This week, there is plenty to get excited about.
With a win last Saturday, this Oregon football team heads to Tucson with a 9-1 record for the season, and has a chance to become just the 9th team in school history to win 10 games. Thanks to Stanford’s loss last weekend to USC, the Ducks have also reasserted control of its respective Pac-12 Championship destiny, and now have a realistic, yet unguaranteed, path to winning its fourth conference championship in the past five years.
The next step will not be easy. They will have some serious work to do in a hostile environment against the potent rushing attack of the bowl-eligible Wildcats. Most analysts have seemed to glance at the 49-0 score from last season, and have predicted an Oregon blowout. But the history has shown that it’s never easy against the Wildcats in their own stadium — it has been a place where great Duck seasons go to die.
True, the Ducks have won five straight against Arizona and hold a convincing 24-14 overall edge in the series, but a superstitious Duck might be quick to draw a few comparisons to the last defeat at Arizona in 2007.
That of course, was when Heisman front-runner Dennis Dixon was lost for the season and cost the 7-1 Ducks their shot at the BCS title game. In 2005, 15th-ranked Oregon was 8-1 and Kellen Clemens was among the nation’s leaders in total offense. The Ducks left with a win. Clemens, a broken left ankle. Akili Smith and Ducks came in 6-1, ranked 12th in the country in 1998. The Ducks were run over, losing 38 - 3, in Tucson.
Those results aside, this is a game that Oregon should win. But nothing is a given. Remember, they were three-touchdown favorites at Stanford, too.
But regardless of what happens between now and the end of the Pac-12 Championship game, the Ducks have already accomplished some amazing things on historic and statistical levels.
1. QB Marcus Mariota has attempted a Pac-12 record 343 passes and counting without an interception. To put it into perspective, Kellen Clemens held the former UO mark of 178 pick-free attempts, which was a bright spot in a 5-6 2004 season, that stands as the only losing season for the Ducks in the past 20 years.
2. It has now been more than a calendar year (Nov. 17th, 2012) since his last interception. Just let that sink in a moment.
3. In fact, no other FBS QB has more than one touchdown without throwing at least one pick this season. Of the top 135 quarterbacks nationally in passing yards, Mariota is the only one without an interception. Since there are only 124 FBS teams, that really illustrates how Marcus and his 34 total touchdowns has been more impressive than anyone else.
4. Marcus Mariota is the NCAA career leader in interception percentage (0.97%) among quarterbacks with at least 600 pass attempts. This one would be incredible even if it was covering the last 10 seasons, but best ALL TIME? Keep in mind that there has literally been tens of thousands of NCAA quarterbacks.
5. Mariota has now passed for at least one touchdown in all 23 games of his career. He has a career 57-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in less than two seasons, something unparalleled in UO history. With three more touchdown passes, Mariota would pass Joey Harrington (59) and tie Bill Musgrave at 60. However, Joey had 23 career interceptions. Musgrave had 40. Dan Fouts had 37 touchdowns and 54 interceptions.
6. The Ducks offense ranks second nationally in plays of 20+ yards with 84.
7. The Ducks defense has only allowed 23 plays of 20+ yards, which is tied for fewest in the country. Despite the fact that;
8. The Oregon defense has faced the fifth-most plays of any team in the nation, but has allowed the eighth fewest yards per play.
9. Oregon’s current BCS ranking is the Ducks’ 32nd-straight appearance in the top 10 of the weekly BCS standings, which ranks second all-time in the BCS era behind only USC’s 38 from 2002-06. Further, the Ducks could become just the third team to play in five consecutive BCS bowls.
10. The 2013 Ducks became the first major program to score at least 45 points in its first seven games of the season, since the 1887 Harvard team did so 126 years ago. USC with two Heisman winners in Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart never did that. Florida with Tim Tebow didn’t. Neither has Alabama, Auburn with Cam Newton, Texas with Vince Young, or the Oklahoma teams with Sam Bradford. None of them have done what these current Ducks have.
So, for any “disappointed” fans still out there, these facts alone are not going change your outlook. But from a big picture perspective, this Oregon football program, over the past six seasons, has been one of the most impressive in NCAA history, and the Ducks still potentially have four more games in which to add to their already considerable resume, in 2013.
The conference is still wide open, nothing has been decided, although many have been eliminated from accomplishing what the Ducks still have in front of them. And the fact that this season could still end up with the Ducks playing anywhere from Pasadena on January 6th, to New Year’s Eve in El Paso, says there is still a lot to play for.