When did Tucson, Arizona become anything other than a retirement destination disguised as a second-rate college town?
I'm sorry if I offended anyone with affection for "The Old Pueblo," but I've been listening to media rhetoric for weeks discussing Oregon's inability to win at Arizona, overcome demons of Arizona, and best an Arizona program who hangs its hat on a Las Vegas Bowl win over BYU last season - its first post-season appearance since 1999 … but Mt. St. Evanson is nearing eruption stage.
Oregon has beaten Arizona in 12 of their last 16 meetings, including 6 of the last 9 meetings in Arizona Stadium. Sure, the Wildcats handed the Ducks their backside at Autzen in 2006, and in 2007 Oregon's hopes of a national championship and Heisman Trophy went the way of the Dodo following a 34-24 loss at the hands of the Cats, but who's been whose female canine over the last 10 years?
Not the fowl.
In the last 10 meetings between these conference foes, Oregon has won 8. In the last 10 meetings between these conference foes, Oregon has averaged nearly 35 points. And in the last 10 meetings between these conference foes, the margin of defeat has averaged more than 2 scores.
So who owns whom?
I'm not saying Arizona is unworthy of respect…because they obviously are. I'm not saying they haven't been party to a couple of Oregon's most noteworthy disappointments in recent history…because they obviously have. And I'm certainly not saying they're incapable of besting the Ducks Saturday night in Arizona Stadium…because they obviously could. But what I am saying is that if they do, it will be because they outplayed them on the field, not because they "own" them, "have their number" or are privy to some sort of strategic genius yet to be unearthed by any whistle-blowing, sideline-walking, headset-wearing individual not within a 50-mile radius of Tucson, Arizona.
Where did this notion come from anyway?
Is it because of Dennis Dixon's knee injury of 2007? Because if you recall, his injury was not sustained at the hands of the Wildcats and their "ferocious" defense, but two weeks prior while making a cut on the Autzen Stadium turf versus Arizona's cross-state rival Arizona State.
Is it because Oregon's Kellen Clemens' ankle was broken during a late season game with Arizona in 2005, a game which Oregon entered at 6-1, ranked 15th and seemingly headed for a BCS bowl game? Couldn't have been, after-all Oregon won that game and finished the regular season 10-1, ranked 5th in the polls and headed towards a Holiday Bowl matchup with national power Oklahoma.
Or is it because people whose agenda is dependent upon sensationalistic bunk, have lazily corralled the elephant in the room, dressed him in his "Sunday Best" and garnished him with a bow in an effort to create artificial buzz around a game which doesn't need it?
Note to one's self; this is a big game regardless of hyperbole. A Pac-10 title - something Arizona's never won outright - is on the line…that's pretty big. A Rose Bowl berth - something Arizona has never experienced and Oregon hasn't experienced since 1995 - is on the line…that's pretty big. And a Civil War of epic proportion lies in wait dependent upon a Duck victory Saturday night…that's really big. In addition, there are players and coaches who individually bring a lot to the table in regards to interest and intrigue.
LaMichael James has established himself as one of the best young running backs in the nation, Jeremiah Masoli's play is pitching itself as one of the premiere dual threats in college football, and Chip Kelly's young resume speaks for itself.
Arizona's freshman quarterback Nick Foles has been performing at an All-Conference level since lassoing the starting job back in September, the Wildcats' stable of running backs brings a rare amount of excitement and depth to the table, and the "Cats" sixth-year-head-coach Mike Stoops could spontaneously combust at any time before, during or after a game.
Let's hope not.
So let's talk about this year's game, this year's players and this year's potential based on the outcome Saturday night.
Tucson, Arizona is not Area 51, the Bermuda Triangle or Stonehenge. No one broke a mirror, crossed the path of a black cat, or buried Greg Brady's Tiki Doll under Oregon's bench in Arizona Stadium, they just had a tough game, on a tough night, with a lot on the line. Anything else is just hype, negativity and inspiration for people grasping at straws.
But just in case; cross your fingers.
Game Day: Enough Already!
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