Having never played before and being separated by over 2500 miles, Auburn University and the University of Oregon don't exactly seem to have a lot in common at first glance. Like participants in a Vegas hitching, storybook marriage or a shotgun wedding, we've been brought together by fun, fate and force to be our nation's participants to decide the football championship in the highest division of play. Like most blind dates, we may fidget and fumble at first (just not in the red zone) but all we really need is an opportunity to break the ice and get to know each other. While technology is perfect for this rapid introduction of mere acquaintances, it can also cause one to really get off on the wrong foot or miss that chance to make a good first impression. So in the spirit of detente and good sportsmanship, we have this open thread for fans of both teams to find out a little bit more about the other. There will be plenty of time and bandwith to discuss the intricacies of what will unfold in Glendale, so let's save that for later and keep the level of discourse as high as the level of play of each of our teams this year. Everybody come in, have a little punch (but don't drink the Kool-aid) and relax.
While both programs don't share any history or have anything much in common, these particular teams do in many ways. While both exhibit spectacular spread attack offenses that lead the nation in output and both have dynamic Heisman candidate players carrying out those assaults, both teams have also found the pinnacle of success in second year coaches Chip Kelly and Gene Chizik. Oregon actually had great success last year, when they won the PAC 10 and went to the Rose Bowl. Their only regular season losses were that ugly first game at Boise and then a shoot-out on the road with Stanford. As many Duck fans have already said in comments here, Oregon underestimated Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and ended up losing that game--clearly one they wish they could have back. Regardless, winning a BCS conference title in your first season as head coach is quite an accomplishment.
Chip Kelly came to Oregon in 2007 as OC and his spread offense quickly led the conference in yards and points. HC Mike Bellotti was in the last of his 14 years with the Ducks, and retired after the 2008 season, leaving Kelly as his successor. Kelly comes across as a tough, no-nonsense, plain-talking Irish guy who puts his money where his mouth is--literally. My favorite story about him comes from last year and the loss at Boise. One Duck fan, disappointed with the results of his trip to the Smurf-turfdom, wrote Kelly a letter, tongue-in-cheek, asking for a refund for expenses, to which Kelly promptly obliged. To me, with his unvarnished and terse commentary, he strikes me as a young Steve Spurrier.
Many SEC fans might recall that Oregon's coach before Bellotti was Rich Brooks, who left Eugene after 1994 for a stint in the NFL before finally coming to Kentucky from 2003-2009 for his swan song, eventually handing over the reigns to Joker Phillips. While researching Brooks, I noticed that he actually played at Oregon State, but ended up being the Duck's longest serving coach with 18 seasons and over 200 games under his belt. The Oregon-Oregon State rivalry is known as The Civil War, and it's every bit as heated as our own Iron Bowl. Oregon owns a 57-46-10 record against the Beavers, so it's one of the oldest intrastate rivalries out there. The point I wanted to make was that I think with our own rivalry against Alabama, it would be virtually impossible for an alumnus to coach for the other side these days, even now that the Tide has done away with their Six Degrees of Bear Bryant prerequisite.
Auburn has only played eight games all-time against PAC teams, going 5-3, with three of those games the last decade (two against USC and that one with Washington State. For decades, there were basically only two bowl choices for PAC teams: Rose and Holiday. There just never was a path for teams from the SEC and the PAC 10 to cross much. Oregon has now pulled even 4-4 with the SEC with the win in Knoxville this year, which even with a hapless first half-of-the-season Vol team, and in some of the worst weather seen since the Auburn-WVU game last year, is still a pretty tough place to play. I saw some of that game, and only once did the skys open up did the Duck offense finally let it really pour, beating Tennessee 48-13.
Anyone else wonder why Tennessee has the lock on playing PAC teams? Auburn and Arkansas both had their series with USC in the 2000s, but the Vols have played Cal, UCLA and now Oregon recently. Maybe one of the things we'll get as a result of this BCS matchup is a home-and-home with the Tigers and the Ducks soon in the coming years. Oregon has shown no hesitation in scheduling big-name programs the last decade, playing regular season games the likes of Oklahoma, Michigan, Purdue and Boise State--all in successive years. With a 8 or 9 game conference schedule during that run, that's pretty impressive to go tough OOC like that.
