Back to Eugene
About fifty miles or so from the California/Oregon border, mountains start making a reappearance on the horizon. There's no dramatic creep in elevation, where foothills start peppering the landscape and eventually give way to pine tree covered, craggy summits. Not at all. In northern California, cruising along interstate five, the land is as flat as a pancake. There's no rolling hills, no raging rivers to pass by or lakes to look at. It's as flat as Indiana--yes, nearly as terrible as that. But then something wonderful happens.
Bam! Right up a head, over the horizon, there's a mountain.
The first time we made the drive north through Oregon it was spectacular. The landscape was new, the fruit orchards, the vineyards, the fields growing unidentifiable clumps of green were intriguing (and sparked endless guessing games as to crop identification). The second time--driving south now--was slightly less wonderful but still picturesque (I believe we had a setting sun falling behind the mountains. However, I might have added that detail). The third time, well, it was just dark. And long. And endlessly monotonous.
Yet here we are again--Eugene, Oregon. The atmosphere is a little different than the first time we rolled into town. As soon as we crossed the border, nearly every gas station we saw had some sort of 'Go Ducks!' sign, and it is impossible to walk into a public place without seeing someone sporting the green and yellow. There's the kind of nervous excitement in the air that comes with being ranked at spot two in the BCS standings and knowing that it could very easily all be taken away--again.
In 2005, Notre Dame, ranked eight in the BCS standings and with a questionable 9-2 record (the records of their opponents were far below .500), was picked over Oregon, ranked seven and sporting a 10-1 record, to appear in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ohio State Buckeyes pummeled the Fighting Irish 34-20.
And way back in 2001, the Ducks were ranked at number two in both the AP Coaches Poll and the ESPN/USA Today polls, but were surpassed in the BCS standings by Oklahoma, shutting them out of the national championship game.
Now, we could go into a detailed, well-worded and well-researched article about the failings and flaws of the BCS system. But that'd be a lot to explain and would probably add little to the plethora of BCS critiques already floating around. And there's something about the energy in Eugene that you don't want to dampen--the kind of energy that surrounds a great program from a small town in a very un-football state that's just been thrust again onto the national stage.
But Oregon fans should be nervous, to say the least.