WHEN GREEN TURNS TO BLUE
I attended my first Ducks game at Autzen Stadium in 1977. For a few months out of every year since then, every week has involved a lot of anxious waiting around for Saturday afternoons or evenings to arrive. After baseball, my favorite thing to watch is college football, particularly if my Ducks are playing.
In recent years, the UO football program has scaled new heights. No longer one of the league doormats, Oregon now finds itself perennially in the nation's NCAA Football Top 25 polls. While this is great for recognition for the school and for the state of Oregon, with it comes other kinds of notoriety.
Just recently, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to enjoy watching my team without having a few twinges of guilt. As a relative newcomer to being a fan of a big-time football program (not just perennial Top 25, but getting to be more like perennial Top 10 now), I am also new to the intense media scrutiny the Ducks face, and to being a fan of a team whose players who get in trouble with the law (and whose methods of recruiting players are now coming into question to the point that possible penalties loom for the program).
It gets tiring reading about such ominous things in the paper every day.
It also brings about the realization (and an obvious thing that can sometimes be obscured by being a sports fan) that college should maybe be about learning and academics, and not so much about stud athletes.
I want my team to be the best in the country. It's what any fan wants for his team. I just want them to do it the right way.
Those things aside, my prediction for this season is a 10-2 regular season record, with losses to LSU in the opener and then to Stanford (at Stanford) during the regular season. That ought to be good enough for second place in the PAC-12 Conference and a very high-profile bowl game. But given the strength of Oregon's schedule, a 10-2 prediction could be optimistic.
Oregon has tough road games against the University of Seattle and the University of Arizona. The USC Trojans will be tough for the Ducks, although that contest is a home game for Oregon.
And the Ducks will face a tough challenge in their "Civil War" game with the Oregon State Beavers as always, but this year the game is in Eugene and the Beavers will likely find themselves outmanned.
Two or more losses will keep the Ducks out of the Bowl Championship Series, but they'll be very good, and highly entertaining to watch.
As long as their key players stay out of trouble, that is. No marijuana use in cars traveling 118 miles per hour, please.
And as long as the NCAA doesn't hand down any harsh penalties for recruiting violations... please, coach Chip Kelly! You and your staff need to stay on the up-and-up!
If the University of Oregon gets punished, it will get what it deserves. It's what usually happens when people push the envelope in such circumstances.
Did Oregon's coach Chip Kelly push the envelope too far? Maybe he did, maybe he didn't. We'll be finding out more about those things (and many others) during the coming year.