By the end of the 2013 BCS National Championship game that pitted the Alabama Crimson Tide against the undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish, many Oregon Ducks fans were left to wonder, “what if?”
If you failed to catch any moment of the game last night, you didn’t miss much. Alabama pounced early and often on top of an over-matched and unimpressive Notre Dame team that looked like a team that had gotten lucky throughout their entire season en route to a perfect record. The end result was a complete blowout and BCS National Championship disgrace that resulted in the Crimson Tide claiming their second straight BCS National Championship by the score of 42-14.
Though the Irish were 10-point underdogs heading into this contest, nobody expected it to be this bad. In fact, things were getting so bad that the voices of Twitter and even some highly respected sports analysts were mockingly suggesting that the Oregon Ducks should be flown to Miami so they could take over for Notre Dame in the second half. Yes, it was that tough to watch.
After the embarrassment was over and the dust had settled (which mainly came from Notre Dame fans sprinting out of the stadium in the third quarter), Alabama stood in the No. 1 position for the second straight year while the Oregon Ducks, who took care of the Kansas State Wildcats in the 2013 Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl, finished the year at No. 2.
Oregon’s final ranking matched the highest final position on the AP and Coaches Poll the Ducks attained during the 2001 season when they just missed out on a National Championship appearance while soundly winning the Fiesta Bowl. Strange as it may sound, this season and Oregon’s 2001 season had some striking parallels, the most notable being that of the Ducks losing a thriller at home to the Stanford Cardinal to eliminate their chances of heading to the BCS National Championship.
Though it would be nice to go back in time and change the outcome of those games to give the Ducks a shot at yet another National Championship, being the No. 2 team at the end of the season isn’t half bad at all.
How they got there
The Ducks secured the No. 2 ranking at the end of the season by blazing past a plethora of their opponents with one of the fastest and one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Players like De’Anthony Thomas, Kenjon Barner, and Marcus Mariota fueled an Oregon offense that was virtually unstoppable at times. In fact, the only reason that these players did not have some of the best numbers in college football history is because they would jump out in front of their opponents so bad that their backups would have to relieve them in the third or fourth quarters.
And yet, despite all of the accolades the Oregon offense receives, Oregon’s defense was just as impressive this year. Led by Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, and Michael Clay, this Oregon defense turned out to be the best in years. Their physicality at the line and ability to match the speed and strength of just about any player in space was unbelievable. Though they did surrender a good amount of points in some games, most of those points either came against backup units or in garbage time.
A big win over the Kansas State Wildcats in the Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl had analysts proclaiming Oregon as the No. 2 team even before the National Championship took place; a game in which some analysts were so bold as to say the Ducks truly belonged in. And they would have, had they not lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Stanford Cardinal on the same day that Kansas State lost to Baylor.
While a No. 2 ranking at the end of the season is great and 2012 was surely one of the best in school history, many Oregon fans are still aching at the bit to get a shot at Alabama.
What if Oregon had played Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game?
After the fiasco that was Notre Dame last night, it is not too hard to imagine the Ducks being much more competitive than the drowsy Fighting Irish. With corners that could actually play and keep up with coverage, this game could have the potential to be very interesting.
The toughest part for the Ducks would be getting something going against the Alabama defensive line while keeping them out of the backfield long enough to get their speediest players out in space. Though Oregon has gotten bigger up front with the same amount of speed, they would still likely have a little trouble keeping Alabama’s front from disrupting at least a few important plays.
While Oregon’s offense would likely have a few problems with Alabama’s defense, for the most part, their players have what it takes to adjust to a system that is eerily similar to one that Stanford runs. With film on and experience from playing Stanford earlier in the season, the Ducks could very well adjust to the scheme of the Crimson Tide and put some points on the board, especially with De’Anthony Thomas and Kenojn Barner leading the way.
Oregon’s defense would also fair a lot better against the Crimson Tide than the Fighting Irish did for the same reason above: Stanford’s offense is a lot similar to Alabama’s offense.
Though there is some interchange between players that would not work, for the most part, the Ducks would be able to keep up with Alabama’s front just as they did against the Cardinal.
This is not to say that the Ducks would make this a 17-17 game, Alabama is still a great team that would present huge problems for any team that would go their way.
The one thing we do know, however, is that many are wishing the Ducks had been there in place of Notre Dame as they would have made this a much better game.