Saying goodbye to the Bowl Championship Series era of college football means saying hello to the reasons Oregon played Texas in the Alamo Bowl on 12/30/13.
The troubling question is how did the 10-2 Ducks, #2 in the PAC-12, end up playing the 8-4 Texas Longhorns who finished #3 in the Big 12?
If you answer, "Arizona," you're not digging hard enough.
Oregon's year ended with a #10 ranking in the BCS. Texas? Not in the top 25. How did a team so far off the BCS radar end up with Oregon for a Texas in-state bowl game?
Somehow #11 Oklahoma jumped up, way up, and played #3 Alabama. They rolled the Tide all the way back to Tuscaloosa in the Sugar Bowl. Talk about league 'tie-ins' all you want, but a lower ranking team shouldn't jump eight places based on tradition. Or how well their fans travel.
Would the Oregon team that showed up against Texas beat Oklahoma or Alabama? Sooner Coach Bob Stoops gave the right answer with, "We didn't think they could stand up to a tempo team."
That's Chip Kelly talk for speed and stealth versus size. Both teams finished with two losses. Give the nod to the Ducks at their best.
#12 Clemson got #7 Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and sent the Buckeyes back to Columbus. Each team finished with two losses. This homer puts Oregon over both.
#13 Oklahoma State played #8 Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys dropped to 10-3 while the new Tigers in the SEC finished with two losses.
#14 Arizona State fell to unranked Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. While it doesn't look good for strength of schedule in the PAC-12, at least Arizona took care of Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In the worst case BCS scenario, #15 University of Central Florida jumped nine slots to beat #6 Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
On the upside, #9 South Carolina took #19 Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl.
Another blow to PAC-12 strength of schedule came with #5 Stanford's loss to #4 Michigan State, but at least the 100th version of the Rose Bowl got the right teams. No ranking jumps with those two schools.
As the bowl season progressed, Oregon's win over Texas felt like last year's news. Why? Because it was last year's news. The ugly part was watching teams in bigger bowls knowing Oregon would have been better competition for either.
The Ducks came home with $3.1 million for their outing against the Longhorns. It isn't about the money, but each team in a BCS game came away with $18 million. The final game paid $22 million to each.
If it's not about the money, then it must be about the final ranking. Florida State and Auburn went into their game as #1 and #2. They came out the same. Most everyone else got shuffled.
The good news is Oregon finished in the top ten. Both the AP and Coaches Poll list them at #9, the best team in the PAC-12.
The better news? Oregon players, the guys who decided to stay and play instead of declaring themselves for the NFL draft, now have a better idea how fast glory fades.
When you play in an also-ran bowl surrounded by .500 teams and mid-major powerhouses, fewer high school players notice the uniforms, fewer writers waste key strokes, and you become a regional interest instead of a national story.
2013 showed why Win The Day still rules. It's not all about the national championship if you don't get there. It's about the next game on any given Saturday. Then the next Saturday. If you have a let down, hope it happens during the week in practice.
How many Duck football fans noticed the rise and fall, then rise again of Auburn? They win it all three years ago, then play in the same game this year. Did anyone cheer for War Eagle/Tiger? Was anyone else feeling humbled by a freshman quarterback on Florida State who won the Heisman, then the biggest of big games on his birthday?
Sports fans across the country notice the games along with the dirt and controversy surrounding the leagues, teams, and players. Special interest fans tune into the minor bowl games.
The lesson to learn is staying up when the bright lights shine, in keeping your teammates up. It's more than showing up and looking good.
By beating the faded rose of Texas football, let's hope the Ducks understand the difference between playing in San Antonio and playing in Pasadena.
A final note: Every team in the nation celebrates a two loss season after a bowl win. Every team outside the final Top Ten rankings wants to crack that nut.
Next year's playoffs without the BCS tie-ins will bring college football into better focus.
The Oregon Ducks are so close. They just feel far away.