Dear Mr. Football: In the game of cool — uniforms, locker room amenities, clever marketing campaigns — does anybody beat the Ducks?
A: In an unfortunate twist, the attention-seeking Ducks have started attracting attention for the wrong reasons.
This year, for example, Oregon has created the Pac-10's newest statistic: fans ejected.
The count is now at 235 ejections from Autzen Stadium for the season, with highs of 76 against Utah State and 68 against Stanford. Against Stanford, two wobbly Duck fans were treated for alcohol poisoning.
Arizona's more-civilized 2008 crowd stat: one student Tasered.
Dear Mr. Football: If Arizona's game-day hymn is "Bear Down, Arizona," what is Oregon's rallying cry?
A: Before every game in Eugene, PA announcer Don Essig — for my two cents, the league's best in basketball and football — says, "It never rains at Autzen Stadium." And, incredibly, he is almost right.
The Ducks had a streak of 18 no-rain home games until last week's drizzle against Stanford. Moreover, according to the Eugene Register-Guard, it has rained at just 11 of the last 117 games at Autzen Stadium dating to 1990.
Doesn't mean it isn't often gloomy, foggy, chilly or all three, as it was when Arizona last played in Eugene, 2006.
Dear Mr. Football: Mike Stoops insists Autzen is the loudest venue in the Pac-10. Right or wrong?
A. When a team and its crowd are on top of their game, the bedlam created at Washington's Husky Stadium in the 1980s and 1990s established the standard. I've been to every Pac-10 stadium during a team's up-cycle years and I'd rank it: 1, Washington; 2, Oregon; 3, Arizona; 4, Oregon State; 5, ASU; 6, Wazzu; 7, UCLA; 8, USC; 9, Cal; 10, Stanford.
Dear Mr. Football: Does anyone agree?
A. When Stanford played in Seattle in 1996, Cardinal linebacker Riall Johnson said: "We've played at Oregon and Texas, but nothing can prepare you for Washington."
In 1995, Army defensive tackle Al Roberts said: "The acoustics here are amazing, a huge factor. I've been around C-130 transports a lot and this almost felt like it was on a runway."
Colorado offensive lineman Victor Rogers in 1999 said of Husky Stadium: "I'd definitely say it's louder than Nebraska."
Different decade, different decibel readings.
Dear Mr. Football: Is Oregon's streak of 60 consecutive Autzen Stadium sellouts a Pac-10 record?
A. Inconceivably, USC's longest sellout streak in the Pete Carroll years is a mere 13 (eight currently). Until the Ducks became the league's hottest ticket, Washington's 21-game string of sellouts (1990-93) was the Pac-10 record.
How lame is this? Arizona's longest sellout streak in its Pac-10 days is a scant four. In 1994, the Wildcats drew capacity crowds for a string of games against Colorado State, UCLA, Cal and ASU.
Dear Mr. Football: Do the Ducks, aka Nike U, really have all the money in the Pac-10?
A. In the 2006-07 fiscal year, Oregon's athletic department ranked a distant No. 7 in total revenue at $50.3 million. USC led with $76.3 million and Stanford was next at $65.4. The Ducks generated more income than Arizona ($45.4 million), Oregon State ($45.2 million) and Wazzu ($31.9 million).
What doesn't compute is that whenever Oregon athletics needs $20 million or $100 million, or whatever, Nike co-founder and former UO distance runner Phil Knight pops out his checkbook.
Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly has a contract that can pay him $556,000 this season, which doesn't include a $100,000 bonus he got for signing a contract through 2011. He has more than 30 bonus-type items in his contract, one of which guarantees him $2,000 if the Ducks beat rival Oregon State.
And you thought UA assistant basketball coach Mike Dunlap, at $375,000, was overpaid.
Dear Mr. Football: Who is the best player on the field today?
A. It's probably a four-way battle between Arizona junior left guard Eben Britton, Oregon pass-rusher Nick Reed, UA tight end Rob Gronkowski and Oregon safety Patrick Chung.
But the most important player is UO quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who is elusive and capable of making more big plays, more often, than anyone on the field. If he plays well today, the Ducks are very likely to win.
Dear Mr. Football: Do the Ducks have the most motivation given their 2006 and 2007 losses to Arizona?
A. I can't imagine anyone more motivated than Arizona defensive linemen Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore, Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton. From the first day of training camp, they've heard and read that they are Arizona's weakest link.
Defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo "is really sick of hearing it and so are we, blah, blah, blah," Elmore says. "We had zero career starts as a group when the season began. I know personally that the mistakes I made five weeks ago have been corrected and I think that goes for all of us.
"Now we have a lot more experience and a lot more confidence."
Dear Mr. Football: Who wins today?
A. I like the Ducks' chances most, but I like Arizona's chances to make it a close game, fly home and beat Oregon State next week.
As it relates to the top 40 players on each team, Oregon still has better players than Arizona, but it is close enough not to make much difference. Stoops and his recruiters have shortened the distance between the two considerably. Remember, in 2001 the Ducks beat Arizona 63-28 and two years later 48-10. Now it's a tossup.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves: A split in this two-game Oregon/OSU series and a closing victory over ASU are what matters most.
Oregon 38, Arizona 30.