Game Day: The Season Starts Today

Technically, Game 7 marks the first game of the second half of a regular season 12 games deep. But while Washington State may not light-up the marquee either tonight or prior to this year's slate, they do mark the beginning of a seven-game run to the promise-land this program and this school have been pointing to for the better part of 15 years.

In spite of the 5-0 record prior, last week's game was the first of a number of "tests" I'd personally been waiting for regarding the legitimacy of this team's potential. Sure, they'd won a road game 3,000 miles away against an average-at-best BCS conference foe -- and that mattered. Yes, they embarrassed a mediocre SEC opponent in a manner befitting just that -- and that mattered; and certainly, they'd made quick work of everyone else on their schedule leading-up to last week's game in Seattle, in most cases needing but three quarters in the process -- and that mattered too. But it wasn't until last week's impressive showing on the road, versus a quality opponent, amongst nearly 70,000 people salivating at the opportunity to witness their demise that this Oregon team proved what we'd thought all along; that they are for real in the chase for a National Title.

Now it starts.

Oregon made believers out of a national media who had swarmed to Seattle, I believe, to watch them fall, and in the process pushed quarterback Marcus Mariota to the front of a Heisman pack lined-up squarely behind last year's winner Johnny Manziel. If you questioned the Ducks' candidacy or were hesitant to anoint their sophomore signal-caller prior, you can't since, and shouldn't in the future based on what we have, did, and most-likely will see for the remainder of the 2013 campaign. This team and their quarterback are for real, and now it's up to them, not to prove that they're capable, but rather able to do what in all reality just isn't that easy: Live up to the hype.

Oregon's been here before. They ran the table in 2010 en route to a heartbreaking defeat in the BCS Championship Game versus Auburn, lost late in 2011 to a white-hot USC team which ended their chances, and suffered a head-scratching defeat to Stanford at Autzen last year, when the table appeared to be set for another shot at the title which alluded them 2 years before. While some would call such defeats chokes, I'd assert it's merely evidence of just how hard it is to win with everything on the line. You're going to get everyone's best shot, and going to need a little luck on a night when your shot's not your best. No one plays 12 – or in the case of a conference championship game, 13 – perfect games (Even the "great Alabama" has only gone undefeated once in their recent 3-title run), and it's the ability to overcome a poor performance which can often be the difference between a Fiesta Bowl win over Kansas State, and an opportunity to win that elusive crystal football.

The Ducks have a potentially huge game next weekend versus UCLA, and an equally big test at Stanford 12 days later, but they're all big from here, and they start with Washington State later tonight.

The season starts now Oregon, and every week is a step closer to the ending everyone desperately wants: An iconic opponent, a shiny crystal football, and just maybe a bronze statue your quarterback would almost certainly deserve.

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