It ended up being a big tease.
At the beginning of Oregon's game with Tennessee at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, it appeared that Marcus Mariota was slightly off his game, misfiring on short throws, and failing to establish any rhythm.
Six minutes into the game, all the telltale signs for a major college football upset were present. Tennessee was up 7-0, dominating with a big, physical SEC offensive line. They stopped the Ducks in the red zone after a Vols turnover on the following possession.
After that stand, Oregon's perennial bad-luck kicker Alejandro Maldonado missed a field goal. The Ducks were playing sloppy football; they were committing penalties and Tennessee had a spark and a gleam on their sideline. Under the direction of first-year coach Butch Jones, the Vols believed.
That belief went quickly. Because by the time the second quarter got going, the score was 30-7, and the fans at Autzen Stadium had already turned their thoughts to another SEC team – Alabama.
Turns out, Mariota was immaculate, playing his best game of college football. He threw for over 400 yards in three quarters, making Tennessee's SEC defense look like a SWAC defense. Oregon was just messing with everyone.
The game finished 59-14. Oregon beat Virginia the week before by a score of 59-10, and Nichols State in week one 66-3. It's just too easy for this Ducks team.
The Volunteers weren't the best the vaunted conference down south has to offer, but they were an offering of that vaunted conference down south which has won eight straight national titles and runs college football.
Oregon needs to play the best of the best. For everyone's sake. Winning is fun, but these Ducks are scoring 60 points against everyone, from a cupcake like Nicholls to a story program like Tennessee. The Ducks are sweating more during practice than on Saturdays.
Ducks fans want Alabama? I bet the Ducks' players and coaches do too.
I think a huge part of the reason Chip Kelly leapt to the NFL this offseason was because of the challenge of the league. The Eagles lost on Sunday 33-30 to San Diego. Every week is a close game in the National Football League. It's easy to venture a guess that Kelly was bored with 59-14 every week in Eugene.
Can anyone beat Oregon this year? Will we ever find out? Do we know how good this Ducks team is, compared, say, to the 2010 team that ran the table in the regular season and came up just short in the National Championship game?
Everything is pointing towards a showdown with Alabama. It's the elephant in the room that was voiced in the second quarter of a marquee nationally televised game with a major SEC program. Oregon wants the Crimson Tide.
It does seem to be the inevitable conclusion to the 2013 college football season. 'Bama beat Texas A&M in College Station, Texas as Oregon was pounding Tennessee, and Nick Saban's team has a clear path towards a three-peat.
Oregon has to play Stanford, and yes, that should be a game between two undefeated teams. But Stanford struggled with Army on Saturday, and right now, I can't seem them hanging with Oregon for four quarters. Tennessee could only hang for four minutes.
There aren’t any doubts that Alabama can play Oregon over 60 minutes, and if they can’t, well then, we’ll just have to anoint the 2013 Ducks the greatest college football team ever.
Beat the best to be the best. If you’re Bobby Fischer, you can play chess against second graders for a while and rack up gaudy stats, but after a while, you’re going to want to meet your match.
The last few years, Oregon has been the Bobby Fischer of college football, minus the SEC. Now, as the Volunteers will attest, the Ducks have started to encroach on the SEC.
I’m sure Mariota, who’s play has the Heisman talk starting, wants to test his abilities in the fourth quarter of a game that wasn’t won by the time Oregon tapped the Win the Day sign on their way out of the tunnel. Alabama is the end all and be all, the unquestioned number one in college football. Are the Ducks that good? Only one way to find out.
Sorry, but right now, the Ducks are the most boring team in college football. They just pummel teams with astonishing ease. It doesn’t matter who they are playing. Chip Kelly talked about a faceless opponent, and only now am I understanding what that means – Tennessee or Nicholls State, the final score will be around 60-10.
The opponent that isn’t faceless is ‘Bama. They are on a mountain with a light shining on their national championships and general dominance over the last five years. They are the SEC giant Kelly never toppled. Oregon thinks they can beat them, and for good reason. The question is in Eugene, who doesn’t want Alabama?