ATQ Godfather David Piper and I had a brief conversation following Oregon's BCS Championship game loss to Auburn. I was of the hopeful camp, reflecting upon how close we'd come to winning, and knowing we had homesteaded on the landscape of contenders. But Dave was much more realistic, his thesis being: it's just so hard to get to the national title game. You have to play a complete game, every game, for three straight months. You have to get every key stop, convert every key offensive possession. Opponents have to make some mistakes, and you have to capitalize. So many things have to go your way, every week, for an undefeated regular season to happen. I heard what Dave said, I really did. But maybe my brash, youthful arrogance blinded me from this honesty. And tonight, that showed itself, in a particularly painful way. It's really effing hard to win a national championship.
This year's Oregon football team is better than the 2010 team that made the BCS National Championship game. I don't have any doubt about this in my mind. But unless something really strange happens, this team will not be making that same trip. Why? Because Jordan Williamson made his kick, and Giorgio Tavecchio did not. Or Jordan Williamson made his kick, and Alejandro Maldonado did not. Whatever, kickers are stupid. The point is, a false start by a kicker, the first and only I can remember seeing in my lifetime, was possibly the biggest turning point in an undefeated regular season. This year, Oregon's defense couldn't corral a fumble that laid on the turf for what seemed like a kajillion years. If Oregon plays Stanford ten times, at Autzen, I think they win 7-8 times. But they didn't win tonight. Because it's really effing hard to win a national championship.
Could Oregon potentially back into a national title appearance? Yes, though it'd take a moderate-to-heavy amount of craziness: UCLA beats Stanford, USC (possibly without Matt Barkley) beats Notre Dame, Texas beats Kansas State, Florida State beats Florida, Oregon wins out, and the polls are particularly kind to the Ducks. There's a glimmer of something there, but it's buried under a lot of sadness and disappointment. In simpler terms, it's Keira Knightly. More realistically, Oregon is looking at a Civil War win, and a BCS at-large bid. It'd be a pretty great accomplishment, especially if the Ducks were to win a second straight BCS bowl. But to be so close to the national championship game, only to have it squandered, anything less feels sour. We have a good chance, depending on how the bowls shake out, to finish #2 in the final polls for only the second time ever. But #2 isn't #1. It's really effing hard to win a national championship.
This was only the sixth loss in the last four seasons. That's a pretty incredible accomplishment for a team who was losing the Vegas Bowl by thirty only six years ago. Stanford is now the first team Chip Kelly has lost to more than once. The fact that it took this long for that to happen speaks volumes about the preparedness of the program. If Oregon defeats the Beavers in Corvallis next week, Chip Kelly's Ducks will still have not lost more than one conference game in a single season. Given the top-tier strength of the Pac-12 conference, four years of sustained success is astounding. But at this moment, all that is for shit, because the goal this year was immortality. The SEC had knocked itself silly, and the title was ripe for the taking. But it's really effing hard to win a national championship. And after missing their opportunity Saturday against Stanford, Oregon might just have to restart that journey next September.