On Saturday, the Ducks exorcised some demons against a Stanford Cardinal team that has proven to be Oregon’s biggest thorn in the side over the past two decades. Well, if Stanford has been Oregon’s biggest pain in the neck, I think it is safe to say that the Ducks’ next opponent, the Arizona Wildcats, have been Oregon’s second-biggest headache in recent history.
Oregon arrives in Tucson as the No. 2 team in the country with an inside track to the BCS title game. Win their last three games and the Ducks are in the national title game. The remaining schedule is more than manageable against mediocre teams Arizona, UCLA and Oregon State. But, early in the game, star quarterback Dennis Dixon rips his knee up and the Ducks lose their remaining three games. Oregon drops from a shoo-in for the BCS title game down to the Sun Bowl. The Ducks did not have a quality backup that year and it ruined the season.
Now that I think about it, do the Ducks have a competent backup this year (gulp)?
OK, the Ducks won, but almost lost and it would have cost the Ducks the Rose Bowl that year. Once again, this illustrates the danger of the desert. A crazy game, and the win set up a Civil War for the Roses the next week. Worth checking out some highlights here with the legendary Brent Musburger on the call.
A 9-1 Oregon team arrives in Tucson with two games remaining. Their only loss, of course, has been to Stanford. The Ducks have an outside chance to make the BCS title game, and, if they win their remaining two games the Ducks are in the Pac-12 Championship game and playing for the Rose Bowl. A mediocre, 6-4 Arizona team comes into the game on a two-game skid. The highly favored Ducks do not show up to play and get destroyed 42-16. The Ducks beat OSU the next week but have to settle for the Alamo Bowl. Arizona follows up the win over the Ducks by getting pummeled by ASU, 58-21.
Arizona arrived in Eugene with a 4-0 record and for once is actually a good team. Oregon, the preseason No. 3 in the country, is led by Heisman Trophy favorite Marcus Mariota and is the clear Pac-12 favorite holding College Football Playoff aspirations. The Ducks are also 4-0 and boast a solid non-conference win against a No. 7 Michigan State Spartans. The Wildcats show up to play and beat the Ducks 31-24. The Ducks’ season is once again foiled by Arizona. But, not so fast! The Ducks rebound from this loss, run the table, win a rematch over the Wildcats in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and qualify as the No. 2 seed in the initial College Football Playoff. For the first time in a long time, a loss to Arizona does not cost the Ducks their season.
This brings us to the Ducks’ most recent loss to Arizona and the most recent in Tucson. Not a loss that cost the Ducks their season, but once again a highly-favored, No. 19 ranked, Oregon team laid an egg in the desert. The Ducks did not just lose, they got soundly beat 44-15 against a below-average, 3-5 Arizona team. This was a classic Mario Cristobal letdown game.
Can Dan Lanning change the script?
I was confident last week that the Ducks would beat the Cardinal. Stanford has dropped off so significantly that I did not think that the Stanford curse was anything to worry about. On the other hand, while the Ducks do have a significant talent advantage over the Wildcats, especially along the lines of scrimmage, Arizona is a program on the rise under second-year coach Jedd Fisch.
The Wildcats have some guys who can make plays and a crafty and elusive quarterback in Washington State transfer Jayden de Laura. De Laura also tied a school record with six touchdowns passes last weekend against Colorado. Now, I am not overly worried about the Ducks losing this game, but I am more worried than I was last Saturday against Stanford. Arizona has enough going for them to potentially pull off the upset.
Let’s just say if I was a betting man, I would not bet on the Ducks to cover the spread on this one, no matter what that spread is. The craziness in the desert seems to be the “gift” that just keeps on giving. At least you cannot say that it is boring.
Top photo credit: Eugene Johnson
Natalie Liebhaber, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.
Darren Perkins is a sales professional and 1997 Oregon graduate. After finishing school, he escaped the rain and moved to sunny Southern California where he studied screenwriting for two years at UCLA. Darren grew up in Eugene and in 1980, at the tender age of five, he attended his first Oregon football game. His lasting memory from that experience was an enthusiastic Don Essig announcing to the crowd: “Reggie Ogburn, completes a pass to… Reggie Ogburn.” Captivated by such a thrilling play, Darren’s been hooked on Oregon football ever since. Currently living in Spokane, Darren enjoys flaunting his yellow and green superiority complex over friends and family in Cougar country.
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