If you're a fan of College Football you're probably laughing. If you're a fan of the California Golden Bears you're probably laughing harder. And if you're a fan of the Oregon Ducks, you're probably a tad intrigued by an assertion that goes so heavily against the grain. Yet, intrigue is the vessel that shall take you from the land of hopelessness to a state of optimism, from a feeling of dread, to a sense of anticipation. Far from the emptiness of week one in Boise and closer to the hype which surrounded this team before and during the weeks of Fall Camp.
And I've got history to back it up.
Hear me out; I understand that the odds are stacked against the Ducks and that California is well coached, athletic, and ranked sixth in the country, but I've also seen this scenario play out. For those old enough to have followed the Ducks for a minimum of 10 years, I offer you September 23, 2000. A day which sent the Oregon Ducks on a nearly two year ride unprecedented in "Quacker" lore. A ride that offered a legendary quarterback, endless memorable games, and a season thought by many to be worthy of a National Title.
The game was against the UCLA Bruins and it reeked of a similar stench to that which I've been sniffing all week, a stench spawning talk of "blowout," "despondency," and "gloom," none of which came to be that Saturday afternoon a decade ago.
That Saturday, ESPN's College Gameday was in town to cover the contest of the then sixth ranked Bruins versus the unranked Ducks.
Ex-Oregon offensive coordinator Bob Toledo coached UCLA, led by arguably the nation's premiere running back DeShaun Foster, and was more than a touchdown favorite in Autzen versus the Ducks.
Oregon was 2-1, unranked, and led by a struggling junior quarterback finding his way through the early stages of his first full year at the helm.
Ever heard that before?
Substitute Cal for UCLA, ex-Oregon offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford for Bob Toledo, and Jahvid Best for DeShaun Foster and you've got Oregon's foe Saturday afternoon. Similarly, Oregon's record is the same as 10 years ago, they're unranked, and current quarterback Jeremiah Masoli is suffering through an eerily comparable stretch to the Ducks' starting signal-caller of 2000, Joey Harrington.
I know what you're thinking, how dare I compare Oregon Legend Joey Harrington to a quarterback who completed but 4-of-16 pass attempts less than seven days ago? Easy, look at the numbers.
After three games in 2000, Joey Harrington had completed but 50 percent of his passes, thrown four interceptions, and was accumulating an average of just over 200 yards per game, including a 151 yard game versus Nevada and a 173 yard performance against the Vandals of Idaho. In fact, if you were to eliminate the Idaho game – which as we know was and remains a glorified scrimmage – Harrington's stats against Nevada and Wisconsin were as follows: 32 of 71 pass attempts for 513 yards, including one touchdown pass and four interceptions.
Not very impressive.
Sure, as unimpressive as those numbers may be, they pale in comparison to the putrid sludge posted by Masoli the past 3 weeks, but Oregon's current system lends itself to a different type of production from the quarterback position, making a statistical comparison nearly impossible…unless taken in relative terms.
The point being, once upon a time the Ducks faced a similar situation, with a quarterback suffering through a similar stretch, and were given similar odds of victory ... and they prevailed. Oregon's 29-10 victory over UCLA a decade ago vaulted the team to a 10-2 record, a co-conference championship, and a National Title run a year later. Joey Harrington became a legitimate Heisman candidate, University of Oregon legend, and the third pick in the NFL draft. Does this mean Oregon is going to win the conference, Jeremiah Masoli is going to New York for the Heisman ceremony, and the Ducks can look forward to a run at a National Championship a year from now? Not necessarily, but it does speak to a similar adversary, a similar quarterback situation, and a similar feeling surrounding a game Oregon's being given very little chance to win.
No one thinks the Ducks can beat Cal. They speak to Cal's superiority in the trenches, it's All-American running back, and a coach familiar with the Oregon program as reasons for such, but that's not the whole story. Oregon has playmakers, they have a home field advantage, and they have a quarterback who's excelled when all around him thought he was a failure. Jeremiah Masoli's been through this before. One only has to look back to last year's Stanford game as proof of such. He was being booed like now, struggling like now, and being questioned like now, and he pushed through. He willed the Ducks to a game-winning touchdown and used the success of that moment as a lightening rod to a 10-win season.
He can do it, Oregon can win, and I really do believe both to be true. Are the odds against them? Yes, but history defied the odds September 23, 2000, so why can't the Ducks and Jeremiah Masoli do the same?
Game Day: I've Seen This Before
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