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Oregon Football and the Known Universe

Rusty Ryan, an amateur cosmologist, finds what he likes most about the universe is what draws him to a probably unhealthy love obsession with college football.

Ronald Martinez

The football season has begun once again and we've already been supplied with a few shocks.  Oregon's season and their quest for a national championship begins tomorrow against South Dakota.  Largely, the preparation that began shortly after Oregon's Alamo Bowl win over Texas has already decided the outcome for this season.

It never ceases to surprise me just how much happens in college football.  With over 120 college football teams, almost all of which will be playing on any given Saturday, there are so many storylines, players, coaches, plays, and games to cover and learn about.  It's like the feeling you get when you try to comprehend just how big the universe is, albeit on a much smaller and more manageable scale.

College football has a more manageable number of teams to follow when compared to the stars in the sky or the celestial bodies in every galaxy.  However, the uncertainty, the unknown, and the sense of destiny or choice appear on the same scale.

Picking games, winners, and outcomes in college football ultimately brings someone to face the uncertainty principle.  The uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics is the limit of what variables can be understood and predicted in such a way to accurately forecast the future.  Certain particles are not merely said to exist in certain places in space and time as much as they have an estimated probability of existing in space and time.  Only until the actual moment of an event and shortly thereafter can something be known for sure.

Last night we knew that Texas A&M was replacing the most dynamic and polarizing player in college football at quarterback and certain guesses were made on how they would fare.  It's safe to say that no one predicted the Aggies to take it to South Carolina the way they did.

Last year Oregon replaced Chip Kelly at head coach with Mark Helfrich.  Known quantities like Marcus Mariota exist but there's still a fair amount of guess work and unknown.  The losses to Stanford and Arizona showed how fragile plans can be and just how limited our understanding of college football can really be.  The meteoric rise of Auburn was like a cosmic joke contradicting all known dogmas of college football.

Only once someone takes a look at the full picture of their situation, whether it be their school, job, world, or universe, can the full possibilities be understood.  In a world and universe who have almost every mathematical possibility open to chance it is very clear that people will take a singular route through it.

Oregon really struggled in terms of finding an identity last year.  As cool as it sounds to say, "We'll take what the defense gives us and no matter what they do we have a counter for it," it doesn't necessarily stack up to reality.  There is a lot more power in being an active participant, a doer, than a passive person in the universe.  The ability that Alabama, Auburn, LSU, or Florida State has to say, "We're going to do what we want to do and fuck your plans to stop us," is more compelling and proven to be more effective.  It might even be necessary to have a solid identity.  Not having an identity is one in and of itself but is probably the worst of the bunch.  If all the world is a stage and everyone has a role, then not having a clear role must be the worst.

When watching the football team take the field this fall you're seeing a lot more than just a football game.  You're watching a quarterback who is seeing just how far the mental side of the game can impact his teammates and success.  You're watching a defensive line that has all the talent in the world and is striving to reach its potential.  You're watching a defensive back who has flipped the script on the receiver-cornerback relationship and is the feared one on the field.  You're also watching a coaching staff that is learning from its mistakes last season while maximizing its strengths.

Will the team defeat recent history and beat Stanford?  Will they make the first playoffs in college football history and topple the established powers as the young money Jay Gatsby?

The honest answer to these questions is: I don't know.  As much as I read and listen about football, as much as statistics can tell us, as much as we can reference history, I still don't know what is about to happen.  College football is a unique blend of chaos and order with some constants and known variables but without knowing just exactly how impactful and important they are.  You can have man of science v. man of faith argument or fate v. freedom of choice but neither negates or enhances what is happening.

Fall is a very special time of year where students are going to school and starting a new year and the holidays are quickly approaching.  College football runs across this fall season and is also full of hope and new beginnings.  Most of the excitement around it is the uncertainty.  This could be the season Oregon wins it all!  The excitement of going to Autzen or watching our Ducks in enemy territory and battling with the odds against them is fleeting sometimes but is powerful nonetheless.

I was fortunate enough to go to Hawaii shortly before the football season began.  I remember sitting on a beach at night and looking up at the sky and seeing it clearer than almost anywhere else in the world.  With no pollution or much light pollution you can see the milky way across the sky.  Much like college football, I know some of the constants like stars, constellations, and laws of physics, but I know that I really know nothing about it at the same time.  While letting my feet sink into the Pacific Ocean and looking up at the universe, or what light has let us seen of the universe, it's frustrating to understand how little we know about it.  I remember thinking that instead of making the universe less interesting, the mystery and unknown really makes the universe more exciting, compelling, and beautiful.

With the college football season now upon us it is a little overwhelming to know that we will get some answers to some of our questions with incompletes to others.  In the short span of 3-4 months another season of college football will hit us and consume our weekends and some weeknights.  Plays and players will remind us of how little we understand.  There will be games that affirm what we already know or think but a lot of the games won't.  Being at Autzen this season for the tailgating and games will remind me at times that I don't know that much really about how things work.  But at kickoffs and touchdowns and after wins I'll still to think to myself, "God, this is beautiful."