How Important Is The Rose Bowl For Oregon?

As Oregon heads to the Rose Bowl to face Wisconsin, we already are being bombarded with an avalanche of opinions about just how important it is for the Ducks to win. Some thoughts:

— Is it legitimate to suggest that if a team has a month to prepare for Oregon’s offense then it has a big advantage?

Of course it is. The Ducks have lost six games in Chip Kelly’s three years. Two of them were season-openers, and two of them were in bowl games. It’s silly to suggest there isn’t a connection. Part of the reason is that Oregon has played really good teams in those games, losing to Boise State and LSU in openers, and Ohio State and Auburn in bowls. Take away openers and bowls, and Chip Kelly is 32-2. In openers and bowls, he’s 1-4.

The one victory: 72-0 over New Mexico in the 2010 opener. So how about this: If a really good team has time to prepare for Oregon, it makes a difference.

— That brings up the most amazing fact about Kelly’s time with the Ducks: They haven’t suffered a bad loss. Every team the Ducks have lost to has been outstanding.

Over the course of three years, even the most successful program typically will suffer a letdown somewhere along the way and lose to a middle-of-the-road team. Even Pete Carroll’s USC teams lost a couple times to Oregon State and once to a 41-point-underdog Stanford team.

Not Oregon. The six teams that have beaten Kelly have combined for a record of 70-9 in the years they defeated the Ducks, and five of those losses were by Stanford in 2009, which was just starting to become a great football team. Starting with the week before they beat Oregon, the Cardinal have gone on a 27-4 run.

— Speaking of which, if Stanford beats Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl, it will be 24-2 over two years with both losses coming against the same team (Oregon). Has that ever happened before?

Oh, wait. Michigan went 30-2-1 from 1972-74, with both losses and the tie coming against Ohio State. Because of the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl-only rule at the time, the Wolverines didn’t even go to a bowl any of those years. Just thought I’d mention that.

— Montee Ball’s 38 touchdowns for Wisconsin get all the attention, and they landed him in New York for the Heisman ceremony, but here’s the more pertinent stat about the Badgers: Russell Wilson has thrown for 31 touchdowns with three interceptions. That’s scary.

Don’t know whether it will prove to be relevant, but Oregon’s last two bowl losses came against dynamic quarterbacks who can run (Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton). Wilson has rushed for 320 yards and five touchdowns, but in the Badgers’ three toughest games — losses to Michigan State and Ohio State and a nail-biting win over Michigan State — he was held to a total of 13 yards rushing. I’m guessing Nick Aliotti is aware of that.

— Strange-but-true fact: Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team to win back-to-back Rose Bowls, beating UCLA and Stanford after the 1998 and 1999 seasons.

— Does Oregon need to win to cement its place in the college football hierarchy?

Absolutely. Whether it’s fair or not, if the Ducks lose another BCS game, the national consensus when they go 12-0 or 11-1 next year will be, “Yeah, but who have they beaten? They can’t win the big ones against really good teams.”

So, yeah, there’s a lot at stake for Oregon’s program. And just think: We only have 26 more days of navel-gazing over this.

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