Let me begin by talking a little bit about the pride I feel for Oregon's football team achieving the #1 ranking this week in both the coaches poll and the AP poll. This is a very big deal for the state of Oregon and its fans.
I've been following sports at the University of Oregon closely since the early 1990s. The university is well known for its track teams, which are perennially ranked among the country's best. They have a pretty rich tradition in basketball (their "tall Firs" team won the first ever NCAA national championship), and there are loads of Ducks in the NBA. We made the Elite Eight in hoops twice in the last decade.
But when it comes to football, Oregon has had a pretty rough go of it through the years. In the late 1980s, the Ducks began to be more competitive. The early '90s saw that trend continue. Then, in 1995, behind the strength of its "Gang Green" defense, the Ducks made the Rose Bowl. While they didn't win, it was a major achievement for Oregon to win the PAC-10. Since that time, we've been ranked as high as #2 (2002) and have become nationally relevant year in and year out.
Autzen Stadium is one of the loudest places to play, with 60,000 passionate, knowledgeable fans that pack the place ever Saturday. The facilities are amongst the best in the nation, thanks to our generous alumni, including Nike CEO and former U of O track athlete Phil Knight.
We owe a lot of this success to coaches like Casanova, Brooks and Belotti, but Chip Kelly has really taken this team to new heights. Even though we lost the Rose Bowl last year to Ohio State, I'm extremely proud of how those young men won the PAC-10. In this year of parity, the Ducks were fortunate to see Wisconsin knock off those same damned Buckeyes.
We're only at the midpoint of the season, though, and there is a heck of a lot still to do. The bullseye is clearly on our backs, and we've got tough games against Arizona and USC ahead. It all starts this week, with a Thursday night game at home against UCLA. I encourage you to watch; if you haven't seen Oregon play, it will be worth your time.
Coach Kelly has more depth in his program than in any previous era in Oregon football. This team deals in speed, and our players are young, fast and hungry. There is talent on both sides of the ball, and we haven't had to burn any redshirts. To be honest, we can be scary good in 2011--the team is great right now, of course, but the best is yet to come.
Also, I'm really enjoying The Living Dead 2. This anthology of original stories features an excellent assortment of both familiar and up-and-coming writers, and it focuses more closely on emotion and pathos than on gore or shock value. Full review when I finish it up...