Everyone likes to wonder, "what if..."
All too often, we focus on everything that should have gone better. Duck fans, I ask you to again recall 2007 and THE ARIZONA STATE GAME (not Arizona) when Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury. Dixon was just one injury on a long list about that time. However, being the most important name on the list, we couldn't help but wonder what would have happened had his ACL remained intact. Many speculate that Oregon would have gone on to beat Arizona and with the #1 team losing that week, Oregon would have received its first #1 ranking.
So you're bored, saw the headline, read the first paragraph, and you're still here. Why not play make believe a little longer. So we lost the last 3 of our games that season. With a 24-34L to Arizona, a 0-16L to UCLA, and a 31-38L to OSU, you have to believe those were winnable games with Dixon. With Ohio State losing to Illinois, the #1 spot was there for Oregon's taking and its doubtful they would have given it up with finishing the season with 3 wins. Enter the BCS National Championship game. STOP, thats as far as I was hoping you'd follow. We don't need to get into who would have won or if Oregon would have a National Championship, just the idea we would have made it to the game.
Now that we're here, what are we hoping to learn? 2007 was one of Mike Bellotti's last years as head coach and Chip Kelly's first with the Oregon program running the Offense. I would argue with anyone that our 2007 squad, while healthy, could have battled toe to toe with any team in the country. We had a group of especially good athletes, with a lethal offensive scheme people hadn't seen and were woefully unprepared for. Mike Bellotti had a knack for putting together a team like this every 6 years or so.
Those years when Oregon was abnormally good, were amazingly fun and exciting for Duck fans. For a program like ours, a surge every couple years is great to have. Some football teams that have more reason to be good than ours don't ever get there, and for others, its a lot less frequent than every 5 years. Be honest with yourself and realize that Eugene is a city with a population of around 150,000 people. Eugene is not a talent hotbed. Programs like Texas and USC need not look much further than their back yards to find a lot of very good football players.
So the Oregon donors are the great equalizer. They gave us the facilities that other huge programs had to attract talent. They've since given us a coach, whom we need desperately for his scheme. With a little bit of luck, where do we find ourselves today? Ranked #1 in the nation for the first time in program history. This, on the heels of our first Rose Bowl appearance since the '95 season.
Back to Dixon's ACL. IF Mike Bellotti had taken us to #1 for a period of time during the 2007 season, it's extremely doubtful we would have let him go in lieu of Chip Kelly in 2009. Chip Kelly would have been hired away because our boosters wouldn't have seen a reason to let the best coach Oregon had ever seen go (and Kelly is worth every penny he is paid right now). Maybe, last year would have been a really fun trip to the Holiday bowl with our new offensive coordinator. Maybe this year we'd be 4-2 with a loss to either Tennessee or Arizona State and just thankful we're ranked in the top 25. While Dixon's knee injury delayed our #1 ranking for several years, just imagine that it may have been the best thing that ever happened to the Oregon Football program.