“Was It Over When Stanford Bombed Pearl Harbor?”
Cheer up, Duck fans. Don’t write off the 2013 season just yet.
Sure, just like 120 or so of the 123 other FBS teams, those of us perpetually clad in green and yellow have to again come to grips with the prospects of another imperfect season. A BCS bowl game is no longer a guarantee. But if history has taught us anything, we can expect to see more of the unexpected before all is said and done. Welcome to the reality of college football. Perfection is rare.
In the wake of the Stanford loss, the job of most media nationally was simplified to a singular track. Once again, Oregon was unable to compete against a “physical” team, they might say. George Schroeder of the USA today, and formerly the Register-Guard, tweeted that the Ducks proved to be “All sizzle and no steak.”
Unfortunately for the Ducks, as redundant, lazy and untrue as those sentiments might be, that perception is going to be the reality until proven otherwise on the field. And honestly, anything short of winning a National Championship against Alabama isn’t going to change those presumptions anytime soon. So for now, it is what it is.
As Chip Kelly and every other coach once said, “We only focus on the things we can control.” And right now, it is something that is simply out of the Ducks’ control.
Which is why it is a good thing that there is still so much to play for. Only two teams in history have been to five straight BCS Bowl games. If the Ducks can win out, they have a chance to be number three. Long time Duck fans know that to accomplish that task — winning out — is never easy, and it starts with the Utah game next Saturday.
The Utes were able to jump out to a lead and hang on for their only Pac-12 win so far, against Stanford. This Utes’ team gave the south division-leading Sun Devils everything they could possibly handle before falling, 20-19. They will be hungry for another upset win, and hyped for a shot at the newly-mortal Ducks.
Rest assured, Oregon will get their best shot. And the results of that game will go a long way toward establishing the true character of this team of young men and their first year head coach, Mark Helfrich.
And it won’t get easier from there. Bowl-eligible Arizona and the nation’s leading rusher will take their shot at the Ducks in Tucson, a venue historically hostile to the Ducks’ teams with big dreams and Heisman-worthy quarterbacks with knees.
If Oregon is successful in clearing those two considerable hurdles, the biggest game of every Duck season looms. Bowl-eligible li’l bro Oregon State and the nation’s leading passer and wide receiver will be waiting for their turn. The Civil War is a game where team records and stats are often thrown out with the opening kick.
Assuming Oregon can show the necessary execution, fight and determination to get it done, who knows what altered version of the BCS landscape we may all be looking at? The early analysis points to a trip to Miami to play in the Orange Bowl, but the eventual bowl prospects for the Ducks are many.
What if Alabama and Ohio State lose games they shouldn’t? What if Baylor and Florida State are upset? Stanford still has to play a resurgent USC team that just scored 62 points at Cal and has more NFL-type talent than Oregon or the Cardinal. Should USC prevail with ESPN College Gameday on hand, the Ducks would quickly be back in position to play for and host a Pac-12 Championship, followed by a Rose Bowl trophy a month later.
If not, the Ducks could end up in the Sugar or Orange Bowl. A trip to Miami or New Orleans would be a pretty ”OK” consolation, right?
It could be El Paso, San Antonio, or San Diego. Nothing could go the Ducks’ way. Marcus Mariota’s knee injury could very well cause him to miss games. How many of those final three games might the Ducks be favored in with Lockie or Rodrigues at the helm? What if Mariota plays but the Ducks lose one or two more? What if SI sinisterly chooses the Ducks for their cover again?
Anything can happen. You can bet that some of it will.
There is still a long way to go. Oregon still has much to play for. Something reserved for only the elite in college football. And Duck fans shouldn’t want it any other way.
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