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Getting to know Oregon: A Q&A With Their Pac-12 Foes (Part 1)

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In Part 1, the Beavers, Utes, Huskies and Buffaloes all get their opinions about the Ducks off their chest.

Jennifer Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

TCU is playing an unfamiliar opponent in the Valero Alamo Bowl, as the Frogs and Oregon haven't met on the gridiron since 1978 (a TCU win, mind you). We'll be in conversation with Addicted to Quack as we get a little closer to the game, but what better way to get to know someone by asking people that know them on an intimate level?

Similar to what we did with Big 10 blogs last season in preparation for Minnesota, I reached out to pretty much every Pac-12 blog to get some inside info on the Ducks. Turns out, they're all pretty great blogs! I got so many responses that I had to split this into two posts, with part two running next week.

Here's how Oregon State, Utah, Washington, and Colorado feel about the Oregon Ducks.

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Building The Dam - For Oregon State Beavers fans

A special thanks to AndyPanda and RVM for answering our questions.

1. The Civil War is obviously a major rivalry, being the 5th most-played game in college football history. Tell me a bit about the rivalry, and how Oregon State fans feel about the Ducks.

Andy: The rivalry seems to keep resurrecting itself, like it did this year, in an era where the wider distribution of where players come from tends to diminish the impact of history on the players. I don’t ever see it not mattering, because of the close proximity of the campuses, and the overlap of the fan bases.

As far as the fans go, its all over the place. Some Oregon State fans just hate anything Oregon, and vice-versa, but I think that’s starting to fade into history. But there are also fans on both sides that openly cheer for the other guy whenever playing someone else.

Lots of Beaver fans are getting tired of the Duck winning streak that’s reached 8 in a row, but there are also OSU folks who remember a time when the Beavers similarly dominated, so what goes around comes around. Most fans on both sides do seem to think its better when both teams are good.

There are a fair number of us who don’t like losing to the Ducks as much or more than any team, but also respect what they have accomplished. And it means something for anyone who beats Oregon because they are good.

RVM: Yes this is one long-standing deal and lots of different views of it all.  Have to come clean I am not quite in the camp of "mutual respect," but also not quite in the camp of "if we could just beat one team every year it would be Oregon."   It is a pretty big deal overall though.  There is a closeness of distance between Corvallis and Eugene, and there are a good number of fans in both enemy territories, especially I would say Oregon State fans and alumni in the Eugene area (maybe I just don't want to feel too alone???).

I know it is a bit horribly clichéd but there is a harshness to this rivalry where you have the big bad huge money sink, ah I mean the boy toys for the big donor, ah I mean the well resourced and well supported UO versus the scrapping and under-resourced OSU.  I think maybe, and this is ironic I know, over the last few years some of the edge of this rivalry actually has gone down due to a change in both fan bases.  Plus the recent dominance of the evil...well the University of Oregon has dampened some of the outwardly spite of the Orange and Black fans.

Andy?  When was this Beavers dominance?  I am pretty close to the same generation as you, I do not remember this.  Maybe the 1960s?  What I personally more remember is we had a period where both teams stunk at the same time and maybe we had some "winning" streaks there but I don't know about dominance? Can one dominant the bottom of the standings?  I have just really shut those games out of my memory to be honest.

Okay serious for a moment, well more serious for the non-invested football fan in this rivalry!  I do agree with Andy and we specifically had some "golden" years with this Civil Ear rivalry, and in my opinion this was in the 2000s.  Both teams were pretty good overall and the series went back and forth. There was something like eight to ten years I think where the games went back-and-forth.  Even when one team dominated in one year the next year the other team would get revenge.  There was a good edge to it all, and some of the nastiness was there but there was still a threshold to it all where it was also friendly.   Well as "friendly" as these things can get you know!

Lastly some of Beaver Nation's best game memories have come in Civil War games, such as Ken Simonton's 1998 Civil War 2OT winning run, or James Rodgers' eerily similar game winner in the 2007 version, and my personal favorite when both teams were ranked in the top 10 and seeing the 2000 OSU defense totally befuddle UO's Joey Harrington.

2. This year's game between the Beavers and Ducks affirmed the timeless notion that records go out the window for a rivalry game. Where did the Beavers find success against Oregon, and where did they struggle (and why)?

Andy: It’s no secret that the Duck defense has had its struggles at times this year, but Oregon State was able to run against them, whereas a lot of people who had success did so by picking on, and picking apart, their secondary.

