4 Things on the Holiday Wish List for Oregon Fans
It used to be that Oregon football fans had just one wish leading up to the holidays. That was to watch their Ducks in a bowl game, any bowl game.
But over the past two decades, the Ducks have made bowl games with regularity, including playing a January game to cap each of the past four seasons.
It's not that Oregon fans are ungrateful for the opportunity to watch their team play one last time in 2013 against Texas at the Valero Alamo Bowl, it's just that they are used to doing so on a bigger stage.
After witnessing a disappointing end to a promising season, Oregon fans have a long list of things they would love to get for Christmas. There will be no national championship and no BCS bowl win, but the Ducks still have a lot to play for, and their fans have plenty of holiday wishes they hope come true.
Here are four things that Oregon fans are wishing for this holiday season.
A Walk on the River
Ducks tend to spend their leisure time hanging out on a pond somewhere. Maybe that's why many Duck fans think this is the year to try something new. It's time to enjoy playing in the Alamo Bowl for the first time and facing Texas, one of the traditional powers in college football.
While ducks can be found in quiet ponds surrounded by nature, the annual migration for Oregon Ducks fans finds a new setting on a much more active waterway. The San Antonio River Walk will serve as the landing zone for the Duck faithful looking to support their team.
There will be no tickets to New Orleans, Miami or such California venues as Glendale and Pasadena for a final BCS bowl. But that doesn't mean there are no airline tickets being shoved into stockings throughout the state of Oregon.
It's time for Oregon fans to relax and travel to a bowl game the way they used to and enjoy it for what it is. No more stress over where the Ducks might land in the final rankings and no more thoughts of being disrespected by the BCS.
It's a chance for Oregon fans to watch some of their favorite players for the last time. Seniors Josh Huff, Taylor Hart, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Wade Keliikipi, Boseko Lokombo, Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson will play their final games for the Ducks after each played significant roles in the success of the program during their college careers.
A Win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl
It would not be on the same level as what the Ducks have become accustomed to, but a win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl would mean a lot to the Oregon program.
There is a long list of reasons why Oregon fans would like to see a win over Texas, but reaching 11 wins for just the fifth time in school history is near the top.
Winning a second consecutive game against the Longhorns is up there as well. The two teams last played in the 2000 Holiday Bowl, which the Ducks won, 35-30. They have had an interesting relationship ever since, due mostly to the Ducks' increased recruiting presence in The Lone Star State.
The Ducks have been able to not only get in the door of some Texas high schools, but have walked away with some important signatures. They don't always beat the Longhorns for the recruits, but Texas doesn't like anyone coming inside its borders and signing elite players.
A win would also give the Ducks a third consecutive bowl win for just the second time in program history. The last time the Ducks won three straight bowl games occurred in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
Landing Some Top Recruits from the State of Texas
One game rarely plays a significant role in the decision of a high school athlete to sign with a certain school, but a big win never hurts.
The Ducks have had well-documented success recruiting in the country's most football-centric state. Seven players on the Ducks' roster are native Texans and will bring a large contingent of friends and family to the game.
The more green and yellow that is seen around the state leading up to the game, the better that will be for Oregon's recruiting efforts.
Oregon wide receivers Josh Huff, Bralon Addison and Chance Allen all hail from Texas, as do defensive backs Eric and Stephen Amoako, linebacker Torrodney Prevot and quarterback Damion Hobbs.
The Ducks are in the hunt for a couple of other Texas high school stars as signing day approaches.
The biggest target is defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao, who plays a huge position of need. The U.S. Army All-American is from San Antonio and has Oregon and Texas among his top three schools. The Longhonrs have been the favorite, but Oregon is making a move.
A strong performance by the Ducks would do nothing but help them in their pursuit of the 300-pounder.
The Return of the Backs
Quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu have both said they will return in 2014, but there are a number of other backs who might be playing in their final game for the Ducks at the Valero Alamo Bowl.
Running back De'Anthony Thomas is likely headed for the NFL, but Oregon fans are still hoping otherwise. Thomas was at his best in Oregon's BCS games after the 2011 and 2012 seasons. If he has another breakout performance in the Alamo Bowl, he is as good as gone.
Cornerback Terrance Mitchell is as good of a No, 2 corner as there is in the country. As a redshirt junior, he has spent four years with the program and could opt for the NFL after the Alamo Bowl. His return is more likely than Thomas or Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, his sidekick in the secondary, but it wouldn't be a huge surpise if he decided to test the NFL waters.
Of all the Ducks that could be in the draft, Ekpre-Olomu is the highest-rated prospect. He has been the best player on Oregon's defense over the past two seasons and has earned the respect of both opponents and NFL scouts.
His return is unlikely, but it would be the best gift of the holiday season. If Oregon fans' wishes do come true and both cornerbacks return, and Thomas decides he has more to prove, the Ducks will start next season in the top five of most of the major polls.