It's Ducky vs. Bucky in the Rose Bowl.
This is the first in a four part series with SBNation's Oregon blog, Addicted To Quack. Each week leading up to the Rose Bowl, David Piper, who contributes to ATQ, will answer five questions for us and I'll answer five questions for them. This week, we'll get a general introduction to the Oregon football program. Next week, we'll take a look at the head coaches. In the final two weeks, we'll get into a deeper breakdown of the game by looking at what to watch for when each team has the ball.
My answers to ATQ's questions can be found here.
B5Q: What do Badger fans need to know about the Oregon fan base? Do Ducks fans traditionally travel well? Last year Wisconsin accounted for about 2/3 of the Rose Bowl, but in fairness, TCU is a much smaller school with a smaller fan base. How many Oregon fans do you expect to see in Pasadena?
ATQ: The Pac-12 gets a bad rap as far as fan support and some of that is well deserved. Watch a typical UCLA/Stanford/Arizona State game on TV and you see a half empty stadium. Most of this conference is in big cities where if a team isn’t doing well, attention is focused elsewhere. Oregon isn’t like that. It's as if someone plopped an SEC school in the middle of Pac-12 country. Every Duck game has been sold out for well over a decade, in good seasons and bad, and away games always have a very large Duck presence (the joke goes that Oregon games in the Bay Area have more Duck fans than fans of the home team). The Ducks have always had a very large contingent at bowl games, and Oregon sold out their Rose Bowl allotment in minutes. There will be no overwhelming Wisconsin majority at the Rose Bowl this year.
B5Q: This is the third straight BCS game for Oregon, but the Ducks have lost the last two (Rose Bowl and BCS National Championship Game). Is there any building pressure on Chip Kelly to win this game? Are the fans frustrated at all by the results of the last two years?
ATQ: Of course fans are frustrated. After all, Oregon hasn’t won a Rose Bowl in 95 years. That said, most fans are realistic about the situation as well. Oregon played both Ohio State and Auburn very close in those last two BCS games, and did so despite having an overwhelming talent disparity. It's only the last couple of years that Oregon has had elite recruiting classes. In fact, most of the starters on the team that made the national championship game last season were two and three star guys, and the Ducks are just now getting big time recruits on the lines. There are a few fans out there questioning whether Chip Kelly’s system is set up to win the big one, but I think its just a matter of getting better linemen. There isn’t any heat on Kelly, though. After all, only a few years ago, we were losing to Oregon State and Washington State every other year.
B5Q: Give us a quick overview of Oregon's season. What were the preseason expectations for this team and did the Ducks live up to them? How did you guys beat Stanford and what happened in the two losses?
ATQ: I think most people were expecting somewhat of a rebuilding season with probably 2-3 losses, so everybody is pretty pleased with another Pac-12 title. This team lost significant players at O-Line, WR, and all over the defense, and a lot of new players really filled in well. Oregon beat Stanford because Stanford is really, really slow defensively and couldn’t keep up with the Ducks’ skill position players and Oregon lost to LSU because LSU is really, really good and the Ducks played a ton of freshmen in that game. The USC game was much more puzzling. It was almost as if Oregon didn’t show up for 2 ½ quarters, but was still able to mount a furious comeback and almost pull the game out. It's been a great season and a win in the Rose Bowl would be a nice capper.
B5Q: In Wisconsin, Badger football is huge, but the Green Bay Packers are obviously the biggest thing going. The Badgers don't have to compete with a rival in-state school, however. Tell us a little bit about the state of Oregon. Are the Ducks the biggest thing going and where does Oregon State fit in?
ATQ: There are a couple of interesting sports dynamics over here. Oregon State is clearly little brother. They aren’t successful on a national level, don’t sell out their games, and have much less capital running through their program. They maintain a big following with their alumni (and probably more in-state kids go to OSU than Oregon, as 45% of UO students are out of state), but the vast majority of football fans in the state who are not OSU alumni tend to be Oregon fans. I would say the split is 60-40 or greater. With its success the last few seasons, Oregon seems to be getting a growing share of the local attention in what is increasingly becoming a big college football state. That said, the most popular team in the state is probably the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, who don’t have to split the state’s fan base and were successful when both the Ducks and Beavers were doormats of the Pac-10.
B5Q: Where does Oregon get most of its talent from? You don't exactly hear about the Northwest being a hotbed for high school football, so do most of the players from California? Which programs are you guys competing with the most for recruits?
ATQ: The northwest isn’t a hotbed for high school football, though it's getting better. In a typical recruiting season, Oregon will give scholarships to 1-2 athletes from Oregon (there was a recent article which stated that UO gives the lowest percentage of scholarship to in-state players of any school in the country). Traditionally, most of our recruits come from the Bay Area and Southern California, as there are a lot of players there. However, the last couple of seasons have seen Oregon become a big player nationally, going all around the country and picking guys that fit the system, while also becoming an increasingly larger player in Texas. For example, the current class has five players from California, three from Oregon, three from Texas, and one each from Ohio, Colorado, Montana, and Arizona Last season, we got two guys from Iowa. California will always be the bread and butter, but the Ducks will branch out and get the guys they want.
Next week we'll take look at head coaches Chip Kelly and Bret Bielema, two guys who took over programs from their long-time successors and took them to new heights.