Flawed logic: BCS 'experts' can't see the hardwood in Northwest forest as they focus on a few dead trees...
An open letter to NCAA football programs and fans: Vital relevant information surrounding the Oregon Ducks football program and BCS selection process deserves intense public scrutiny as the final weeks of the 2013 season arrive. In the interest of fairness in college football and preserving the integrity of the game, I feel it incumbent upon myself to shine an immediate spotlight on issues ignored in national media reports and the partisan regional debates I monitor as an ad hoc independent committee of one.
Let me first say the nation's unbeaten teams and loyal fans have every right to be proud and passionate about their efforts this year. It's really too bad the NCAA resisted a playoff system for so long, this season would have provided the perfect launch of the new format. Although I do wish the NFL would select its Super Bowl teams this way just once, because that would be fun to watch and I'm pretty sure there would be some quantity of blood spilled.
The online fan commentary and argument and the pronouncements of alleged media "expert analysts" delivered with such sincerely insincere gravitas after Florida State University upended Miami last weekend ranged initially from the far-fetched yet interesting to the simply ludicrous but still amusing. Then I realized you are actually completely serious, which can only be due to information you lack. Allow me to even the playing field, out of the simple respect I hold for each of you playing every down - team members to coaches and athletic supporters - even when the game is out of reach (keep hope alive!).
A few key points:
1. The media experts. Ever notice how sportscasters calling a game are never wrong? Alabama is first "firmly in control," then the color guy crows "I knew A&M would come back and win! Upset special!" before pivoting back to "Saban is just too smart, heck, we knew that the whole time, them Aggies never had a chance." The exact same phenomenon is now occurring in macrocosm across the CFB universe.
Serendipity gave FSU a national stage and suspect top 10 pretender Nov. 2 while 'Bama and Oregon stayed home. The Seminole crowd took full advantage of the theatrical opportunity, using some wacky rhythmic Gregorian rugby chant and synchronized arm motions to call in plays as the team hit its stride and won handily. A great performance, best of the day, although it appeared FSU's young QB Winston was having some trouble picking up the crowd's signs in the bright lights. Anyway, the resulting attention was deserved and understandable - until it hit a tipping point and entered the continent's psychic groundwater table like a nationwide fracking disaster, sparking a massive collective hallucination.
Many are still tripping days later. I'm here to help talk you down, because if you go chasing rabbits that's what friends are for (now put it down gently, #KirkHerbstreit, everything's going to be just fine... )
First, visualize a world without byes. In that world last weekend would have included 'Bama crushing LSU and Oregon playing fast AND physical, easily covering the spread on the road against Stanford's smashmouth-style football.
The result of that scenario? A lot less mindless media saliva all over FSU's collective butt, certainly. Don't misunderstand, I give the 'Noles a ton of credit, they are scary good. But the ensuing hysteria was allowed to fester in a media frenzy untempered by any sense of proportion or the parameters of reality.
2. Illogical assumptions, meet baseless comparisons. Is Peyton Manning a better QB than Bart Starr? Could the 1927 Yankees beat the 1969 Mets? Doesn't matter. That was then, this is now, and ne'er the twain shall meet. Those who bring up Oregon-Auburn, Oregon-LSU and even Oregon-Stanford to bolster a specious conclusion in 2013 are not just defying the laws of physics by mixing past and present depth charts, they're missing the true arc of this particular Duck tale: A carefully engineered and expertly sustained drive to the national title, built one touchdown, one game, one season at a time. It's been glorious watching it unfold, and it is a privilege to share it with all of you.
3. Keeping it real. I am both a true college football fan and a practical and decided realist, not just another mindless pot-smoking Oregon fanboy sporting a slick fauxhawk, eye-popping ear gauges and a Bob Marley neck tattoo while hurling crude insults at a dancing fir tree after a game-day road trip to Palo Alto. Mon. I'm both a teacher and student of the game, with historical and geologic proximity providing a multidimensional perspective that flashes 24/7 across the JumboTron DuckVision HD synapses of an evolved analytical mind.
I'll be even more clear than that if I can: This is the very best Oregon Ducks team of the still-young millennium. Maybe ever. A hypersonically talented flight-and-fight MMA machine that can shatter glass without touching it using only its scout team. The Ducks are now bigger, stronger, smarter, faster. The team that Chip Kelly helped build and then abandoned went with its "Next Man Up" credo as offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich stepped in to fill CK's visor, and it's working better than a fake punt against the UCLA Bruins. Oregon's blur offense obscures the talent of its defense at times in media reports. It is ranked seventh in the country behind the machinations of savvy old-school gridiron architect Nick Aliotti, league-leading Godfather of the PAC-12 defensive family.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the nation needs a clearer view of the playing field in Eugene. Some are still studying time-warped game tape on old shimmied VHS cartridges instead of streaming the latest web video on a smartphone.
I actually heard an ESPN "BCS guru" trot out the 2010 season's title game as evidence of Oregon's alleged deficiency handling physical opponents today. WTF? How do these guys get jobs? First, those Ducks held Auburn to 21 points, far below its season average, while Oregon's offense was a touchdown better than what the Tigers had given up in its season average. And far more importantly, these New Ducks on The Block would crush the beloved 2010 team by 10 times the margin of victory Auburn posted (a paltry final-second 3 points). It would also vanquish Cam Newton and crew by halftime and then rest its starters to give all of its players some Oregon title time on the field.
The 2013 edition of Marcus Mariota has made a similar quantum leap. He would fondly tousle the hair of last year's iteration of himself if such things were possible, flashing a shaka to the younger Flyin' Hawaiian and saying, "Imua, brah. No shame. We get 'em... li' DAT!"
Alabama is a great program, one for the ages, but 2012's one-loss version of the Tide needed a little magical SEC fairy dust to reach the NCAA title game. Remember? They'd already lost one to Texas A&M by 5 points. Undefeated UO then lost to Stanford in OT by 3. No excuses, the Ducks missed a game-winning kick by a whisker while 'Bama later got an East Coast bounce. It happens, though it sure would have been fun to destroy an improbably lucky Notre Dame in the NC game and prove a year early that the road to football Heaven now runs through Eugene.
As I said earlier, that was then. This is now, back to a future that began in those yesterdays. The Duck's journey is different than that of storied and fortunate Alabama, defending NCAA champs by deference and no default of its own. A journey different than the road taken by tough and talented FSU, those squinty-eyed and scary-good darlings of fickle media front-runners overreacting to a game played on a quiet weekend while the big kids were still at school.
Make no mistake, the truth will out. On the field, as always, the only place that matters. That's why we play the games, right? To prove the truths, even when the 12th man is destiny in a season capped by the national unveiling of a Northwestern forest planted one tree at a time. An inevitable conclusion in sight that has involved so many in the Oregon family over so many years, a coveted milestone that will also mark a new beginning.
Now we watch the final forging of Oregon's title trail. I won't return to gloat - that's just not how Duck fans roll. In fact, the unofficial crowd slogan at Autzen Stadium is "Show Them Your Class, Not Your Ass!" Not everyone knows that about us.
Just one more thing: As the Duck dynasty continues to fully unfold in both this special season and in the years to come, I also promise I will never, ever return to say, "See that? Played out just like I told you it would. Knew all along this was going to happen."
We'll leave that to the experts.
Win the Day!
Aloha hui hou,
Oregon no ka oi