EUGENE — Oregon is going to the Las Vegas Bowl.
But what are the odds Willie Taggart will be in Sin City to coach the Ducks on Dec. 16 against No. 25 Boise State at Sam Boyd Stadium?
Taggart, who is reportedly the top candidate to replace Jimbo Fisher at Florida State, didn’t provide the guaranteed-lock fans and recruits want that he will remain at Oregon.
“I can’t give you something that I don’t have,” Taggart said during a news conference on Sunday at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex. “Nothing has changed.”
Taggart is obviously waiting to see what happens with the Seminoles’ coaching search before signing a contract extension that has been offered by Oregon.
Until the vacancy in Tallahassee is filled, Taggart’s answer on whether he will be coaching the Ducks in the bowl game or during the 2018 season is the same: “Why wouldn’t I?”
Further complicating preparation for the Las Vegas bowl are final exams at Oregon this week. The team will not practice again until next Saturday and will not be able to get all 15 of the allowed bowl practices in.
The coaching staff will also have to cancel a big recruiting weekend ahead of the new Dec. 20 early-signing period. Taggart said he had an 11 p.m. flight on Sunday to go visit prospects.
“That’s the dilemma that we’re in because of the bowl game and when it is and the signing period,” Taggart said. “It’s really important that I get out and see all of our committed guys and get into their homes.”
The Ducks practiced three times without having an opponent to prepare for. Taggart expects left tackle Tyrell Crosby, who is from Las Vegas, and running back Royce Freeman to both play in the bowl instead of skipping it to focus on the NFL draft.
“It’s a bowl game I know our guys really wanted to play in,” Taggart said. “We get to play against a top-25 football team in Boise State. It’s going to be fun. Our guys are fired up for it and it’s another great opportunity for us.”
In the two previous meetings between the programs, the Chris Petersen-coached Broncos won 37-32 at Autzen Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008, and 19-8 in Boise on Sept. 3, 2009.
After the loss on the blue turf in Chip Kelly’s debut as Oregon’s head coach, running back LeGarrette Blount punched Boise State’s Byron Hout.
“Blue,” Taggart said when asked what comes to mind when he thinks of Boise State. “The turf that they have and winning. They’re a program that’s won a lot of football games.”
The Ducks were in line to go to the Cactus Bowl on Dec. 26 in Phoenix but moved up a spot in the Pac-12 pecking order when Petersen’s Washington team was selected for the Fiesta Bowl, one of the coveted New Year’s Six Bowls.
This will be Oregon’s third appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Ducks defeated Air Force 41-13 in 1997 and lost 38-8 to BYU in 2006.
Boise State (10-3) defeated Fresno State 17-14 in the Mountain West championship game on Saturday night.
Oregon, which finished the regular season 7-5 after missing out on a bowl last season at 4-8, will be at or near full strength with a healthy Justin Herbert at quarterback.
The Ducks were 6-1 and averaged 51.2 points during the regular season when Herbert started and were 1-4 and averaged 15.0 points when the sophomore was out with a fractured collarbone.
“I think it’s always good to go against really good competition and I do think it will give us an idea where we’re at with our football team,” Taggart said. “Whenever you can play a top-25 team, I think it’s great for your team, your program.
“It’s great if you win it. If you don’t win it then it’s not good.”