That's the painful lesson Oregon has learned over the past few seasons in the program's journey towards its first national championship.
First, there was the narrow loss to Auburn in the 2011 BCS Championship Game. Then there was the loss to LSU to start the 2011 season. And over the last two seasons, the Ducks have dropped back-to-back contests against Stanford.
What's the common thread?
Each team a boasted bigger, stronger, more aggressive offensive line that neutralized the Ducks defensive line en route to victory. While the Ducks have found a massive amount of success in the past five seasons, they haven't been able to get over the hump when it matters against stronger teams.
This season's loss at Stanford, a game in which the Ducks were dominated to the tune of a 26-0 score over the first three quarters, exposed the Ducks' deficiencies from a size standpoint. With less than a month to go until National Signing Day, Oregon is looking to bulk up the line by handing offers out to three big defensive tackles.
Trey Lealaimatafao holds one of those offers. A 6-foot-1, 290-pound defensive tackle out of Earl Warren High School in San Antonio (Tex.), Lealaimatafao mixes a blend of explosive power with quick feet and good hands to create a huge matchup problem for the opposing offensive line.
His athleticism allows him to get around and through the line, even when double teamed, and he appears to be a relentless pursuer of the ballcarrier, delivering punishing hits. Put it this way, if football doesn't work out for him he may have a future in pro wrestling.
He's already visited UCLA, Ole Miss, Texas and Arizona State, and LSU just offered him on Thursday. Securing that final visit is instrumental for Oregon, which stands with the Bruins at the top of his list. But, they'll have to impress him in person and hope that the coaches can make the same connection with him that he has with the Bruins coaching staff. If that happens, the Ducks could be one step closer to completing the 2014 class.
If not, the Ducks have other options.
Poona Ford, a 6-foo-1, 288-pound tackle out of Hilton Head Island (S.C.), possesses several of the same attributes as Lealaimatafao and adds an offensive wrinkle to the mix as an effective fullback. He picked up his offer from Oregon after catching the attention of many at the Semper Fi game last week, but he is still technically committed to Louisville, though listed as a soft verbal.
Louisville hired back former head coach Bobby Petrino to replace Charlie Strong this week, and it's unknown how that will affect Ford's decision at this time. But, if Oregon could persuade Ford to visit down the stretch, they may have a shot at the 23rd best defensive tackle in the country.
They haven't had a ton of success getting players to commit 3,000 miles from home, but they were able to land Florida running back Tony James in September, so there's always a possibility.
Rounding out the trio is the latest offer, Courtney Garnett. A 6-foot-2, 283-pounder out of St. Augustine High School in New Orleans (La.), Garnett appears to have a little more finesse to his game.
While he doesn't blow you away with power like Ford and Lealaimatafao do on their films, he does a great job at finding the gap and attacking it from the snap. This gives him an advantage over bigger players and allows him to wrap up running backs quicker.
Garnett was a Texas verbal commit, but has since opened things up. His offer from Oregon arrived on Thursday, but Oklahoma seems to be high on him according to Sooners Digest. He has visits to Oklahoma and Tennessee set up for after dead period, leaving Oregon with a narrow time frame to bring him out for a visit before signing day.
Whether Oregon lands one of these three remains to be seen. As of now, the best shot seems to be Lealaimatafao. But, in analyzing the latest offers, it's clear Oregon is taking the steps needed to combat bigger teams in the future.