Back in August, most Duck fans looked at the upcoming schedule and circled the Arizona game as a near, if not certain victory. Dennis Dixon would have certainly come into his own by then, the young and inexperienced defense would be mature and playing as a unit, Jonathan Stewart would be putting the finishing touches on a season which would definitely make him a 2007 Heisman candidate, and the Arizona Wildcats would be focused on Letter of Intent Day, the one day of the year when they at least look like winners.
Oh, how things have changed.
To an extent, things haven't gone all that astray. Stewart's year, while disappointing to some, has been acceptable, particularly by second-year standards. The Duck defense has actually played reasonably well considering the rash of injuries which they've incurred, and up until recent weeks Arizona has looked like, well…Arizona. But, "acceptable," "reasonable," and "Arizona" are not synonymous with excellence, and no modern day alumni this side of Seattle should accept anything less.
Things aren't as they should be. Oregon's not playing with confidence. If anything, they've digressed in the past month. Dennis Dixon's playing in "Safe Mode," while the rest of the team seems reluctant to take the bull by the horns.
To the contrary, Bob's brother Mike has got his Wildcats on the cusp of a bowl game. With recent wins over Washington State and Cal, Arizona stands 5-5, leaving their faithful dreaming of postseason and singing the praises of their fearless leader.
So what's going on? What happened to Oregon, what happened to Arizona, and more importantly, what's going to happen this afternoon?
Allow me to tell you.
- Mike Stoops, on the advice of his brother, will take a pre-game tour of the replay booth, looking for any evidence of "home cookin'" on the part of the Ducks, making note of any unusual wiring, faulty equipment, and its proximity to Phil Knight's stadium residence.
- Syndric Steptoe will remain in the locker room for the entire first half, contemplating where his real toe is, and spend the second half being treated like a "red-headed-step-toe" by the Duck defense.
- Dennis Dixon will run for multiple touchdowns, taking advantage of an over-aggressive Arizona defense and exercising his demons of recent weeks. When in doubt, use what you know works.
- The Arizona visitors section will at some point prior to the completion of the game, focus their attention on the upcoming in-state-battle with the Sun Devils, once again boiling their season down to a rivalry win, opposed to a winning season and bowl game.
- Oregon's offense will awake from a "bear-like" hibernation, exploding through the air, as well as on the ground, at least temporarily making believers out of the naysayers of the spread offense.
- Mike Bellotti will be forced to bypass the customary post-game handshake with Coach Stoops, due to the intense heat resonating from Mount St. Stoops body, as a result of numerous eruptions during the game.
- Brent Haberly will score a touchdown, reminiscent of last year's game with the Wildcats, for no reasons other than he's a senior, from Cottage Grove, and deserving of finishing his career at Autzen the right way.
- Devin Ross will wish he had chosen Oregon over Arizona.
- Oregon will win the game, putting to rest the fears I have about them doing something to the contrary.
Does Arizona have a chance in this football game? Of course they do. They have a smothering defense…at times, they have a dynamic and exciting quarterback…at times, and they have momentum, stemming from a huge victory over Cal, but they will need all of the above, all of the time if they want to overcome the superior talent, coaching, and atmosphere which Oregon will bring to the table.
So while things haven't necessarily evolved the way Oregon fans would've liked to this point, there is still a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. So keep your heads up Ducks. You're getting healthy. You're gaining experience. And you're about to get a great big shot of confidence, compliments of the Arizona Wildcats. I, history, and the Pac Ten officials agree. After-all, they've got it in for the Stoops boys…right?
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