Gameday: Questions anyone?

While the mainstream media continually regurgitates questions regarding USC's impending dominance, Heisman Hopeful's (in spite of nary a down played), and which conference is best suited to play second fiddle to the "almighty" SEC, I'd like to ask a few questions of my own...

Questions involving the Pac-10 Conference, it's players and coaches, and specifically a team wearing green…yellow…diamond-plating…or some combination of all the above.

If Austin Powers is the "International Man of Mystery," then the Oregon Ducks are the "Pacific Ten Conference Team of Mystery." While Oregon State has their defense, Cal has their offense, UCLA has their returning starters, and USC has…well, their athletes, whom and what the Ducks are planting their flag on remains to be seen. Sure they've got Jonathan Stewart and his endless amount of talent and potential, but with potential comes uncertainty, and uncertainty is the result of a history of injury and inability to "bring it" on a consistent basis. Jaison Williams? Big and fast, but like all receivers, he's dependant upon someone else to get him the ball. Patrick Chung? When was the last time a safety not named Ronnie Lott, was the difference in a game?

All of the aforementioned are outstanding players, and all can be difference makers under the right circumstances, but where's this team's rock? And what's their identity?

Can the defensive line survive without prize recruits Myles Wade and Simi Fili, in addition to the loss of veterans Victor Filipe and Dexter Manley?

Is Dennis Dixon ready to turn the corner?

Will Cameron Colvin finally meet the hype and expectations that accompanied him to Eugene four years ago?

And most importantly, has this team's personnel and coaches learned from the embarrassment of last year's Las Vegas Bowl shellacking at the hands of the BYU Cougars?

All legitimate questions, and "all" in this case, is too many.

As an Oregon fan you should be nervous. You should be wary of an "Indianaesque" performance. This team has been and is in need of a serious injection of leadership, and recent history hasn't left me confident in its ability to get such.

Harsh and insensitive? Maybe, but consider it a form of tough love. I, like you, would love to see Oregon play with some attitude, a high level of intelligence, and the ability to dominate both sides of the ball, but far too many variables exist to believe wholeheartedly that any or all will occur. While I dream of Dennis Dixon scanning the field, finding his second option, and hitting him in-stride, it's difficult to erase memories of stare-downs, fluffy passes across the middle, and quick decisions to tuck it under and run for three yards. I'd love to feel comfortable with our defense on the field facing a third and long, but I don't. It'd be cozy to merely enjoy watching Snoop work his magic turning the corner on a sweep or in the open field, without fear of him going down in a heap, but I can't.

Does this make me a cynic? No, it makes me a realist.

I'm skeptical for good reason. Dennis Dixon was predictably inept for much of last season. Snoop has been prone to injury amidst his brilliance. And Oregon's defense has long been subpar in regards to shutting a team down.

How can you ignore these facts?

How can you approach this game and not question what you're going to see from your Ducks?

I wish them the best, and I know they're capable of proving me wrong, but until I see it, I'll have to drink from the glass half empty…I've got no other choice.

As far as the Pac-10 Conference as a whole, I'll leave you with a few questions to ponder in regards to the upcoming season. We already know that SC will challenge for a conference and national title. We know Dennis Erickson will make an immediate impact on the landscape of the conference in general, and we are fairly certain Stanford will be wearing nine sets of tire tracks following a season full of defeats. But how about the following:

Will Mike Stoops lose half his head during a catastrophic "Mt. St. Helensesque" mid-game eruption? And if so, will next year still be the year the talking heads say he and his program turn the corner?

Will USC finally be implicated in, and reprimanded for the Reggie Bush allegations that have been hovering for more than a year? This is becoming laughable.

Will Washington Quarterback Jake Locker in-fact walk on water, create a new world in 6 days, and in his spare time single-handedly resurrect the Husky football program to the championship status of yesteryear?

Will Mike Riley raise his voice…ever?

Will USC running back Chauncey Washington either graduate or turn 30 sometime this year?

Can Larry Doba save his job at Washington State, and if so, will he be given a star on the Pullman Walk of Fame?

Will Pete Carroll at any point in time question his ability as a coach, and/or acknowledge any other coach in the conference as being on his level?

And finally, will OSU kicker Alexis Serna miss a game due to injury caused during either a post-kick-celebration or as a result of an ill-fated tackle attempt during a punt return?

Just a few questions to ponder during the opening Saturday of the 2007 college football season. Enjoy the games, and go Ducks!

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