In any event, the key to attacking the Oregon defense is always to do just that; attack them. They are always less effective when they are forced to play laterally and backpedal, rather than attacking you.

The Beavers struggled to contain the Oregon offense though. But while their speed is always an issue, and Vernon Adams is tremendous at creating something out of chaos, the real difference was the blocking on the edge and in open space by their wideouts. Time and again, a play was not going to amount to much, if not flat out blown up, but for a great seal block by a Duck WR that made the play. The Oregon WRs as a group did the best job at this of any team I saw all season; its an under-appreciated aspect of what they do.

A special teams kick return touchdown also helped.

RVM: Yes, I agree with this overall.  I wonder a bit too if FINALLY the new schemes the new coaching staff brought in actually caught a team by surprise here too. Plus there was a pretty impressive halftime adjustment and second half leave it all on the field effort.   So maybe a bit there too of being up 31 to 7 the UO let off the gas too much and this time (unlike say when we played Washington State) it was enough of a good mix of letting off by Oregon and stepping full throttle by Oregon State.

3. What's the general conference opinion on Oregon?

Andy: A lot of people have been on the bad end of some serious beat downs in recent years, and that’s never a popular thing. Plus, Oregon has a well earned bad reputation that was mostly the work of their band-wagon fans, though that seems to have settled down a bit.

The blue-bloods don’t see them as worthy, the Huskies (mostly more recent fans) forget the days when they routinely beat up on the Ducks (and everyone else), and started a lot of the bad blood between them, and all the less affluent programs say they resent the $s and the glitz, though they all are doing the same thing, they just don't have as many $s to spend.

Everyone has a few stories about some experience with either the fans or the administration down there; the results of their success is some of them have developed a rather lofty opinion of their position in the world relative to the rest of us.

But once you get past the noise, at least those that know something about football (this leaves out lots of the fans and the media) also recognize and respect what they can do tactically.

RVM: That is all so nicely stated Andy.  I have nothing to add.  I have myself probably in too much trouble with my jabs above!

4. What advice do you have for TCU fans as they prepare to encounter Duck fans in San Antonio?

Andy: I don’t think it will be a problem, because a lot of the band-wagon fans won’t be there, especially since Oregon was there 2 years ago. It will be more the core of fans, which as with most programs, are usually the better fans.

The Ducks travel well, so there will be quite a bit of Green and "O" around, but its in Texas. Every time we send a northwest team down there to take on a Texas team (and this is the 4th time in the last 5 years that’s been the case), the locals out-number us 10-1. Them odds keep things in check pretty well!

RVM: Same story as with any fan base, you will have jerks and idiots but also a really good group of people too.  I think you may on the negative side encounter a bit more of the latte drinking uppity crowd that want to drill a stir-stick into your neck, but otherwise I think for a traveling group you will be encountering you will get much more of the smart, fun, and classy group of fans.  Anyways just beat the UO!  Ah, I mean have fun and enjoy what should be a good game.  Nah, not really, beat them or you will feel our current long-standing pain of the agony of defeat to the 'quack'!

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Block U - A Utah Utes Community

A special thanks to Shane Roberts for answering our questions.

1. The Utes absolutely blasted Oregon this year, running the Ducks out of their own building. Obviously people can point to Vernon Adams Jr. leaving in the first half because he couldn't overcome a broken finger as part of the reason for Oregon's loss, but that doesn't make the blowout any less impressive to me. What were some keys to Utah coming away with such an impressive win?

Shane: A couple of things, first the Utes were very, very disciplined. Oregon is one of the best running teams in the country, and they use a lot of window dressing to disguise that. They're kind of like a flashier version of Air Force. They will get a couple 4 or 5 yard runs with Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin, and then pop a big one on you after you start to lose discipline on man/gap contain. Then when they have you scrambling that way, they’ll hit you over the top. The Utes were exceptional in keeping their assignments on lock. Offensively, you can’t slow down… ever, and that’s exactly what the Utes did. Kyle Whittingham threw the kitchen sink at the Ducks. Even when the Utes were up 4 touchdowns, Whittingham was throwing trick plays out there, because as explosive as Oregon is, they’re never out of a game.

2. What's the general conference opinion on Oregon?

Shane: Honestly, since Chip Kelly left, and now Marcus Mariota, there’s not the fear factor with the Ducks like there used to be. They are still one of the flag bearers for the conference, but they are vulnerable and teams are capitalizing on it. The team is a bit sloppier, and not as lethal under Mark Helfrich, which is too bad because he’s a great dude - maybe too nice. Also, many teams, probably outside of USC, just can’t compete with Oregon financially. It’s understood that they’re Nike U and that they are going to buy a lot of wins, just based on facilities, uniforms, etc. With that said, many fans in the conference feel like Oregon is the spoiled brat of the conference. Their fans aren’t well liked, but we’ll get to more of that in a second.

