This isn’t going to land well in the Big Ten, but Oregon isn’t exactly obsessed with all things new conference.

The Ducks are consumed with … the Ducks.

It’s that linear philosophy, the direct proportional change, that Oregon coach Dan Lanning learned as a graduate assistant coach under Nick Saban at Alabama, and what he helped instill at Georgia as Kirby Smart’s defensive coordinator.

It’s not about the other team, it’s about the best version of you.

“We’re evaluating us first,” Lanning said earlier this month. “Where can we get better? Where can we improve what we do really well — and what we do not do so well. And then attack that.”

Throw in an “‘a’ight” here and there, and you may as well be listening to Saban.

This is the key to Saban’s famed “Process” of building a champion. The last thing anyone should be concerned with is the other team.

Fix you first, then move onto scouting and game-planning and game preparation. Because any problem not self-evaluated will eventually become a problem exposed.

It starts this offseason on defense, where Lanning has done a remarkable job of changing the mindset in 2 short seasons. The Ducks were 75th in scoring defense (27 ppg.) when Lanning arrived in 2022.

They were 9th last season, giving up 16.5 ppg.

Now, the problem: Oregon gave up 70 points to Washington in 2 losses (each by a field goal). The second loss kept the Ducks from the Playoff, and in each loss, the defense couldn’t get off the field late when it had to.

Couldn’t make championship plays — like stopping deep throws while protecting a lead, or stopping the run when trying to get the ball back — that Alabama and Georgia have done so many times in so many championship seasons.

So yeah, excuse Lanning if he’s not consumed with all things Big Ten. With Michigan and Ohio State and cold Novembers, and can Oregon (and the rest of the former Pac-12 teams moving to the Big Ten) deal with the physicality of the league.

He’s focused on a rebuilt secondary with impact starters signed from the transfer portal, and assimilating that group — and the highest-ranked high school recruiting class in school history (No. 3 in 247Sports composite) — into the program.

The goal is to figure out Oregon, and everything falls in place after that.

2. The common thread

Lanning has preached commitment and investment since he arrived in Eugene, a rare buy-in of championship teams.

Then he went and showed it in the second week of January, less than a day after Saban’s retirement left 1 of the top 3 jobs in college football available.

Lanning committed to Oregon, and proclaimed that he has everything he needs to build a championship team. He talked about a plan, and how Oregon is ahead of the curve in college football.

“I’m in love with this spot,” Lanning said. “It’s the kind of place where you can accomplish all of your goals.”

Translation: He can win a national title at Oregon, the one thing that has escaped so many elite Ducks teams of the past.

But that doesn’t happen without the final piece of the puzzle: the quarterback.

3. Us, then them, The Epilogue

The track record is there. The 22 wins in 2 seasons, a growing monster in high school and transfer portal recruiting, the metamorphosis of a team and a program.

And the brief, prolific play (and development) of the quarterback.

Bo Nix went from 3 lost seasons at Auburn to 2 Heisman Trophy-worthy seasons at Oregon. The next evolution of a quarterback transfer in 2024 shouldn’t be as drastic.

Maybe just a refinement of sorts.

When Dillon Gabriel decided to leave Oklahoma for Oregon shortly after the end of the regular season, it left Oregon with little room for excuses in its first season in the Big Ten.

This won’t be a reclamation project. This is a bona fide, elite quarterback with 151 career touchdowns (26 rushing) and 26 interceptions in 5 seasons (50 games).

Those are video games numbers, and if all goes as it should, Gabriel will more than likely set career NCAA pass and total touchdown records. Nearly half (73) of those touchdowns came during the past 2 seasons at Oklahoma.

Oregon enters the Big Ten with a 6th-year starter at quarterback, and a roster full of NFL potential. Then there’s the additions from the transfer portal: the No. 1 wide receiver (Evan Stewart, Texas A&M), and the No.1 cornerback (Jabbar Muhammad of Washington) leading group of 3 all-conference players (S Brandon Johnson of Duke, and CB Cam Alexander of UTSA) in the secondary.

It’s all part of the directionally proportional change. Or The Process, for short.

“I do think we have the pieces to the puzzle that are going to allow us to have a really good team,” Lanning said. “What that looks like, time will tell.”

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