There are no great mysteries to Oregon's blowout loss at the hands of Arizona.
The Wildcats played really well. Arizona's offensive line pushed around what can only be characterized at this point as a soft Oregon defensive front. Ka'Deem Carey didn't break off big runs, but instead pounded solid run after solid run, grinding down the clock as he went. Arizona quarterback BJ Denker, who really shouldn't be starting as a Division 1 quarterback, looked like a star.
In spite of those performances, this game was still decided by what Oregon did to themselves. They moved the ball fine. But, like the Stanford affair, Oregon's offense couldn't stay out of their own way. An interception on the first play of the game, Mariota's first pick of the year, came because a Bralon Addison couldn't catch a ball that hit him square in the chest. De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff dropped key passes deep in Arizona territory. Mariota and Thomas Tyner had key fumbles on drives where Oregon was moving the ball. Oregon has been an undisciplined team, turning the ball over with alarming frequency. This year, they haven't had the front seven needed to get enough stops to overcome it.
Oregon hasn't lost many games over the past five years. Three losses to Stanford, one each to Ohio St., Boise St., Auburn, USC, and LSU. Now a loss to Arizona. Which of these is not like the others? Oregon had lost games, but they had never lost a game to a team that was clearly inferior from a talent standpoint. They had been "upset-proof." That was what made this program what it was. They may lose to elite teams. But if you weren't elite, it was game over before it even started. There was an aura of invincibility to Oregon football. A team could start off great, but there was an eventuality as to the final result. You might hang in there for a half. But the outcome wasn't in doubt. The tidal wave was coming, and you were going to get swept up in it.
This game cost Oregon the Rose Bowl, and that sucks. It's what this game marks, however, that is the scarier proposition. The aura of invincibility and eventually is shattered. An inferior team can beat Oregon--because one that just lost to Washington State last week destroyed them. This program was poised for a step back next season--losing everything they are on defense plus the likely losses of Mariota and Thomas on offense. The idea of getting one last surefire BCS game out of the deal before having to scrape and claw for one next year was alluring. So much for that, as bowling in San Antonio or San Diego is now the destiny of this team.
Oregon wasn't going to be a national powerhouse forever. They'll be a very good team. One that will regularly contend for Pac-12 titles, and one that will occasionally contend for national titles. But an extended run of dominance? I hope fans understand how special that was, and how unlikely it is to come again. And it not coming isn't an indictment on the coaching staff--this run came in a specific context with a specific set of conditions that allowed it to take place. It was a great ride, the only bit of sadness being that we were unable to secure that elusive national championship.
But understand that this was a program defining moment. The rest of the conference, from this point forward, is no longer afraid of Oregon. The Ducks have gone from being the big bully to just being a nice little team.
After all, college football is cyclical. Oregon's cycle just came to a crashing end.