3. Most TCU fans think it's really cool to see a former MWC rival find success in a Power 5 conference. What's helped Utah "catch up" quickly, and do Utes fans feel the same way about TCU (Also, how about a Home & Home in the future)?

Shane: We love TCU, and miss the matchup greatly. It was a fun rivalry, and always very respectful. I’d love to have a home-and-home with TCU… more so than another in-state school. With us finally getting our footing in the conference, it’s been about health (until the latter part of the season), and having the Pac-12 recruits start to become upper class-men, developing good depth. Utah’s first team guys were never the problem, it was the twos and threes. Utah had a lot of injuries to those guys early in the Pac-12, and now they can sustain injuries like that much better.

4. What advice do you have for TCU fans as they prepare to encounter Duck fans in San Antonio?

Shane: As with many fan bases, you’ll have the bad fans and the good fans. A lot of Duck fans are… well… bandwagon fans. They are a younger fan base, by-and-large, because Oregon hasn’t been that good historically, except for the last 15-20 years.When they’ve come to Rice-Eccles, they weren’t very knowledgeable and are all about the Oregon brand. It’s cool to be an Oregon fan. There are some great Oregon fans, don’t get me wrong, but the majority I’ve encountered just love to wear the flashy jerseys and probably can’t name most of their roster. I’m not sure how many of those fans will make it to the bowl game, so hopefully you get a bigger contingent of the blue blood Oregon fans that are more humble, and much easier to tolerate.

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UW Dawg Pound - A Washington Huskies Community

A special thanks to Kirk DeGrasse for answering our questions.

1. During my brief interactions with Oregon fans, I'm learning that Washington is arguably the Ducks' biggest rival. Do Huskies feel the same way? Tell me a bit more about the rivalry.

Kirk: Oregon didn't use to be much of a rival for Husky fans.  They were just a mediocre (at best) program that Washington routinely beat.  That never sat well with Duck fans who envied the greater success the Huskies always enjoyed and got real tired of hearing about it from the Washington fans that would make the trek down to Eugene.  Old Duck fans also harbored a serious grudge from back in the day - apparently back in 1948 both Oregon and Cal tied for the PCC conference title at 9-1, and with the teams not having played each other that year, and it was up to the conference presidents to vote on which team would participate in the 1949 Rose Bowl.  Even though the ballots were secret, word got out that Washington had voted for Cal and lobbied other schools to do the same.

The rivalry didn't really commence for Husky fans until 1994.  That year the Huskies lost a heart-breaker down in Eugene when Husky QB Damon Huard was picked off near the Duck end zone late in the game as Washington was driving toward a potential comeback win touchdown - that pick was returned 97 yards by Kenny Wheaton for a pick-6 that sealed the win for Oregon and propelled the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl in 37 years.  More importantly for Oregon, it sparked the interest of Nike mogul Phil Knight who then opened up his pocketbook to push Oregon athletics from also-rans to having state of the art facilities in basically every sport.  It also sparked a run of success for Ducks football that has been remarkable to watch.  For the rest of the decade the games between Washington & Oregon were highly charged and highly competitive as Husky fans started to view the Ducks as real rivals.  From 1994 to 2003 it was a heck of a series, with Oregon winning 5 of the 9 games.  Then, forces that had been in motion for some time coalesced at Washington as the football program imploded and began a five-year streak of futility that far surpasses the next worst stretch in Washington history.

The Huskies began to climb out of that hole in 2009 with the arrival of Steve Sarkisian, but by that time the Ducks had reached their pinnacle with the ascension of Chip Kelly.  And no matter what Sark did, he couldn't come close to knocking off the Ducks.  So here we are in 2015, and Washington hasn't beaten the Ducks since 2003, an ugly, infuriating streak of 12 games.  A whole generation of young Duck fans have no memory of Washington beating Oregon, and Oregon fans have increasingly become what they used to hate about Washington fans - arrogant and dismissive of their PNW rivals.

2. Washington dropped a close, relatively low-scoring game against the Ducks back in October, as Vernon Adams Jr. returned after missing two games due to injury. Adams was held relatively in check, gaining less than 300 total yards and accounting for only two touchdowns. What did the Huskies D do to slow down Adams and Oregon's potent offense?

