I like what Oregon stands for more than I actually like the team itself, but their stamp on the culture of college football, not to mention their sustained success over the past decade, is, to me, significant enough to place the Ducks on top of the Pac-12 mountain.
Oregon’s brand of football is maybe the most viscerally appealing in the sport. If you were trying to convert someone to college football and could only show them one game, one of Oregon’s routine 50+ point showings might be a good choice. Unlike the leaden shoes that much of the SEC can tend to play with, Oregon, much like the Grecian namesake of its corporate benefactor, plays the game on wings, emphasizing speed and space. If you prefer to ignore my overwrought analogies, here, watch De’Anthony Thomas do some crazy shit. Related, and this is a love/hate proposition for most people, but I personally love the Oregon jersey swagger. There are definitely some uni combinations that work better than others for the Ducks but their attitude toward experimentation is a refreshing change of pace from, say, a Notre Dame fan base that can fethisize tradition at times.
Both strategically and sartorially, the Oregon Ducks have drawn the ire of football traditionalists who seem to think their style of play isn’t “normal American football.” Making normative statements on football is a futile exercise, because honestly, the game hasn’t stayed static enough throughout its history to even refer to a normal period. Other detractors cite injury concerns that come from playing an up-tempo spread. If anything, the spread, which privileges lighter, faster athletes and 1-on-1 matchups, seems to be a preferable alternative to the “battering ram” philosophies of offense that contributed to the concussion crisis that currently threatens the future of football. Regardless of whether the spread is actually better than “three yards and a cloud of dust” from an injury standpoint, a lack of hard data to substantiate either point means that the injury scare of the up-tempo offense is just another manifestation of a reactive conservatism that sprung up with the rise of Oregon and its spread brethren.
Oregon is definitely a team with issues to work out. As innovative as the team has been, it still falls prey to the same recruiting scandals that plague the traditional powers. How well its offense performs against dominant defensive teams is an open question; recall Oregon’s performance against Matt’s Pac 12 frenemy Stanford last year to see how hyperspeed matches up against good ol’ fashioned toughness. But in the often stagnant world of college football, Oregon continues to play with a mad scientist irreverence that challenges the way we think about the game and keeps us on our seats wondering what’s coming next.