Speed against power. Cutting edge meets tradition. Flashy versus methodical. New versus old. West Coast faces the Deep South. Visor takes on a polo.
The prospect of an Alabama-Oregon BCS title game had all the makings of a fight to end all fights.
This year, with Oregon’s offense in a higher gear than any other program in memory, the collision course for deciding which style of play (new-fangled lightning or old-school thunder) will lead the pack in years to come was set. It was almost a foregone conclusion an SEC team would await the Ducks if they could make it to the No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup in Miami.
But somebody else beat the Ducks to the punch. Alabama head coach Nick Saban, recently critical of Oregon’s up-tempo scheme, saw his Alabama unit fall to a Texas A&M which plays in the same vein as the Ducks. The Aggies upset victory over the Crimson Tide this week slammed the brakes on the Tide’s ride to another championship appearance.
The showdown between dash-and-deception and pound-and-ground was nixed by an earlier, and what most saw as a lesser, challenger. The defending champs had their big date canceled by the lite-version of Oregon.
With just a few weeks remaining in the season, and for the first time in what seems like forever, the SEC is missing from the top three spots in the BCS standings. All signs point to now-No. 1 Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame finishing out the year undefeated, with the Wildcats and Ducks projected to travel to South Florida in pursuit of the crystal football.
What does this mean? Well for those of you who know a bit about boxing, we have a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquiao situation.
Everybody wanted to see the fight between the flamboyant Mayweather (Oregon) and the steady Pacquiao (Alabama), but instead all we get is Mayweather taking on Shane Mosley, in which, draw your own conclusion, Mayweather wrecked Mosley.
So while the stage is now set for a different BCS National Championship, let’s reflect on the fight we wanted to see.
‘Bama represents the southern institution of building a different breed of athlete — big boys who from the cradle are molded to play offensive line in Tuscaloosa, mentored to crash through linebackers in Gainesville and taught to clobber tailbacks in Baton Rouge.
The Southeastern Conference is a football league that has produced the last six national champions and eight total since the adoption of naming a BCS national champion in 1998.
Since the beginning of the “poll era” in college football in 1936, no team has been declared national champion more than the Crimson Tide, which has nine championships.
Coach Saban is the epitome of SEC football. Born below the Mason-Dixon Line, Saban has coached at two of the conferences perennial powerhouses, LSU and Alabama. At LSU he won the SEC Championship twice and the BCS National Championship once. At Alabama, he has won one SEC Championship and two national titles.
His success has come on the shoulders of the phenomenal defenses he has built, coupled with bruising running games that will batter defenses until they crumble, while donning a simplistic crimson uniform that has changed about as much as ‘Bama’s style over the years — that is to say, not at all.
Oregon, couldn’t be more of a polar opposite — from the Pac-12, where offenses rule and defense comes second.
Oregon pulls from a recruiting pool that harbors speed and agility in the talent-rich hotbeds of California and Texas. They take in players who, for the most part, focus on running around you, not through you.
In the past three years, no team has appeared in a BCS bowl game more often than the Ducks, led by offensive guru Chip Kelly. Under Kelly, the Ducks have risen to a level of preeminent stature in the college football ranks and came within three points of a national championship victory in 2011.
The Ducks, who have seemingly worn a different uniform every time they have played, employ the nation’s top offense that moves at an incomparable pace. Kelly’s version of the spread-option offense has revolutionized the way football is played.
For all the success Oregon has experienced lately, the biggest obstacle the Ducks have faced is SEC defense. The Auburn team that Oregon lost to in the 2011 title game stomped out Oregon’s offensive fire, allowing the Ducks just 19 points. Oregon also drowned against LSU’s vaunted defense in the 2011-2012 season opener.
2012 was supposed to be the year in which Oregon put together an offense worthy of talk that it could hold its own against the defense of an SEC squad. This was supposed to be the year where the up-and-comers make a real run at unseating the reigning power and changing the landscape for the future. Now, whether or not Oregon becomes a national champion, the epic conclusion to the saga of two different ships passing each other in the night will have to wait at least one more year to see daylight.