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Oregon is becoming experts at the risk game

Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire
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The past decade has been the best decade in the history of Oregon football. Thanks to some innovative coaching, the Ducks were one of the first Division I programs to go with the spread-option, hurry-up offense and that led to unprecedented success.

That success also gave their main benefactor, Nike, an excuse to use the football program as guinea pigs in the latest uniform technologies and looks. From the lightweight jerseys to the flashy shoes, Oregon has been able to be at the forefront of the future of football get-ups. It has also led the Ducks to feature some colors outside of the traditional green and yellow in attempt to appeal to the younger crowd — a crowd that actually wears the uniform — for marketing purposes.

Oregon has worn shades of green and yellow not typically associated with Duck athletics, along with white, black, silver and chrome in whatever combination that seems to come up on the uniform wheel that particular week. The uniforms have had their share of home runs and strike outs to be sure.

But the uniforms and the play on the field hasn’t been the only things that has been revolutionary in the past decade in Eugene. The Oregon Duck mascot, otherwise simply known as The Duck, was also branded as a lovable and funny character in his own right. The Duck has been the focus of numerous parity videos and in several commercials for ESPN, Nike and most recently the Heisman House as Marcus Mariota’s plus one.

The country has had its exposure to The Duck with ESPN College GameDay. The popular Saturday morning show has involved Oregon nearly every season thanks to the on-field success of the team; The Duck just happens to be the favorite for Lee Corso. The fans love Corso. Corso loves the Duck. Fans, and not just Oregon fans, also love the Duck. He’s been the only mascot to be a guest picker at the end of the broadcast in what might have been the funniest skit in the show’s history.

The Duck (his name is NOT Puddles) has been this generation’s San Diego Chicken.

It makes sense that Oregon would like to honor its great mascot in a signature way: by creating a uniform combination that resembles the lovable Duck. They are good intentions to be sure, but Oregon is on the verge of looking downright silly for a football team, especially if it should lose while wearing the uniforms.

That is a real possibility with Colorado coming into Autzen.

The Ducks have been having an identity crisis — they are being called soft more and more due to their recent troubles on the field. Soft is one adjective every football team wants to avoid, but by going one-of-five on two-point conversions when they didn’t need to go for two is just one example of why Oregon isn’t exactly hard-nosed on the gridiron right now. The Duck defense being last in rush defense in the entire FBS doesn’t help matters in trying to change that perception.

Most of the traditional Oregon fans are freaking out in response to what the Ducks will be wearing on their legs and feet; orange socks and shoes. ORANGE. The primary color that belongs to their bitter in-state rival Oregon State. According to those fans, wearing anything other than green and yellow is bad enough, but orange is blasphemy.

November 29, 2014 - An Oregon Ducks helmet sits on the sideline during the 118th Civil War NCAA football game between the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 47-19.

November 29, 2014 – An Oregon Ducks helmet sits on the sideline during the 118th Civil War NCAA football game between the University of Oregon Ducks and Oregon State University Beavers at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Oregon. The Ducks won the game 47-19. Brian Murphy/Icon Sportswire

Orange or no orange, choosing to pick this week to wear a uniform that resembles the mascot, which is based off a cartoon character, is risky. There’s that chance of looking absolutely silly should it lose. Oregon is on the verge of not being taken seriously. Sports are supposed to be fun, but that’s not reality, at least not in full. To most, college football is another kind of religion and it’s not a place to look silly… especially if that means not being taken seriously by potential recruits.

Football is important to communities, and one can feel that sense of importance by absorbing the nervous energy in and around the Oregon fan base right now.

So far, the flashy offense, facilities and uniforms have been attractive to recruits and you can’t argue with the success Oregon has established. The flash has worked… but if recruits don’t take Mark Helfrich’s program seriously anymore, the wins will disappear quicker than cloaking Romulan warbird.

Oregon has been all about risk, and although this particular uniform could be the biggest risk of them all, the Ducks wouldn’t be the Ducks if they started to play it safe now. They could wear Beaver jerseys with Husky pants — as long as Oregon wins, that’s all that ultimately matters to fans and players alike.

Oregon is becoming experts at the risk game

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