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Oregon can't change September, but it can give somebody hell in bowl season

The Ducks had no shot at a Pac-12 title thanks to injuries to Vernon Adams. And with him back, they're once again a team nobody wants to face.

Months ago, even weeks ago, 2015 looked like a lost season for Oregon. After a spanking at the hands of Utah, we asked what the hell was wrong. 24 days ago, Mark Helfrich was arguably on the hot seat.

Since that day -- perhaps not coincidentally, the date of Oregon's first game in 12 days, the second-longest break oft-injured Vernon Adams Jr. has gotten all year — the Ducks are 4-0, have scored 47.8 points per game, and have equaled or exceeded some of the highest highs of their recent run of dominance.

For example, Adams threw six touchdown passes in the No. 23 Ducks' 48-28 hammering of No. 24 USC on Saturday, giving him 16 over Oregon's last four games. Marcus Mariota threw for six touchdowns once, but never had more than 14 over any four-game span.

Oregon rolled up a school-record 777 yards against Cal two weeks ago, and once again got better than half a thousand with 578 on USC. The Ducks' "worst" game by total yardage in this span was a 436-yard night against Pac-12 North champion Stanford, but they tallied that total on just 48 plays, averaging more than 9 yards per play against the Cardinal.

In 2014, with the eventual Heisman Trophy winner running their offense, the Ducks had at least 578 yards only five times, and averaged more than 9 yards per play just once, against FCS South Dakota.

With a truly healthy Adams, not the version who gritted his teeth through a battle with Michigan State and missed most of the next four Oregon games, the Ducks are very, very good on offense, and fun.

In that five-game stretch after Adams suffered a broken finger against Eastern Washington, they went 2-3 and dashed any College Football Playoff dreams. And, if we're being honest, that's a stroke of bad luck for the Pac-12.

With a fully healthy Adams, Oregon could've helped establish a Pac-12 > Big Ten narrative by beating Michigan State to match Utah's win over Michigan. And it's even easier to argue that Oregon could have stayed in the Pac-12 North race by taking down Washington State with Adams in the shotgun. (We can assume the Utah loss would merely have been less embarrassing.)

Now, Oregon's taken down the team, Stanford, likely to finish with the league's best resume.

With a defense that's still conceding more than five touchdowns per game, it's silly to argue that Oregon could have won the Playoff. But it's arguable that Oregon is one of the nation's three or four hottest teams, especially on offense, over the last month or so. Alabama's clearly been better, and Oklahoma had been on fire before nearly coughing up a lead against TCU and losing Baker Mayfield to injury on Saturday, but who else has been as successful as the Ducks of late?

And that team was reduced to rooting for Cal to beat Stanford on Saturday night, just to have a shot at a conference title, thanks to what it couldn't do without its most important player.

Injuries happen, and lamenting when and how they happen is a part of every team's season, save the luckiest ones. Yet Oregon may be the one team that can play the "What could have been?" home game by pointing to a single injury and frown about how much damage it did.

The Ducks can't change that past. But they can keep doing their own damage in the present.