Editor's note: This piece was written before the Oregon vs. Arizona game, but due to an editorial foul-up it's only getting published now. Even if this post is technically a preview, the opinions conveyed seemed to carry much weight in Oregon's victory tonight. It was a devastating performance by the Ducks and B.P. was right on the money.
Oregon fans have been waiting for the season to start. Sure, the Ducks have played three games already. For three weeks Duck fans have rolled in by thousands for Saturday tailgates, and fifty-five thousand fans have filed through the iron gates of Autzen each week to stand witness to 162 points and nearly 1800 yards of total offense. But still Duck fans wait for the season to start. They know that wins against Arkansas State, Fresno St. and Tennessee Tech don't mean anything to national championship aspirations or even Rose Bowl aspirations.
Now, after three weeks of waiting the season can finally begin for Duck fans when they welcome Arizona to the inhospitable confines of Autzen Stadium. Arizona brings with it a 3-0 record and the promise of a nationally televised game on ESPN, but will a game against Arizona bring out the best in the Ducks and their fans?
You can count on it just as surely as you can count on Santa Claus in the mall after Thanksgiving.
How can this be? After all, Arizona is a three touch down dog; they have a first year coach; and managed a 2-7 Pac-12 record last year--a season in which they lost to Colorado and trailed Oregon 35-9 at the half. You might think the Duck players would mail this one in and Duck fans would give their tickets to mom, but that doesn't figure to be the case.
First, start with the obvious: Autzen always sells out, even for no name state schools and a no name tech school. So you can bet that Duck fans will show up for the nationally televised Pac-12 opener against a ranked Arizona team. Further, you can bet that Duck players want to prove they belong in the national championship conversation; that they can perform against a worthy opponent; and that De'Anthony Thomas is so fast he can outrun the Sports Illustrated curse.
Moving past the obvious: recent history suggests that the Ducks--and especially their fans--won't just want to beat Arizona, they'll want to stick it to 'em. Arizona--and especially their fans--have a particular penchant for raising the ire of the Ducks and their fans.
In 2007 Arizona rolled into Tucson with an 8-1 record, ranked number two in the BCS, and marching toward an improbable BCS Championship birth. Dennis Dixon, Oregon's quarterback and Heisman candidate, had limped off the field a week earlier in a win against ASU but all reports were that Dixon was fine. Sadly, those reports proved not to be true as Dixon's knee buckled early in the Arizona game. With Dixon out, Arizona collected an unlikely win and Oregon's BCS hopes imploded. To add insult to injury, Arizona fans stormed the field and danced on Oregon's broken national championship and Heisman hopes.
Two years later, and again in Tucson, Oregon came to town chasing a Rose Bowl birth. This time Oregon managed a thrilling 44-41 2OT win. However, it was the play of the fans at the end of regulation and following the game that many Oregon fans still remember. Many may recall the Arizona fans hopping onto the field before time expired only to be ushered back into the stands after Oregon tied the game at the end of regulation. As if that weren't enough, Arizona fans were seen throwing objects at Oregon players and personnel after the game, including a full water bottle that hit an Oregon cheerleader and sent her to the hospital--not exactly an endearing series of events for Oregon fans.
Even though Oregon has outscored Arizona by a combined 54 points since 2009, celebrating a win after a crushing season ending injury, storming a field early, and sending a cheerleader to the hospital are not soon forgotten. Add to that an Arizona team that has a quarterback telling the news he is coming to Autzen to get a W and stories floating around that Chip Kelly learned how to run an offense from Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez and you will find a Duck squad and Duck fans ready to roll.
Bottom line: two undefeated ranked teams playing on national TV, and a duck on a motorcycle. Game on!