Falling for the Big Ten: Hello, Michigan
The Ducks need some new friends. Here's what Michigan brings to the table.
The Ducks aren’t exactly on the market.
As the Oregon football program makes its way to the Big Ten, people will tell you they’re in a committed rivalry with the Washington Huskies. There’s 100-plus years of history on the side of the I-5 peers entering into a new conference together. Plus, while the Ducks have said goodbye to longtime conference-mates like Oregon State, Arizona State and Cal, they still get to pen new memories with USC and UCLA as they move across the country.
But if…IF…one of these teams slip — hypothetically, let’s say Washington’s coach departed for a bigger job and left his former school playing major catch-up while Dan Lanning continued to pad a top-5 class — well, if you’re an Oregon fan, we’re not going to tell anyone if you take a gander at the 12 OGish members of the Ten and start day dreaming about whiteouts at Beaver Stadium, top-10 matchups at the Horseshoe or an in-person look at those bizarro-world Oregon uniforms Maryland has cooked up.
Washington could very well remain as Oregons’ rival of the future, and maybe Dan Lanning and Jedd Fisch end up feeling the same way about each other that Mike Bellotti and Rick Neuheisel did. Maybe the last two years of one-score games has just been the prelude to something really fierce.
Or, maybe that was the high point.
In that case, The I-5 Corridor is here to help usher in a new era. Over the course of the offseason, we’re going to be introducing you to every team from the Big Ten, telling you stories about their history with Oregon and why you should be interested in their future games with the Ducks.
We think it’ll be fun. There’s certainly a lot of country to cover.
Better hit the ground running.
Did you think we were going to start with Rutgers?1 Michigan is one of the most successful programs in college sports (12 national titles, 1,004 total victories), with one of the largest alumni bases and so many damn members in the sports media business that I can tell you more about the Michigan Daily/State News football game than any traditions my own school newspaper had.
Michigan has three Heisman Trophy winners to Oregon’s one, its stadium can nearly fit two Autzen Stadium-sized crowds within its confines and the program seemingly has the ability to make a lot of people forget about a fairly-large sign-stealing scandal that broke during the year they won the national title.
This is a big dog.2
Outside of USC in the 2000s, the Ducks have never shared a conference with a program that commands this much attention. Heck, a lot of you might already own maize and blue after the doomsday the Wolverines prevented for Oregon fans at the national championship game.
Of course, next year Michigan will have a new coach. Jim Harbaugh is in charge of Justin Herbert and the Chargers now, leaving Broyles Awards finalist Sherrone Moore to lead a Michigan program into a challenging new era.
What challenge you may ask? A couple of years ago, that five-star kid from Idaho who is a tenth of a second faster that Tyreek Hill is probably ending up in Ann Arbor. But Oregon is a member of the Big Ten now, too. And Saturday, it was Oregon that Gatlin Bair chose over Michigan as his future home.
And while the Wolverines may be the national champs, that recruiting win is just part of a bit of a winning streak the Ducks are on against their new conference rival.
“The kids just didn’t falter”
The Ducks and Wolverines have played each other five times in their history. The first three saw UM outscore UO 59-0. The last two, the Ducks returned the favor to the tune of a 77-34 edge.
Mike Bellotti coached Oregon to those two wins, a pair of games that the 73-year-old told The I-5 Corridor get a little fuzzier with each passing year. What is still clear is this: He had never heard Autzen as loud as he did the day No. 5 Michigan came to Eugene in 2003.