By SPENCER McLAUGHLIN
Contributor, 750 The Game
Bo Nix. Bucky Irving. Brandon Dorlus. All have 3 things in common: they play for Oregon, they’ll play in the NFL, and they’ll all be on the field Monday morning against Liberty in the Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon is the rarity in that sense, not the norm, as bowl opt outs continue to percolate throughout the sport as many question the purpose of bowl season. I love bowl season, I always have, and I always will. Not every team is capable of nor desiring to define success by reaching the College Football Playoff. That’s what has always made college football different from every other sport which is ALL about the postseason.
College football is, or at least was, about more than just a championship. It was about regional matchups with history often dating back to before World War II. It was about winning your conference first and foremost and understanding that without that threshold, playing for a championship of national caliber was out of the cards. That’s going away in the 12-team playoff next year and it makes my blood boil.
College football was never special because of its postseason, that just made it unique. It was special because it was about playing, watching, and enjoying a game that we all love in support of our favorite schools.
Now it’s mostly about money. For the players, the coaches, and now the TV executives who have helped destroy the foundation of this sport we hold dear.
I still love college football. I always will. But it won’t feel the same as it did. When I was growing up as an Oregon fan in Lake Oswego, I remember having a watch party for the Ducks’ Holiday Bowl matchup with Oklahoma State. It was a top 20 matchup, and it was an awesome football game. Jeremiah Masoli showed Oregon fans what was possible with him at quarterback in a new concept known as “the spread offense”. That Holiday Bowl win helped set the stage for Oregon’s preseason expectations in 2009, which culminated in a Pac-10 Championship and Rose Bowl game appearance vs Ohio State.
Fast forward to 2023 and it’s a surprise that Oregon’s starting quarterback, running back, and standout defensive lineman are all choosing to play the last game of the season.
I host a daily podcast about the Ducks and have talked some about the matchup with Liberty, but fans are far more concerned about who the starters will be in 2024 than winning a 12th game this season. A feat, mind you, that has only been accomplished 5 times in the history of Oregon Football. Though he obviously wanted to beat Washington, I would be shocked if doing that in year 2 didn’t mean something to Dan Lanning.
I understand players like Troy Franklin, Jackson Powers-Johnson, and Khyree Jackson opting out to prepare for the draft. The logic is very clear. I just find it unfortunate that a sport rooted in its ability to distinguish itself from the rest of the sports we enjoy is slowly but surely migrating to look like the rest.
To say I find it refreshing that I get one more chance to watch Bo Nix, Bucky Irving, and Brandon Dorlus play for the Ducks is putting it correctly. I’ve loved watching all of those guys and I think they all have futures in the NFL at some level.
Every year, there are usually 13 chances to watch the Oregon Ducks play football. There’s plenty to watch in the game as it pertains to 2024, but I’ll mostly be watching because I like college football and I like the Ducks.
Preview of who to watch for in those Oregon throwback uniforms (which are making a triumphant return) on Monday.
Spencer McLaughlin is an Oregon Ducks football contributor to 750 The Game. He also hosts the “Locked On Oregon Ducks” and “Locked On Pac-12” podcasts and has work featured throughout the season here.