You could gauge a lot about how far Oregon’s football program has come over the past few years simply by listening to people talk after the USC loss.
The “woe is us” sentiments were out in full force, ranging from understandable frustration to damn-near-insufferable indignation.
“How could they miss that kick?”
“How did this happen against USC, of all teams?”
“This win was supposed to be all but guaranteed.”
We have, as a school, reached that special level of arrogance that assumes victory in just about every game. If it’s a home game, there’s absolutely no question. Oregon does not lose at Autzen Stadium, they say.
All of that conventional wisdom went out the window this weekend and so — understandably — fans didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Hence the outpouring of sorrow, the heads hung low as a late evening fog descended over Autzen Stadium.
A second straight BCS title game appearance was officially not in the cards.
Read that sentence again. A second straight BCS title game. That, for the most part, is why so many people were beside themselves on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Two years ago, could you have possibly imagined that we would be talking about even one national championship appearance? How quickly things change.
The point here is that people need to calm down. Yes, that was a tough loss. A punch in the gut, you might even call it. They came so close and everything seemed to be falling into place for a historic comeback (really, Marc Tyler?). Those are always the worst losses — when a team ropes you back in just when you were ready to accept defeat.
But let’s inject a little bit of perspective into this sob-fest. A rematch with LSU in New Orleans may be out of the picture, but the Ducks are still all but guaranteed a Rose Bowl appearance (and if that sounds arrogant, you clearly haven’t seen Oregon State, Utah, UCLA and Arizona State play this year). In the realm of consolation prizes, that’s a pretty solid one. And if the Ducks were to go ahead and win a Rose Bowl against (insert overrated Big Ten team here), it would be hard to label this season as anything but a success.
Because somewhat lost in all the triumphs of late, the Ducks still haven’t won a BCS Bowl game since 2002. Chip Kelly is 0-2 as a head coach and a third straight loss would be hard to ignore.
So there’s still plenty at stake over the season’s final three games, even if we won’t get to see the Ducks take another shot at Les Miles’ Tigers. And, since there’s honestly not much to break down in this Civil War matchup, now is a good time to step back and appreciate Oregon’s place at the top of the Pac-12. There will be challengers for the crown (USC, anyone?) but for right now, the Ducks are still the cream of the crop. Even if they’re not going to national championship games every year, this is a run worth appreciating. As other schools can attest (again, USC), these eras of success don’t last forever.
Though if the recruiting trail is any indication, this could indeed be an extended run of dominance. Lost in amidst Saturday’s sorrow was a commitment from yet another top-ranked running back. Barring major NCAA sanctions whenever that investigation finally ends, this program is built for the long run.
But for right now, you can start cautiously making plans for another trip to Southern California in January. And that’s something worth celebrating.