Since then the Ducks have played and lost the BCS Championship game, while the Cardinal dominated an over matched Virginia Tech team in the Orange Bowl, used such as a springboard to a 9-0 record to this point, and surrounded their quarterback with a nearly impenetrable level of hype.
We're baaaaack! No, not the evil supernatural responsible for the abduction of sweet little Carol-Ann from any of the infinite number of Poltergeist's, nor really even "we," after-all you or I weren't the ones running circles around the Stanford defense last year. You or I weren't the ones holding the vaunted Cardinal offense to a mere 10 points over the final 3 quarters. Nor did either of us account for the 257 yards LaMichael James tallied en route to a 52-31 victory over the suddenly unbeatable nerds from the farm. But the Ducks did, and in this case they are in fact back…and in an entirely different capacity then last year in Eugene.
This year's Oregon/Stanford game is seemingly a role reversal. Stanford is and has this season's Pac-12 golden boy. They're highly ranked, vying for a spot in the national championship game and dancing not-so- indiscriminately around a Heisman-candidate quarterback who's seemingly got one foot already in the NFL Hall of Fame. Oregon? Not so much.
Since losing to the #1 ranked team in the country…opening day…on a not-so-neutral field, the Ducks have seemingly gotten slow, less talented and irrelevant to everyone without a student ticket, degree or uniform branded with an "O." LaMichael James is a "nice" back, Darron Thomas is "struggling," and an Oregon defense well-known for "bending," is broken beyond repair.
So this is what it's like to be the underdog?
And I like it. I'm enjoying the Ducks getting points. I love all the attention not being paid to LaMichael, De'Anthony (Thomas) and Darron. And I nearly fist-pumped in my car this evening when I heard Oregon legend and golden boy of yesteryear Joey Harrington pick the Cardinal to win Saturday's game in Palo Alto. The stars are aligning and they're doing so in favor of a team playing with nothing to lose.
Sure, they expect to win Saturday and certainly you expect the same, but few outside the state of Oregon think they have what it takes to slay the dragon that is college football's BMOC and I think that plays into their hands, while simultaneously tying the Cardinal's behind their back.
I'm not convinced this Stanford team is comfortable in this type of game. For the most part they've spent the 2011 season beating-up on lesser competition. The combined record of their opposition to this point is 32-50, with their sole competition coming at the hands of the Trojans two weeks ago. Oregon is a different animal and I think the Cardinal know it. Two years ago in Stanford Stadium the Cardinal pounded-out a first half lead and held on for dear life as the Ducks stormed from behind. Last year Oregon spotted Stanford a 21-3 first quarter lead only to put together a 49-10 finish, leaving the Cardinal to wonder who and what just ran up, over and around them for 45 straight minutes in Eugene. And that has to eat at the minds of a team who's had it easy against everyone not named Oregon.
The Ducks know they can beat this team, and that team knows the Ducks can beat them as well. Ask Tiger Woods – a Stanford alum – how much of a difference that makes? Confidence is a direct byproduct of success, but a lack of that success can chip away at that very confidence and do so at the first sign of adversity. And it's Oregon's job to plant that seed.
If Oregon can get an early lead – lookout; if they can get an early turnover, it could be interesting. And if they can couple the two with a handful of early defensive stops, everyone outside of our state might be forced to dig up a team they prematurely buried months ago.
The Ducks are coming to California. They aren't favored, they aren't at the top of the marquee and they aren't the "it" team in 2011's west coast game of the century, but they are good, are confident and are capable of taking this conference and their 2011 season by the horns Saturday night…and everyone on The Farm knows it.
California Here We Come
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