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The Oregon Ducks have style, but can they get substance?


**In part four of the five-part series "Show and Prove" on ETSF, it is officially time to put the Oregon Ducks on the clock. Be sure to check out the previous posts by Ken and special guest Mark Trible as well.**

Do you remember the time when the "new girl" moved to your town and enrolled at your school? I do. I remember her name was Aimee, this fine Puerto Rican woman had come to Lawton to do a two-year stint with the Army in Oklahoma. I remember thinking she was a mysterious type, didn't say much at first. I remember thinking her style was different and that she came from the west coast. Once I got to know her though, I realized that she was awesome, had a different way of looking at things, and was the first woman I can remember wearing lip gloss all the time. Your boy Ed was hooked.

The Oregon Ducks remind me a ton of Aimee. Since 1996, they've done things their way, and for good reason. Before 1996, the Oregon Ducks quite possibly could've been the worst BCS conference college football program ever. They had no program to speak of. Then, the big homie Phil Knight decided to step in.

"How can we make teenagers who are good at football want to come to the University of Oregon?" - Phil Knight

Well, Mr. Knight figured that out and, fifteen years later, the Oregon Ducks are attempting to become the nWo of college football. They have their create-a-team uniforms, they have their seven seconds or less offense that they run, and they have all of the amenities an athlete, a fanbase, and a media world who all want to be a part of what's going on in Eugene. Yes....Eugene, Oregon.

They've had the all-world players like Dennis Dixon, Jonathan Stewart, Haloti Ngata, and even the now discarded quarterbacks who were once Heisman contenders in Akili Smith and Joey Harrington. They've had the visionary coaching of Mike Belotti and Chip Kelly lead as commanding officers of an assembled unit whose only motive is to attack, be it the flanks in the passing attack, be it the blitz with linebackers who run a 4.4 in the 40, or a cerebral option-read running attack that now features superstars like LaMichael James and Darron Thomas (both of whom are from the state of...Texas.) For all of the style, the flash, the pizazz, and the flair that Oregon's had since '96, there's one thing they don't have that all of the traditional powers do.

Substance.

It's the reason why Kenny refuses to believe in the Oregon Ducks. It's the reason why we still never want to speak highly of Oregon, year in and year out. It's the reason why Nike puts that team in highlighter yellow, graphite gray, and patent leather gloves. It's the reason why the boosters feel the need to put up billboards in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even New York to cry out to the heavens how good this Oregon Ducks football program really is. Because until you've won the biggest prize, that national championship...nothing else really matters.

The Oregon Ducks have to win a national championship, or all of the grandiose spending on facilities, uniforms, shoes, will never be worth it. All of the crazy trick plays, the unconventional defenses, and the funny play-calling signs will be worthless. The Oregon Ducks will be an afterthoughts in our minds as old men, and we'll probably mock them to some degree. Is it harsh? Yes, but its the reality of leaving a legacy in the minds of sports fans.

Think about how revered a program like BYU is. A private university located in Provo, Utah that's owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, came into power under the vision of LaVell Edwards with his trend-setting west coast offense. BYU slanged the pigskin around the field and started winning games, yet none of it mattered until they beat the Michigan Wolverines in the Holiday Bowl and brought home a national title. BYU is validated to this day because of it, and Oregon is still searching (paying) for it.

Oregon brought back virtually everyone on their offensive unit, and their defense brings back major cogs for the 2011 campaign. Yes, there are some lingering issues with improprieties and the football program, but this is damn near the same team that took the Auburn Tigers and Cam Newton down in the national championship. Cam got beat up in that game, and if Michael Dyer doesn't hover plane over a defender and break a 55-yard run to setup the game-winning field goal, then maybe I don't write this article about Oregon in the first place.

I figured out how to get to Aimee. My persistence and an ability to make women smile will do that for a young man (okay, she took pity on me but that's besides the point.) Oregon's persistence is what matters most now. They must leave an indelible mark on college football or else be considered an afterthought...

...now if you could just send me one of those jerseys please? Thanks.

-Ed.
www.edthesportsfan.com

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