Ever since the end of the Civil War game when the Oregon Ducks punched their tickets to Pasadena, I had been meaning to write a Rose Bowl preview breaking down the matchups between the Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
But things seemed to keep getting in the way. First I had final exams. Then I had to get ready for my trip back to Portland for the holidays. Then I was spending time with friends and family and didn’t make time to write.
Then I saw that the game has been broken down to the point where it has almost become nauseating. Every matchup, every phase, every missing player has been analyzed to the point where I didn’t think I could add anything meaningful.
But I didn’t feel like I could go without posting something, because then if things didn’t go Oregon’s way on Friday, I would be to blame for not keeping with the winning routine.
So what is this article about? This is about what the Rose Bowl means to me.
When I was in the fourth grade back in 1994, every major publication predicted the Oregon Ducks to finish in ninth place in the Pac-10, except one. That one picked the Ducks to finish in last place.
The season started and it looked like that one magazine had gotten it right. But then a win against visiting Iowa, a shocker against USC, a stumble against WSU, and then consecutive wins against Washington and Arizona. Everything changed.
I had never seen anything like it. The Ducks, the Ducks , were being talked about on national TV. Back then, my family didn’t have cable, but all of a sudden we could actually see the games. Everything had changed, permanently.
The Ducks won the conference that year, their first outright Pac-10 title, when they survived a spirited game in Corvallis against the Beavers (compliments of UCLA’s upset of the Trojans to hand USC a second conference loss).
The Oregon Ducks were in the Rose Bowl.
It was like something out of a dream. That just didn’t happen. Oregon fans hoped for berths in the Independence and Freedom Bowls. But the Rose Bowl? It was inconceivable.
A lot has changed since then. The Ducks lost to the undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions in that game, but Mike Bellotti took over for Rich Brooks and gradually turned the program into a national presence. There have had 10 win seasons, big bowl wins, and even a BCS bowl in 2001.
But it has all come full circle. Back to the Rose Bowl against a storied Big Ten powerhouse.
A win here means the Ducks are no longer an afterthought that has a magical season once every 50 years. They are more than a bowl staple that once in a while can chase a double digit win season.
No, winning this game means the Ducks are a power to be reckoned with. It means the Pac-10 is not just USC and the nine dwarfs.
A win means that the nightmare in Boise will not define the season, but rather serve to set the stage for the drama that followed. It means that LaGarrette Blount’s misdeeds will not be what this year’s Oregon football team is remembered for.
A win against the Ohio State Buckeyes is all that matters now. We can talk about the great complete season after that.