Expectations, Reality and Oregon Football

“Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.”

Last week I wrote a satirical article in an attempt to point out the unrealistic expectations of many Oregon fans.  It was heavy on irony, saying exactly the opposite of what I meant in most instances.

My thoughts exactly.

Kevin Cline

My thoughts exactly.

And now, just one week later, reality and expectations came crashing down upon us in the form of a 62 – 20 drubbing at the hands of the Utah Utes.  There is no need for irony and satire now.  Reality is the only medicine.

For a moment I do not even want to talk about Oregon.  Lets get rid of the emotions that involve your favorite team–for me a team I have been following religiously since the mid 1970’s.  Lets talk about Alabama.

This gem is from Wikipedia:

“The Crimson Tide is among the most storied and decorated football programs in NCAA history. Since beginning play in 1892, the program recognizes 15 of the national championships awarded to the team, including 10 wire-service (AP or Coaches) national titles in the poll-era, the most of any current FBS program.”

And Alabama is not a past power that has lost its winning ways, like Army.  It remains a top program even today and has regularly challenged for National Championships over the past 20 years (as I’m sure you already know). Here’s the catch: over the past 20 years, they have won less than 70 percent of their games.  

Do you remember 2014 when they finished 12 – 2?  Also remember 2004 when they were 6 – 6.

Do you remember 2013 when they were 11 – 2?  Don’t forget 2000 when they were 3 – 8.

Alabama, with some of the best storied traditions in college football.  Alabama, with loads of top recruits right in their backyard or, at worst, in a nearby state. Alabama, where football is more like a religion than a sport.

Kelly, in fact, is experiencing a similar season in Philly.

Kevin Cline

Kelly, in fact, is experiencing a similar season in Philly.

When it’s not our team, we do not notice the bad years that are eventual and inevitable.  This is a zero sum game—for every winner there must be a loser and the average aggregate winning percentage is .500.  Oregon has one of the very best winning percentages in college football over the past 20 years.  That includes a few down years under Mike Bellotti.  In the future it would have included a couple of down years under Chip Kelly, had he chosen to stick around.  It will inevitably include a few down years under Mark Helfrich.  

Oregon is 2-2.  There is a long season ahead that will be filled with exciting games and upsets by teams across the country (Texas Tech almost pulled off a miracle last night, for example). It’s college football and that’s probably one of the reasons many of you are fans.  We have no idea what will happen.  Oregon could win out, somehow sneak into the playoffs and win it all.  Or they could lose every remaining game.  Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes is probably more realistic.  But, whatever happens, keep things in perspective.  And remember, in college football, nothing great can last forever.  What goes up must come down.  And, eventually, the bell “tolls for thee.”

Top photo from Kevin Cline

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Bruce Veldhuisen

Bruce Veldhuisen

Bruce is a lifelong Duck fan, and at his age that means he has seen both the recent highs and the not-so-recent lows. A lifelong entrepreneur, he has spent the last 25 years in SE Asia after completing his MBA at Portland State, but still manages to get back to Oregon for at least one or two games per year.

  • GoDucks

    For starters, let’s completely drop any discussion of Oregon still having an outside shot of making back to the playoff.

    What you’ve pointed out that is relevant, is the Big Picture. The best fans should do at this point is adopt a 1970s mindset, where the Duck faithful took one game at a time knowing that anything bigger was probably unrealistic. It’s not so bad, really.

    The questions I have now are two: Can Oregon15 win one game in conference? And will the program be able to rise to the top again, like Bama did, as have many others.

    As far as the second question goes, I’m neither optimistic or sceptical. I simply don’t have an opinion. But when I look down the road, what with the current state of our depth chart – particularly at qb, I think The Correction’ is going to take more than one season.

    We are entering a major recession.

    • MarcTheDuck

      Agree with all your points. I couldn’t believe all the championship talk (esp in the media) with a team that was quite different than last year’s. I also couldn’t believe that we were expected to win last night by two or more touchdowns in everything I read – even considering we hadn’t solved any of the problems we’ve shown in the previous 3 games. At the start of the year I thought this would be a reloading year but now I see that it’s a rebuilding situation – which happens to everyone sometimes. The big question (and I’ve wondered it before this year) is whether our current coaching staff can rebuild this team to something like what it has been or whether they were just custodians of the the “Lamborghini” until it finally ran out of gas. We will find out now.

      • John John

        you’re not ‘allowed’ to say that!!

  • Cochise on Rye

    Have to put this one on the coaching staff. They appear to have completely misread the abilities of their players. Rather than rework the playbook to better reflect the current talent level, they went with a minor rewrite of last year’s strategy. Good coaching is about being able to realistically access a team’s ability and devise a strategy that optimizes the team’s strengths and minimizes the weaknesses.
    The downside of a program that promotes coaches from within, is that it can lead to group think and a kind of rigor mortis of critical thinking. Let’s hope the coaches can devise a strategy that turns this season into a positive experience for rebuilding the team.
    Fundamentals! – Missed coverage assignments, poor open field and arm tackles, leaving assigned lanes, personal fouls, and breakdown in discipline. This is on the coaches too. Sometimes the offense just doesn’t happen. This is when playing solid fundamentals on defense makes the difference between a win or loss.
    Intensity – From the armchair, MH does not seem to have the natural gift to inspire players, particularly when the game goes against the Ducks and motivation is most needed. He seems more like a nice guy technician trying to fix a software glitch rather than a “fire in the belly” (CK had this) inspirational team leader.
    Recruiting – granted, Eugene is a bit of a geographical backwater and will always encounter difficulty in recruiting the 4/5 star players. It was patently obvious that MM would be leaving for the NFL after the 2014 season. In retrospect, it is hard to comprehend why last season was not spent training a quarterback with greater potential than JL.

  • Thaiduck

    It was a very bad performance for one game. This reminds me so much of the “Fire Helfrich” gang after Oregon lost to Arizona last year–and went on to the NC game.

    OK its fine to over react as a fan. But it does not make you right.

  • duckusucker

    The problem with ignoring an ass-whipping is that you can easily get another because of that attitude.
    Get angry, get sad. But don’t adopt this attitude of, “Oh well, stuff happens!”
    This also may be viewed as an oblique attempt to deflect or defuse criticism.
    It shouldn’t.
    The Ducks stunk, period.
    The worst and most easily noticeable mistake: starting a QB with such a serious medical problem that he couldn’t perform a vital, critical act: pass.
    That perhaps was Helf and Frost’s only unforgivable and truly bone-headed decision.
    Put a self-described 80% healed QB into a game w/Utah’s D?
    When Lockie had shown more-than-adequate skills the week before?

    • Thaiduck

      It was one game.