Game Day: Are We Playing USC?

With all of the hopelessness and negativity surrounding Oregon and its football program this week, one might think a juggernaut, national champion or SEC foe were on the horizon.

To clarify, Oregon's opponent today is not a juggernaut, a national champion, or an SEC foe (which of course would make it athletically superior and unbeatable, due to its geographic location and history.), it's Oregon State.

That's right, OSU. Not Ohio State, the team ranked number one in the nation and awaiting their opponent in the BCS National Championship game. But the Beavers, the team and university located in Corvallis, roughly 40 minutes north of Eugene, wedged-in between the tourist-traps that are Philomath and Albany and home to a team and fan base suffering from an identity crisis bigger than the community they inhabit…wait, that's not saying much. How about bigger than the twenty-seven year losing streak they incurred between the years 1971 and 1998. Better understood? Somewhere between firing their coach, benching their quarterback, and extinguishing any thoughts of a winning season and bowl game, "Jack-O-Lantern U" turned into world beaters. Mike Riley became Vince Lombardi, Matt Moore became Joe Montana, Sammie Stroughter became Jerry Rice, and Sabby Piscitelli became Gary Fencik in the '85 Chicago Bear defense. Was this a magical spell, deal with the devil, or Hulk-like transformation? Or is it a mirage created by media and fans riding opposite waves of momentum?

I suspect the latter.

Through extensive research, I discovered Vince Lombardi, while his legacy strengthens by the year, has in-fact passed on. Joe Montana, while occasionally mistaken for Barry Manilow, looks nothing like Matt Moore. Jerry Rice, officially retired from the 49ers last weekend, hence limiting his chances of playing tomorrow. And Buddy Ryan assured me his forty-six defense would never have allowed Boise State 407 yards of offense…ever!

So where does that leave us?

Or more importantly, where does that leave the Civil War?

It leaves us and the Civil War with two teams with nearly identical records, heading in opposite directions.

So what does that mean?

It means that one team (Oregon State) should be slightly favored over the other (Oregon). And that's it!

It doesn't mean Oregon can't win, and it definitely doesn't mean Oregon State can't lose. After-all, they have lost four times this year, interestingly enough, the same amount as the Ducks.

Momentum is a strange thing. While an important variable in the outcome of any game, it can change on a dime. One half, one series, or even one play can swing an entire game. Ask Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Stewart, or any of the myriad of Oregon punt returners guilty of muffing a punt or two. So knowing this, how is it Duck fans have seemingly conceded victory to the Beavers, at the same time that Beaver fans have anointed themselves kings of the state?

Hype and confidence, OSU has them both, and in most cases one feeds the other. When Oregon State beat USC on October 28th it supplied them with the confidence, which led to more wins, which resulted in more hype. To the contrary, Oregon's loss to Cal dented their confidence indefinitely, resulting in multiple losses and negative publicity from the media, as well as doubt from its fans.

Sure the Beavers should be favored in this game. They're at home, they're playing good football, and they're riding a wave of confidence. But so what? They're still Oregon State.

I look at Oregon State and I see a stadium two years removed from a high school field of dreams. A program ten years removed from Jerry Pettibone, Don Shanklin, and a wishbone offense on par with any scout team the now defunct Big Eight Conference had to offer. A coach capable of making Steve Kerr look like Dennis Rodman. And a fan base with the worst case of "Little Man's Disease" this side of Tom Cruise. This isn't a team you run home to mommy from, this is a team ripe for the pickin'.

Oregon has the talent, the ability, and the opportunity to win this game. The media, the fans, and the opposing players and coaches may not think so, but I'm here to tell you, it won't take a magical spell, deal with the devil, or Hulk-like transformation to do it. But rather a shot of confidence, a little heart, and the realization it not only can be done, but should be done.

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