So who are these Oregon Ducks, this most worthy opponent in what will surely be one of the highest scoring BCS championship games in history? Most Auburn fans probably know of the Nike connection and them having more uniform combinations than Emelda Marcos had shoes. We know of the clever ESPN commercials with the Oregon Duck and Lee Corso, but have you seen them play? I've seen two games, being one who likes to stay up late and catch the west coast games. And believe me, they've seen us, with many fans commenting on our frequent appearances on CBS, especially the last half of the season. The Ducks play in Autzen Stadium, widely known for being one of the loudest venues in CFB and I'm sure they're going to bring everyone down to Arizona.
We've had the introduction, but for more on their program, let's turn directly to our new web-footed foes and let them tell you something about themselves. I'm posing the following questions below. I'd like for all Oregon fans to answer as many as they possibly can in order for Auburn folk to understand you better and get a feeling for you as a program. Feel free to ask us anything related to your answers or make apt comparisons. And of course, we'd love to have the same opportunity to do so on your site, SB sister blog, ATQ, Addicted to Quack. I think Auburn fans are pretty much over the whole Cam-troversy, so let's see if we can put that past us for now.
1) So we're pretty much in agreement over the whole hating Lane Kiffin thing, right? I find that it's much easier to build a solid foundation of understanding by starting with the things we most have in common. Granted, we only had to tolerate him as a conference for one season, but his tenure in yours looks to be significantly longer now that he's found his next dream job. I'm thinking he will be Kelly's and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh's bitch for quite a few seasons, no?
2) Take me back before this season when you lose Jeremiah Masoli. Now it looks like no big loss, but what were fans' feelings over him getting kicked off the team, more like betrayal by him or outrage or indifference to Kelly's decision to boot him? Everybody happy that he landed somewhere (Ole Miss) and you guys landed in the BCS CG, or is there still some resentment there?
3) What was it like playing a nine-game conference schedule for a few years? Although technically, there didn't appear to be a tie-breaker for head-to-head when determining who the champion was, as multiple champions were still listed 1980s style (like we in the SEC used to do, too) but it did decide who was going to the BCS or Rose Bowl. Did you like getting a shot at every team on the block, or would you rather not have to bother with some of your neighbors every single season?
4) Talk to me about conference expansion. Do most Ducks view it as a positive change, or are they more traditional? Looks like you will have to play in Pullman every other year still, but not have to call on USC as often--except in the conference championship game. Where will that be, by the way? Do you think the conference was getting overlooked in the BCS because of the lack of a CCG?
5) Utah and Colorado. Is there good coastal property there? Seriously, is there anyone else you think the conference should have picked up instead? You guys played Boise. Do you think they would have been a good fit for the PAC, provided they changed that hideous field? Will the PACs always rule the WACs?
6) Any qualms about the makeup of the North and South Divisions? You guys look to rule the roost in the north for some time to come. Any sense of loss with none of the new kids on the block in that division? Do you think we'll finally get to hear Utah legislators quit bitching about CFB inequities finally?
7) Tell us your three biggest rivals. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Beavers are naturally the biggest, with Washington second and USC third. You guys don't seem to like Washington State a lot, but I think that's more because they're located in Pullman than anything else. If USC is your biggest rival from the new south division, tell me the next biggest from there. I'm thinking Cal.
8) Speaking of USC, was it basically a zero-sum game in the PAC when they were winning? Could no one be deemed to prosper unless the Trojans played in the BCS title game and someone else got a shot as the alternate in the Rose? I don't think I'd ever call an appearance in the Rose as anything other than successful, but after being dormant for 20 years, Pete Carroll certainly woke them up last decade. Hopefully that was just a fad with them. Does Oregon like having the one big team in the conference or would you rather have greater parity?
9) Tell me the Big 10 team you guys would most love to whup up on (as we say here in the south)? Okay, let's make it a little harder: other than Ohio State.
10) Do you think there is a media bias in CFB between the east and west coasts? If so, do you think that when the pendulum swung west, USC gobbled up all the coverage?
I look forward to hearing from you guys! Welcome all!