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The victory over the No. 10 Badgers in Pasadena was an important hurdle for the Ducks, who aspire to be counted among the nation’s elite teams. Under Chip Kelly, Oregon fell to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl before losing to Auburn in the national title game last year.
Rumblings that Oregon can’t win big games have now been replaced by speculation about what’s next for the Ducks.
Oregon has won three straight conference titles, but the string could be threatened next season when NCAA sanctions against the Trojans expire. USC has been out of the postseason for the past two seasons — which is why the Bruins represented the Pac-12 South in the league championship game this season.
Thomas will be back, and even if James does not return next season, Oregon has already found his heir apparent in De’Anthony Thomas.
The versatile freshman running back led the team with an average of 159 all-purpose yards this season, and set an Oregon freshman record with 18 touchdowns: seven on the ground, nine via the pass and two on kickoff returns.
In the Rose Bowl against the Badgers, Thomas carried the ball just twice, once 91 yards for a touchdown and then 64 yards for another score.
After the game, Kelly joked about his star pupil: "I’ll see if next year we can get him an extra carry or two."
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