Kirk: In retrospect I can see where it would look like Vernon Adams was held in check in that game - given what he did to the rest of the Pac-12 after his return from a hand injury, his game against the Huskies doesn't stand out nearly as much.  But make no mistake - he was the difference in that game.  Washington's defense was frequently able to collapse the pocket, but Adams had an uncanny knack of spinning out of pressure to buy time and find receivers open downfield (it didn't hurt that the Duck OL was getting away with quite a bit of holding).  Adams isn't the fastest runner - he's certainly not the athlete that Marcus Mariota is - but he's got that "it" factor to escape pressure, and he's at his best when a play breaks down and turns into a scramble drill.

Still, the Huskies did reasonably well most of the day keeping RB Royce Freeman in check and putting Oregon in longer 3rd down situations, and Adams wasn't always able to find open receivers.  Much of that can be attributed to a Husky defense that was tops in the conference and among the better such units in the country.  It's a deep defense that can rotate in a lot of players without a major drop-off in quality, and an athletic one with rangy linebackers with great speed and a talented secondary.  They aren't terribly risky on defense - they don't run much in the way of exotic blitzes, preferring to keep plays in front of them and rely on sure tackling in the open field and swarming to the ball.  Their personnel was often what is best described as a 2-4-5 look - two true interior linemen flanked by a pair of pass-rushing outside linebackers, two insider linebackers in underneath zone and five defensive backs running a mix of man and zone.  That gave them the athleticism and speed to match up reasonably well with Oregon's skill talent, though it put a premium on tackling against a stud back like Freeman.

3. What's the general conference opinion on Oregon?

Kirk: I may be biased, but I've seen multiple surveys from Pac-12 fans that rate Oregon fans as the most hated.  There's a definite sense that much of their fanbase are relatively new bandwagon-jumpers that have an outsized arrogance and inflated egos.  Older Duck fans that were around well before the Oregon renaissance began in 1994 are generally much more tolerable as they understand where the program used to be and don't take this current success for granted.

I'm sure if you asked USC fans, they'd also complain about how unfair it was that the Trojans got slammed by the NCAA in the Reggie Bush affair while the Ducks skated with a slap on the wrist for the Willie Lyles affair (Husky fans seethe about this too thinking back to the severe sanctions imposed in 1993 on Washington).

4. What advice do you have for TCU fans as they prepare to encounter Duck fans in San Antonio?

Kirk: 4. Be wary of younger Duck fans - there's a decent chance encounters with them will be unpleasant.  Older Duck fans are much more likely to be tolerable.  If any of them get too mouthy, point out to them how appropriate it is their logo looks like a big Zero, or the number of National Championships they have in football.  Or that the hand signal they make that they think is an 'O' is actually American Sign Language for a vagina.

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The Ralphie Report - A Colorado Buffaloes Community

A special thanks to Jack Barsch for answering our questions.

1. Oregon beat Colorado 41-24 this season, while Vernon Adams Jr. was sidelined with a finger injury, by pounding the ball on the ground to the tune of 361 rushing yards. What made Oregon's running game so successful?

Jack: They had better athletes and we did not. Simple as that. Royce Freeman and Taj Griffin had size and speed CU could not match, and once they figured that out, there was no stopping them. It didn’t matter what formation the Buffs were in, Oregon could line up and beat them in every individual matchup.

2. Really, the only poor quarter for the Buffs in this game was the third (at least from looking at the box score). What was Colorado able to do with success against the Ducks?

Jack: Well, it seems like their halftime speech was just Mark Helfrich yelling "RUN" for 30 minutes, because that’s what happened in the third. They made big play after big play and CU didn’t have the talent or the execution to counterpunch. In the third quarter, Oregon was able to do anything they wanted. Defensively, they got really good pressure without blitzing, often hurrying the quarterback with three or four rushers Their secondary is suspect, but that defensive line is legit.

3. What's the general conference opinion on Oregon?

Jack: I think all of them thought their fall from grace was overblown nationally, and that a good QB (Vernon Adams) would put them back where they belong. Very talented, coaching is suspect, but with the right general on the field magical things can happen.

4. What advice do you have for TCU fans as they prepare to encounter Duck fans in San Antonio?

Jack: Fan wise, we here at CU have never had a problem with Duckies. There are some perks to getting no respect within your conference, everyone pities you rather than tries to start fights. They will travel in droves, especially the t-shirt fans they have every (specifically in San Antonio). I don’t know, you’re Horned Frogs, right? Learn how to squirt blood out of your eye if they ever give you trouble.