Because, hey, we've been "on" everything else, right? I'm sure this won't be as outstanding and eloquent as Dave's, HRD's, and Benzduck's pieces, but I feel like conveying my feelings to the community, so here it goes.
For those who have read my comments and posts on this blog over my time as a member, you may not expect for me to write a post on optimism. I was highly upset after we lost the National Championship Game, there's no doubting that. On the seemingly eternal car ride back to our hotel from University of Phoenix Stadium, I was hurt. We were THAT CLOSE from winning the biggest game in school history on the biggest stage in collegiate athletics. The Oregon Ducks were THAT close to being national champions.
Think about that for a minute. We were a 19 yard Wes Byrum field goal away from heading to overtime for a chance to be national champions. Possibly the most revered position in American sport. The champions of college football.
As we all know, however, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. We came up short. As we all know, it was painful. We all heard the catcalls and comments from Cal, UW, Beaver, and SEC fans alike:
"Yep, the Ducks are the team that will never win the big one."
"Chip Kelly's a great coach...until you match his team up against a great defensive line."
"Another game, another loss to a far superior SEC team. What's that, 5 straight?"
It may have been my lowest moment as a sports fan. Don't get me wrong, I'm accustomed to losing on the big stage. I'm a Braves, Titans, Cavaliers, and Ducks fan. Those four teams have accounted for one championship in my lifetime, and I was a year old when that championship was won. The Braves have been to the playoffs eleven times in my lifespan, and they've won a single title. The Titans? We all remember Kevin Dyson being one yard short against the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXIV. The Cavs? We won't be back to the playoffs anytime soon, but they batted .000 in their playoff visits in my lifetime as well. All of that losing on the big stage, and this still hurts more than any of that.
However, I'll take the optimistic route. Shocking, right?
To be honest, I'm not sure why I'm feeling so giddy about the future of Oregon Duck football. Could it be Chip Kelly and his excellent coaching staff? Could it be the consistently great recruiting classes that our coaches continue to reel in? Could it be players like Cliff Harris, LaMichael James, John Boyett, and Darron Thomas?
Who knows, but despite the loss on Monday night, I'm feeling quite satisfied with what I see when I look into the crystal ball.
For all I know, I could be severely understanding the loss that we will feel with the departure of our incredible group of seniors. From Casey Matthews to Jeff Maehl, from Jordan Holmes to Spencer Paysinger, we're going to take a hit in both leadership and experienced talent on both sides of the ball next season. Any attempt at denying this would simply be futile. Despite these losses, I feel confident in our staff's ability to get their replacements ready in time to head for Dallas on September 3rd.
Let me warn you now.
We're going to hear plenty from our detractors about how we don't stand a chance, for a multitude of reasons, not limited to but including:
"It's the Pac-10...err...Pac-12 vs. the SEC-enough said!"
"Oregon loses way too much talent on both sides of the trenches to match up against LSU's size and physicality."
"Remember what you saw in the National Championship Game? Oregon's offense will be dominated again, just like we saw in Glendale."
You know what, though? We're used to hearing this. We'll continue to play our role as the team from that silly little town in Oregon with the crazy uniforms that is trying to replace the mighty Trojans as the perennial power in the CLEARLY inferior Pac-12.
I don't know if we'll win our opener. I don't know how well the Ducks will do in 2011. I can see anything playing out from 8-4 to 13-0. We could experience severe growing pains after losing 10 starters. We could also see a new crop of younger Ducks step in and play at a high level, leading to another magical season in Eugene. I'd be much more willing to bet on the latter than the former. I truly, truly believe that this team is going to take their failure in Glendale against Auburn and run with it, using the game as motivation. Remember the talk of how our team used the loss against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl as a stepping stone for a hell of a 2010 campaign? Common sense tells me that this loss will sting quite a bit more than the despair our Ducks felt in Pasadena.
I'm not going to make any outlandish predictions here. I'm no blind homer. I realize that some problems may arise in the 2011 season, such as:
- Well, we lose quite a few starters.
- Losses of key players on both sides of the line.
- New blood in the receiving corps, where we lose our two top players.
- Trips to Palo Alto, Dallas, and Tucson.
- Matchups against strong defensive lines.
I can see this cornucopia of negativity becoming a problem, but hey, if it does, so what? We'll still be just one year removed from playing in the National Championship Game, and there's always 2012. Rebuilding years are a part of being a sports fan; we all experience them at one point or another.
It isn't like we have no reason for optimism, however. Why, might you ask?
- Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Kenjon Barner. Hello.
- Josh Huff, welcome to the starting lineup.
- Hey, look, a power back! Dontae Williams should provide a nice little change of pace from our insanely fast duo.
- Cliff Harrising.
- Against Clay and Kaddu, I feel sorry for you.
- We welcome USC, OSU, and ASU to the hospitable confines of Autzen Stadium.
- A trip to Boulder.
- Pass the Lavasier.
- I have a feeling that Steve Greatwood will be introducing us to some new big nasties next season.
- Remember that incredible gameplan that Nick Aliotti came up with against the unstoppable Auburn Tigers? Look for more defensive genius in 2011.
Hell, this is without even talking about the overall state of the program. We have a power ballad, for God's sake! A power ballad! Despite what detractors of our program say, we're on the cusp of becoming elite, there's no denying that. We're witnessing the transformation of Oregon. We've gone from "that team that's always sucked", to "that team with the silly uniforms", to "that team with the silly uniforms and loud stadium that's actually pretty decent", to "that team with the silly uniforms that is a mainstay in BCS bowls."
Will we take the next step to becoming "that team with a national title?" Nothing in sports (or life, for and that matter) is certain. I have supreme confidence, however, in our program's ability to break through and stand tall with the USCs, Texases, and Alabamas of the world. We can do it, and I expect us to. This is an incredibly exciting time to be an Oregon Duck. We're watching something special unfold in front of our eyes.
230 days is a long time to wait until we kickoff the campaign to become the inaugural champions of the Pacific-12 Conference. We'll try and tide ourselves over with Duck basektball, what looks to be a promising year for George Horton and Oregon baseball, National Signing Day, Spring practice, and what have you.
It's still going to seem like forever.
Let me assure you, however, that the wait will be all worth it. We'll build off of the historic season that we enjoyed in 2010 and run with it.
Are you ready for some more fun?