Monday, May 21, 2012
Most important game: Oregon
By ESPN.com staff
Every game counts. But some games count more. Or tell us more.
We're going through the Pac-12 and picking out one game that seems most important -- or potentially most revealing -- for each team from our vantage point today.
We're going in alphabetical order.
Most important game: Nov. 10 at California (Not really, but work with me)
Why it's important: First, off, yes, we all know Oregon's most important game is at USC on Nov. 3. The hype for that one will be relentless, starting even in August. The odds seem extremely high that the Ducks will go to LA with an 8-0 record and a top-five rankings. Odds are good USC will be 8-0 and ranked in the top-five, too, perhaps even No. 1, though the Trojans schedule before that is notably more taxing than Oregon's. The winner very well could rise to No. 1 as we hit the season's home stretch. At worst, I'd bet the team that walks away from the Coliseum at 9-0 is ranked no worse than No. 2. So that game is monumental. Heck, it could even be a No. 1 vs. 2 showdown, which would be great fun.
But is there anyone reading this that isn't already aware of all that? If so, the Pac-12 blog will now start crying because it has failed you. Waaaaa!
I'm OK. Sniffle.
So, let's do this: Where is Oregon's second most important game? Figuring that out requires a couple of things. First, it has to be on the road, which eliminates Washington and Stanford. The Ducks have lost just six games under Chip Kelly, and only one was in Autzen Stadium. Second, it has to be a team that has given the Ducks some trouble and has the potential to do that again. For extra credit, it would help if this road game against a team that gives the Ducks some trouble could be played immediately after the Ducks game at USC.
Well, lookie here: At California on Nov. 10.
Oregon has lost three of its last four games in Berkeley. It's lone victory -- a 15-13 thriller in 2010 -- was the lone nailbiter in the Ducks unbeaten regular season. Cal also has the size and athleticism on defense to give the Ducks offense some trouble.
And, of course, there's that beloved sportswriter construct: "The Letdown Game." That's when a team wins a huge, emotional showdown only to show up flat the following weekend and faceplant. What I really cherish about that cliché is the thought of bringing it up to Kelly in advance of the game. He loves stuff like that.