Kyle Bonagura, Cristobal expressed his belief that facing top teams in non-conference games is important:
"They want to play the best teams in the country all the time, and there is no way we're going to go away from that mentality to try to schedule down to appease—whatever, I guess I should stop there before I get in trouble, right? These guys deserve to find out how good they are by playing against the best, so we're going to continue doing that."
Oregon defeated Utah 37-15 in the Pac-12 Championship Game on Friday night. A win would have potentially put the Utes in position for a CFP berth, but that is no longer a possibility now that they have two losses. The Ducks are also a two-loss team, meaning there will be no Pac-12 team in the CFP for the fourth time in the past six seasons.
The Ducks lost just one game in conference play this season, and an undefeated non-conference slate may have been enough to get them into the CFP provided Georgia loses to LSU in the SEC Championship Game.
Oregon lost its first game of the season against Auburn by a 27-21 score. Auburn is ranked 11th in the nation and went on to beat Alabama, while losing close games to both LSU and Georgia.
The game against Auburn may have prepared Oregon for the challenges it would face for the remainder of the season, but it also forced it to go undefeated the rest of the way to have a chance to reach the CFP. A loss to Arizona State last month ended the Ducks' hopes.
Cristobal is of the belief that conference winners should have a leg up when it comes to determining who is in the playoff:
"I don't know if I'll get in trouble for talking about [playoff] systems, but I think there has to be a lot of weight placed on winning your conference. You can go through your conference and win your conference—especially one where you play nine conference games like we do—that has to and needs to carry a lot of weight going forward."
Even so, it would be impossible to place Oregon above a one-loss Big 12 champion in Oklahoma or Baylor, especially if Ohio State, LSU and Clemson all win their conference titles as expected.
It is entirely possible that Oregon is one of the four best teams in college football this season, however, Cristobal and the Ducks will have to settle for a Rose Bowl berth rather than a shot at a national championship.