With Oregon assuming the #1 ranking in the human polls for the first time in school history, a new challenge awaits our football program. We have seen Chip Kelly show his leadership in times of trouble, leading the team to a Rose Bowl after the Blount distraction, and keeping the team together and dangerous after a tumultuous offseason. But how will this team carry itself in a time of unprecedented success?
We know how the #1 team lives from being on the other side. We know how it feels to be the spunky underdog with a puncher's chance of winning. The week leading up to a #1 matchup, the other team gears up, works harder. The fans pack the stadium and cheer louder than they ever have. A win over a top-ranked opponent is the paramount for any team; it means you can compete with any team in the country, putting hope and excitement in the minds of team, campus, and alumni. It can be a signature win that propels a team to overachieve that season, and a program to build and improve long-term. This UCLA team coming to town Thursday night has already embarrassed a talented-if-inconsistent Texas team in their own building. If the Ducks rest on their laurels, they can and will get beat.
How does a team succeed as the favorite? By remembering what you did to succeed, and not wavering from those ideals. These last two Duck teams have been free of ego, boasting, and concerning themselves with things outside their control. Let's keep it that way. John Wooden once said, "You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one." The Ducks have shown their ability to tune out criticism. Praise, you're next.