1. Oregon has the ability to win a close game (though not on the leg of their kicker) — For those questioning Oregon’s heart these past few weeks, a gritty performance by Josh Huff reminded fans that Oregon hasn’t completely lost its mojo. The offensive line continues to lack depth and strength up front in spells against aggressive defenses, but Marcus Mariota validated his Heisman consideration once again with timely throws and better decision making down the stretch of the tightest game of the season.
2. Collegiate sports are still alive and well — After shocking endings and dominating underdog performances across the country this weekend, we are all reminded that teams play the games because talent doesn’t always prevail. Duck fans, we must rid ourselves of those lapses in memory and perspective that rob us of the pure joy of sports. We have shown up at Autzen through years of losses and poor performances because we had hope for our team. We hoped for those classic upsets that our underdog Ducks could provide. As a writer living in Ames, Iowa, I remember the elation felt while rushing the field at Jack Trice Stadium after a less-talented, heavy underdog Iowa State Cyclone team beat No. 2 ranked Oklahoma State to spoil their season. The Ducks have earned the very best shots from PAC-12 teams through their success the past few years. Perhaps it isn’t an unequivocal failure of players and coaches when they don’t win every game. Perhaps, some days, another team simply comes out and wins the game . . . and that’s why we watch.
3. Winning isn’t as important as a sustainable winning culture — While there have been moments of growth for the new coaching staff at Oregon, the primary takeaway from a season of change for Oregon football has been: More Of The Same. Another ten win season, along with highlighted wins versus rivals Washington and Oregon State, will provide a strong foundation for the Helfrich era. With major personnel losses expected at the end of 2013, the Ducks will be headed for a rebuilding effort in 2014. The established Oregon culture will provide the continuity necessary to expect winning results year after year.
4. New challengers have emerged in the PAC-12 — In one season Todd Graham has taken a five-loss Arizona State team in 2012 and turned them into a two-loss group contending for a Rose Bowl. Expect several reloaded foes in the PAC-12 South Division in 2014. Teams such as UCLA and ASU will prove to be bigger challenges to Oregon in the future with their strong, bulky defensive lines that are growing into elite groups. The playing field is largely even in the PAC-12 and Oregon fans must embrace that reality, otherwise bumps along the road might just jolt them completely off the bandwagon ride they are presently enjoying. Go Ducks!