That’s right, I’m likely the last of the local media columnists to suggest Oregon’s initial 3 games bordered on inadequate, but I might be the first to suggest it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with easing a freshman quarterback into the college game, giving a young offensive line time to gel, and limiting injury prior to a competitive conference slate. Highly ranked teams needn’t prove their worth in an effort to climb the charts, so find me a fault in limiting an opportunity for failure before it truly begins; and it begins Saturday night in Autzen Stadium.
For the first time in more than eight seasons Mike Stoops will not be walking the opposing sideline for Arizona, and innocent prepubescent bystanders are better off. Stoops’ in-game behavior rivaled that of a little-league-dad exiled to the left field line by his embarrassed and rational thinking wife, a partisan political enthusiast, and/or the Tasmanian Devil after 3 cups of coffee and a 4-foot licorice whip. Dude bled passion, but composed and calculated went missing in Tucson nearly a decade ago, and fans of the program wanted them back…dead or alive.
Enter Rich Rodriguez. He is very much alive and in case you haven’t heard; the originator of Chip Kelly’s offense. In hindsight, I’m sure you have heard it, partially due to it being the topic du jour, but primarily due to it being the TOPIC DU JOUR! Tim Tebow thinks that’s been overplayed and Justin Bieber thinks it’s overrated. I get it, “Rich-Rod” runs a similar offense, but until said fact equates to a yard, a touchdown, or a victory on the field, I’d rather focus my attention on matchups and personnel. After-all, say what you will about the scheme these 2 teams run, but “Jimmy’s and Joes” will win this game, not X’s and O’s…and Oregon has the former.
The Ducks have “been there before.” The Wildcats? They’re not sure where “there” is. Oregon’s been to 3 consecutive BCS games and won 3 straight conference titles. Arizona? Not so much. And the Quackers have a legitimate Heisman candidate, an all-conference performer in Kenjon Barner, and a defense with more speed than a 20th century major league franchise on a 15 day road trip. “Bear Down?” I’m not sure what they’ve got.
Matt Scott is a capable quarterback who has been excellent early on, Austin Hill can and has made big plays at the receiver position, and Rich Rodriguez – in spite of his failures at Michigan – is a proven head coach success story at the highest collegiate level, but the Oregon Ducks they are not. That’s not to say they can’t win this game, and that’s not to say they don’t have capable personnel, but merely to say the Ducks are superior and without an abundance of mistakes, the Wildcats will find it tough sledding in Autzen Saturday night.
This is the beginning. Oregon’s spent the last 3 weeks on the driving range en route to the first of a 9 game course to a title. They’ve put in the work, gotten the necessary reps, and are hours away from the initial tee shot of a promising football year. This may not be a major championship, but you can’t win the “Grand Slam” without the little wins along the way.
I guess that makes them all big.