Game Day: The Game within the Game

Forget the statistical breakdown, X's and O's, and strength of schedule; I'm digging deep for the winner of this year's Holiday Bowl.

Everybody with a microphone, a website, or in a lot of cases merely a mouth, has been yapping about how high scoring Oregon's game with Oklahoma State will be. How high-powered teams' offenses have been, how limited both defenses are, and what each and every potential defensive stop would mean to the outcome of the game. While I'd agree with much of the aforementioned, I'd like to think that other things would also play a role in this evening's contest. A contest matching two teams with – in my opinion – equally impressive years, but in two very different conferences.

The Big XII Conference has been this year's media darling. While Texas, Oklahoma, and to some extent Texas Tech, have all taken their turn as the "Prom Queen" of college football, Oregon and the Pac-10 Conference has been mired amidst the socially inept. Relax, I'm not comparing the Ducks to "Lewis," "Gilbert," and the rest of the "Tri Lambs," but Alpha Betas they're not. It's been quite some time since the Pac-10 has sunk to such depths, and one could argue that it is said depth which kept USC from the National Championship discussion. While Oregon has been the furthest from the problem, the Warshingtons' year-long flirtation with the "worst team in the FBS" did little to help the situation and quite a bit to enhance the negativity. Sure the Trojans were considered to be a top-10 team throughout the college football campaign, and yes, Oregon, Oregon State and Cal were respected programs by most in the know. Heck, even Arizona and Stanford showed marked improvement, but each of the remaining Edsels did little more than embarrass themselves and the conference…week in and week out.

UCLA followed up a hello world moment – an opening night upset of then ranked Tennessee – with a following week implosion to Mountain West Conference BYU. Washington State managed to score a cumulative total of 77 points in their nine conference games, while giving up a whopping 453. Arizona State may have been the most disappointing team in all of college football, having been picked by many to contend for a Pac-10 title, yet finishing 5-7 and failing to gain bowl-eligibility. And the Huskies…well…they didn't win a game. (Has anyone ever won a Heisman on a winless team? Huh, that must've just been preseason hype.)

So it isn't surprising that more than 80 percent of the ESPN viewers who took the time – and paid the normal text rates apply sum, to vote on the outcome of tonight's game picked the Cowboys to prevail. The majority of those same network talking heads believe the Cowboys are the better team, and fanatics of those same orange-clad Cowboys lack humility regarding their beloved's chances against your Ducks.

I get it, I know why they think what they do and say what they say, but I also know why they're wrong and why their premonition will become nothing more than a mirage. I'll stop short of referring to the following points as a top-10 list for I'm not a fan of such, however, it essentially is, minus one small technicality; there are eleven.

1. Talent – Oregon has finished ahead of Oklahoma State four of the last five years in Scout's recruiting rankings, finishing an average of 26th to their 35th. In addition, the Ducks have arguably played against better talent, for the Pac-10 Conference as a whole finished an average of 2nd amongst the twelve major conferences, while the Big XII averaged 4th.
2. Geography – While Eugene, Oregon has never or will ever be mentioned amongst the likes of Southern California or South Beach in regards to weather and landscape, it isn't Stillwater, Oklahoma. If you have to go more than 500 miles to reach your nearest ocean or salt water, but can see it while standing atop a can of your favorite domestic, boast of hosting the 2007 U.S. Chess Championships, and speak to housing the first ever Sonic fast food restaurant, you come up a bit short in the geography argument.
3. Donor Notoriety – Phil Knight vs. T. Boone Pickens can be summed up by the following. Nearly everyone has at one time donned a pair of Nike shoes, worn Nike apparel, or idolized a Nike athlete. The only people conscious of Mr. Pickens is either Cowboy alum or business associates of his hedge funds. And for those number people out there, 12.5 billion to 3.5 billion…checkmate. (For the record, both have been over-the-top gracious to their universities in addition to numerous other charitable organizations and should be applauded for their efforts)
4. Mascot – At first glance one would obviously assume a Cowboy is far more desirable than Fowl, but when you couple the history and distinctiveness of Oregon's Duck you have to lean Oregon's direction. Thankfully "RoboDuck" has gone the way of the Dodo, otherwise I'd be singing a different tune. 5. Alums – I'm talking fame here. While Garth Brooks, Barry Sanders, and Gary Busey offer quite an eclectic feel, Oregon brings the aforementioned Knight, Steve Prefontaine, Ahmad Rashad, Dan Fouts, and golf's Peter Jacobsen. This is a tough call, but in an effort to break the tie, I'm forced to lean on Brooks' Chris Gaines debacle, Barry Sanders early retirement in the face of breaking every modern running back record, and Busey's recent stint on "Celebrity Rehab" as strikes against. Sorry boys, but your past will always come back to haunt.
6. State dominance – Much to the chagrin of all OSU alum, Oklahoma State has been Oklahoma's female dog for seemingly eternity. Ducks win by default.
7. Uniforms – Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Oregon is known for ‘em. Four different helmets and hundreds of different combinations make this a runaway.
8. Cheerleaders – "Ducks cheerleaders...what more can you say. They are always the top rung on the collegiate cheer ladder," that according to the Cheer Times. In addition, FanIQ rated Oregon's Cheer squad third amongst the FBS' most desirable. All right, such a topic is a bit sexist by nature, but what do you expect? If it's in the game, it's in the game!
9. Coeds – A legitimate decision is a near impossibility, so I'll give it to Oregon based on proximity to California. After all, "I wish they all could be California girls…" who can argue with one of the greatest songwriters of all-time?
10. Notoriety – Oregon has been in the National Title conversation twice this decade while the Cowboys…well…haven't. They do have a Heisman Trophy winner in the last twenty years, but Oregon has its uniforms, and there's no such thing as bad publicity.
11. Lastly, because I have a hunch.

There you have it, why I think Oregon will win the 2008 Holiday Bowl. Statistics and comparisons will send you in certain direction, but my nuances will lead you where you're dying to go; to an Oregon victory. The Ducks have the talent, the momentum, and the inspiration a team so desperately needs to win games this time of year. The national media and yearlong conference hype may not think so, but darn it, I do.

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