Say it. Let it roll around in your mind for a bit, because it's true.
The Civil War in Corvallis will be The Biggest Game in the One Hundred Twenty Seven Year History of Oregon Football.
Not the game after this one. Not yet.
Think about it. What game has meant more?
Look at the candidates...
- The 1917 Rose Bowl was, of course, the biggest game in school history 94 years ago. Of course, there wasn't much history in 1917 to be the biggest of. (They'd only played 132 games.) And a reasonable case can be made that this game retains that status, if only because, as Oregon's only Rose Bowl victory, it's never been challenged to this date. But seriously, it was 1917. Nobody alive today remembers that game. Not even me. And Oregon didn't even win the conference that year.
- The 2010 Rose Bowl, a game that - had Oregon come out on top - might have ranked with the greatest bowl wins in history. But I don't recall anyone before the game making a case for its unsurpassed legacy. (It was more "Wow, it would be awesome to beat Ohio State..")
- Further, it's my contention that *no* bowl game merits the "Biggest Game In Oregon Football History" tag. With limited exceptions, the Duck bowl legacy is one of lower-profile events contested against teams who were, at best, at a similar level. And when the teams haven't been at par, it's usually been Oregon with the underdog status.
Had Oregon had managed to knock off Penn State in '95, or Ohio State back in '58, those could have rightfully been called the biggest wins in Duck history.. but in both cases, the Ducks had, at least, been there before. When you're a double-digit underdog, it can be called one of the biggest opportunities in team history, but not the biggest game.
- Okay, how about regular season games?
- Looking back, the '94 Washington game was huge - but at the time, it was just Oregon v Washington. The "little team that could" trying to salvage something out of the season against the mighty powerhouse. Oregon had three losses and was, at the time, struggling just to achieve bowl eligibility. That game is obviously one of the biggest wins in history. It wasn't the biggest game.
- How about the 2001 Civil War? Big, to be sure. A loss would have thrown the conference race into a 4-way tie; a win put us in the Fiesta Bowl. Once again, the stakes were high. But, again, the goal wasn't one that hadn't been achieved before.
No other games come close to measuring up. Sure, it was great when Musgrave hit Ferry in the end zone against UCLA to lock up the Freedom Bowl bid, but come on, it's not like we hadn't seen Oregon in better bowls than that one. And all those previous Civil Wars, even the ones that led to Rose Bowl bids, had the same problem. They weren't taking us somewhere we'd never been.
The 2010 Civil War is different because, unlike any other final regular season game, we know that what's at stake is something truly rare and desired. As previously documented, the Usual Subjects have so dominated college football at the top levels over the last 50 years that it's borderline miraculous to see a team Get There when they've not Been There.
And, unlike a "big" regular season contest, there's nothing that can happen after this game that can lead to a different outcome. Beat that highly-ranked team in September? Who cares? There are still nine or ten games left to negotiate. Nobody cares that you stomped Michigan if you turn around and lose to Wazzu.
Beat Oregon State this weekend, and we are there.
Not even the last Civil War, with its winner-take-all table stakes, can match this year's game for Brass Ring status. The stakes could not be higher, and the whole football world is watching. The BCS system has essentially taken the air out of every other bowl game. It's hard to get worked up about a game between #4 and #6, or #3 and #7, or however the other games work out.
But every fan cares about #1 vs #2.
Consider this: In the last 50 years, there have been 19 bowl games featuring the #1 and #2 teams in the AP Poll, with the winner being named national champion. The BCS has made it a semi-regular event - 2001 being a sad exception -- but between 1960 and 1998, the top two teams only met in bowls 10 times. And a list of the participant teams is pretty much a list of the Usual Suspects.
USC, Ohio State, Alabama and Miami each have four "1 vs 2" appearances. Three for Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State and Texas. Nebraska and Florida State appeared twice each. Only the singletons have an "interloper" feel -- Georgia, LSU, Navy, Tennessee, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin. That group boasts of only six national championships combined.
There's no other way to put it. You don't win a national championship unless you get to that final game.
And you don't get to that final game unless you win the last game of the season that you have to win.
There's no doubt in my mind. The 2010 Civil War is the biggest game in Oregon football history.
Any dissenters? These guys would like a word with you.