At a glance, The California Golden Bears and the Oregon Ducks look very similar. Both teams were big unknowns back in August, entering the season with new coaching staffs and a lot of youth on both sides of the ball. Both teams got off to 3-0 starts, which felt like surprises. Both lost last week, albeit in very different ways. And for both teams, this Saturday night’s game will be a real measuring stick for the rest of the season. The winner will take a 4-1 record into an October 7th test (Cal @ Washington, Oregon vs. WSU), and the loser will need to pull an upset to avoid a three-game losing streak.
Virtually any outcome is in play here. If the Oregon team that boatraced Nebraska and Wyoming shows up to play the Cal team that struggled to put away Weber State, it’ll be a 30-point Oregon win. If the Oregon team that shot itself in the legs over and over again in Tempe last week plays the Cal team that won at North Carolina, pitched a second-half shutout against Ole Miss, and played USC to a draw for three quarters, it’ll be a blowout win for the Bears. In the middle of all that are a multitude of possible games. A multiple-OT shootout? Sure, especially if Demetris Robertson is back on the field for Cal. A defensive struggle? Totally! Both these defenses are looking for turnovers and playing with energy and desire. A sloppy mess where the winner feels like they deserved to lose? Hell yes! Cal’s already played one of these this year, and Oregon tried real hard to hand a win to Nebraska. The only person who knows for sure is a dead Austrian physicist.
Erwin Schrodinger’s famous thought experiment about quantum superpositions poses that a hypothetical cat in a hypothetical box is simultaneously alive and dead until an outside observer “opens the box” and sees one of the two outcomes. Other theoretical physicists have taken this to posit that perhaps this proves the existence of an infinite number of universes that are created anytime one of these atomic limbos is resolved. What I am posing to you, dear reader, is that this year’s Oregon-Cal game is simultaneously a win and a loss, and we won’t know the result until we watch the game, thereby creating an infinite number of universes where each observer see a slightly different outcome. In some of these universes, Oregon eventually wins a national championship; in others, it’s Cal who wins the title; and in a few of these universes, dolphins from around the world unite to overthrow humanity while we are preoccupied with the hateful ramblings of insecure white men. There is an overwhelming chance you and I will no longer be in the same universe on Saturday night at 7:01 PM, at least not “you” and “I” in our current quantum states. So what? Do we just not open the box, unlocking a completely separate path through space-time where the Ducks and Bears stay 3-1 in perpetuity, and those damn dirty cetaceans stay in the ocean where they belong? No, that’s the coward’s universe. We open the damn box, and see what’s inside. It might be an Oregon win, springing the Ducks to an 8 or 9 win season. Or, it could be a second frustrating loss in a row in a season filled with frustrating losses. Willie Taggart might be the program savior, or he might be just another Pac-12 coach who lands recruits and can’t get wins with them.
This Saturday, we’ll open the box, and welcome our bottlenosed overlords.