T.O.E.: The Oregon Effect

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January 12, 2012 by David Gillaspie

(originally posted on oregonsportsnews.com)

A close look at the Oregon Duck run during this, the Golden Age of Ducks, shows a disturbing trend.

Start with the 2009 season and the book-end losses to Boise State in the beginning and Ohio State at the end. Something  happened between the smurf turf and the Rose Bowl and set the table for the next two years, and further.

First Boise State.

Is there a more unlikely football program to rise out of the west? They do things in Boise that should fail. If beating Oklahoma in the ’07 Fiesta Bowl wasn’t enough, they continued to roll teams in big conferences.

Sadly, Oregon was one of them.

What happened after that game, besides the punch? A team rallied around their new coach and each other to make the season more than a sucker punch. They became the Ducks you know today.

Somehow, the Ducks pulled the trigger after Boise. They shot all the way to the PAC 10 title, to the Rose Bowl and Ohio State where they began a trend of losing to programs that eventually went on probation. Ohio State lasted a year, posting a 12-1 record after beating Oregon, then finished 2011 with a 6 win and 7 loss season and Urban Meyer.

The Ducks gained altitude after the Buckeye loss, ending 2010 undefeated with a trip to the National Championship and Auburn. The mighty Tigers capped their own undefeated season with special players on the NFL express by beating Oregon on the last play of the game and calling it a dominating SEC performance.

After their BCS National Championship win, War Eagle sank back to their comfort zone with five losses in 2011 to match their five losses in 2009. With the magic of Cam Newton working in the NFL, and a pay for play investigation closed with no penalty, Auburn avoided what Ohio State got for beating Oregon. No head coach fired for lying to the NCAA, no players bailing left and right, except the good ones. And no bowl suspensions or scholarship reductions.

Yet.

The Auburn loss might have sent lesser teams into a tailspin of despair, but the Ducks gathered wind beneath their wings and sailed into the first game of 2011 with the LSU Tigers, another Tiger by the tail.

The Bayou Bengals wrung the Ducks out in Dallas, and crushed the rest of the season. They stormed to their third National Championship game in ten years, winning in 2003 and ’07. They won both of their titles in the Louisiana Super Dome. They had Alabama in the same place for their third try.

This is where The Oregon Effect, the TOE, came in.

If you beat Oregon, go ahead and celebrate. Throw your hats in the air. Just know that your dreams will never come true. Your team will slip-up and you’ll wonder why.

Blame Oregon.

The Tiger team that faced Alabama was not the same team Oregon and everyone else played. The 21-0 score explains enough, but seeing the greatness that is LSU reduced to a JV squad playing Alabama’s big-boy Tide was hard to watch.

How many Oregon sports fans rooted for LSU to win? Everyone, since losing to the most dominant team in the nation in any given year is no shame.

Losing to a great team that finished their year confused and disoriented means only one thing: The Oregon Effect.

An Oregon v LSU rematch was the rematch game of the year, but there was one problem.

A loss to USC, but they will get theirs.

How will The Oregon Effect change the hopes and dreams of the Trojans when they come off probation next year? Add Matt Barkley returning for his last year instead of joining the men in the NFL.

Based on the results of Ohio State, Auburn, and LSU, SoCal should call in sick for Oregon. Like the championship game against Auburn, the Ducks lost to USC on the last play of the game this year. Instead of going into overtime with a made field goal, everyone held their breath until it missed.

In every lifetime certain people and events combine to change long held perceptions. Lifetime Oregon Duck fans adjusted to decades of losing and stayed true. Moral victories meant everything; no one getting hurt during a game was a huge win. If the Ducks got a little better, it was good enough.

A winning record and a minor bowl game was the most anyone hoped for, until now.

The football gods always smiled on other teams and it was fine, until now.

Five loss seasons, the norm for Auburn, became five losses over three years for Oregon. Road games to fabled stadiums that promised a big payday along with a loss, turned into wins. The University of Oregon became a destination on the football map, not an after-thought to fill in a schedule for a game cancellation.

Big-boy football came to Oregon and brought the favor of the football gods. Last second losses become convincing victories. A 95 year Rose Bowl curse ends. A fumble lands just inside the field of play and Coach Chip Kelly shows the proper steps for recovery.

The football gods don’t look toward Alabama. They’ve got Nick Saban. The gods are punishing The Ohio State for their transgressions and warming up for Auburn.

USC will crawl out from under the football god’s thumb next year, but will have the The Oregon Effect to deal with.

T.O.E. will give them all the boot.

Alabama’s defensive player of the game for the BCS National Championship, Courtney Upshaw, said it best with these words:

“Once we had the opportunity to get ’em, we got ’em, and that’s what we did.”

He knows all about giving the boot.

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