Forget the fact Oregon's ranked #2. Forget the fact the Heisman Trophy is Dennis Dixon's to lose. And forget that the conference championship and Rose Bowl could be consolations in a year with limitless rewards. The Ducks kick-off a three week season tonight, with things to prove to themselves, the conference, and everyone doubting they belong in an elite club reserved for the best of the best.
Three weeks ago to the day, I was taken by a comment made by a caller to a local radio program. A comment which not only questioned Oregon's place amongst the elite of the college football landscape, but scoffed at the idea they were even being discussed as a viable option for such lofty status. How dare anyone compare the Ducks to LSU, Oklahoma, or even USC? How dare an Oregon quarterback be mentioned along side phenomenal players the likes of Darren McFadden, Tim Tebow, and Mike Hart? Obviously this is unworthy propaganda conjured up by the local media in an attempt to raise the level of notoriety of a team and university incapable of competing at a national level.
Any chance that caller may have predominant front teeth, an engineering degree, and electric orange garb most likely worn Saturday afternoons in a semi-stadium due north of Eugene?
Three weeks, two wins, and many votes later, those same Oregon Ducks have inched ever-closer to a prize previously unfathomed. They've gone from #7 in the country, to #2. They've gone from the fringe of title contention, to the forefront of title conversation. And their quarterback has gone from a darkhorse in the race for college football's most prestigious award, to the leader in the clubhouse. Yet, with all of the aforementioned ringing in our ears, there are still doubts. Doubts from within, as well as outside of the "Oregon Family," in addition to many of the national media seemingly waiting for the Ducks to wet their bed on an unfamiliar stage.
To some extent, I don't blame the naysayers for having doubts. After all, Oregon's never been in this situation. Even in the 2001 season, which culminated in a Fiesta Bowl blowout and runner-up finish to the National Champion Miami Hurricanes, Oregon never controlled its own destiny, needing losses by various teams at the end of the season for even an outside shot at the national title game. In addition to team familiarity, Joey Harrington's Heisman campaign never really reached a legitimate level that year, and if not for an invitation to the award ceremony in New York, would've been limited to a noteworthy billboard and Sports Illustrated cover.
So yes, Oregon is treading in uncharted waters, but uncharted and undeserving are entirely different things. These next three weeks offer the Ducks an opportunity to prove a thing or two. A chance to show they do belong, they are for real, and they are a viable option to case that glass trophy presented to the best college football team in the land. It starts tonight Ducks. It's week one in a three week playoff with championship dreams on the line. You've got three games to put yourself in that title contest, win that Heisman Trophy, and serve up that crow you've been preparing for the past two and a half months.
Make your point.
Game Day: Points To Be Made
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