Oregon Ducks vs. Arizona Wildcats: Has Chip Kelly Underestimated the Elements?
In a recent interview, Oregon coach Chip Kelly seemed to shrug off the influence of weather in Friday night's clash with Arizona at Autzen Stadium.
“Sometimes I think more is put into that than there is,” he said. “They (Arizona) are a strong team mentally. (Arizona coach) Mike (Stoops)…I have a lot of respect for him. I don’t think the weather is going to be a factor in this game.”
The implication is that Arizona, a team from the warm, dry climes of the south, could be disadvantaged by cooler, wet field conditions at Autzen on Friday.
Indeed, the latest National Weather Service forecast calls for temperatures in the low 40s and a 90 percent chance of wind and rain at game time.
In any other year, a team nicknamed the "Ducks" would certainly gain some advantage from inclement weather. However, in 2010, Oregon has, for the most part, played it's entire schedule in warm, dry conditions.
There was that one game in Tennessee which was delayed due to a violent, passing thunderstorm, but play resumed only after the intense downpour had subsided.
So it would seem the Ducks, who practice primarily in the Great Indoors at the Moshofsky Center, have no real weather advantage. And it is true that both teams must equally adapt to the elements.
In that sense, Kelly's statement is right on.
If the forecast holds true though, game strategy will certainly be affected. The passing game, kicking game, footing and turnovers will become issues.
Will the high-octane blur offense of Oregon and the pass-happy offense of Arizona be nullified?
Will Oregon's grind-it-out, deliberate, time-consuming facet of their offense-discovered in the fourth quarter at Cal -come into play?
Will a run-oriented scheme by the Ducks then play into the hands of the vaunted Wildcat defense?
Depending on the severity of the conditions, we're likely to see a very different kind of ballgame Friday night. It may well be decided by a slippery ball or a gust of wind.
There is something invigorating about an outside element dictating the moment-by-moment decisions on the field.
It could be the kind of ballgame old-timers remember as being typical of late November in Oregon.
Think about that.
After all, how did the Ducks get their nickname?
With today's well-drained surfaces, Spiderman gloves and on-field heaters, perhaps the weather has been minimized a bit.
Still, with all the technical advances of our modern age, weather can stop a shuttle launch or bring an entire city to a standstill.
There's an ornery streak in me which generates a warm smile as nature interrupts the affairs of men. Cruel as that may sound, to gain a victory under those conditions is so much sweeter.
And come Friday night, that dark side of me hopes it pours.
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