PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Head coach Chip Kelly of the Oregon Ducks hugs quarterback Darron Thomas #5 in celebration of the Ducks 45-38 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
The Oregon Ducks have seen their team rise to the top of the Pac-12 conference the past few seasons. They've put together one of the most dominant conference runs in recent memory, with an incredible 25-2 record over the past three seasons. Their offense remains one of the most potent in football, and with great offensive talent on its way and incubating in the program it should only get deadlier. With Chip Kelly and Nick Aliotti, the Ducks have perhaps two of the best football minds in the conference, and they figure to be entrenched as the big green menace for as long as they stay here.
Now with a win over the Wisconsin Badgers in the Rose Bowl, they can claim something that was still lacking on their resume in the Chip Kelly era--a marquee win over a non-conference opponent.
Oregon has come close on multiple occasions. They came into their first Rose Bowl in 2010 just excited to be there, but were outschemed and outcoached as Ohio State ground the ball and the clock, keeping the ball away from the Ducks as they managed a mere 17 points. Oregon threw the kitchen sink at Auburn in the 2011 National Championship when it was clear the Tigers had more talent on their team, but forgot to wrap up Michael Dyer before it was too late. And in a game which ultimately swung this year's national title matchup into an all-SEC slugfest, LSU battered Oregon in the trenches and forced turnover after turnover to send the Ducks stumbling back to Oregon.
It's not like the season would've been a failure if Oregon had lost, but it would have been really hard for the Ducks to take yet another BCS loss, and particularly their second straight defeat in Pasadena. It would've been another long offseason for Kelly and Oregon, and it could've potentially damaged the all-too critical preseason rankings for 2012. Yeah, sure, Oregon can beat anyone in the Pac-12, but can they get down and dirty with other teams outside the conference?
Turns out they can. Oregon made Wisconsin's defense look absolutely hopeless on most occasions, scoring in every which way possible. De'Anthony Thomas had two rushes on 77 yards per carry. LaMichael James was the workhorse, and he churned out modest gains with huge bursts. And Darron Thomas made big throws all game long (particularly to Lavasier Tuinei), offsetting his two crucial turnovers that nearly swung the game back the way of the Badgers.
Now the stage is set for Oregon to get back to the BCS title game in 2013. The Ducks will almost certainly finish with a top five ranking this year and should be somewhere in the top five next season. They will probably lose LaMichael, but pretty much every other prominent playmaker comes back on offense, and their defense should be much improved. This is a team that has proven they can contend year in, year out, and with a victory over Wisconsin under their belts, they're are slated to try and take it one step further. With only USC likely to stand in their next season, you can probably expect everything to come down to their colossal tilt in the Coliseum (and possibly their rematch in the championship game) when this fall rolls around.
Oregon isn't going anywhere in the Pac-12, and their victory in the Rose Bowl might have shown that they aren't leaving the national spotlight anytime soon either.