Okay, so there are really two ways you can look at Oregon’s 45-38 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Or, you can say Oregon beat the No. 9 Badgers, a legit Top 10 team with a handful of pro prospects that’re two Hail Mary’s away from being undefeated, and that Chip Kelly got his first major win. It was also Oregon’s first Rose Bowl title in nearly a century..
Think about it. For all the success Kelly’s had in his three years in Eugene, where’s the signature win? He couldn’t beat Boise State in his first game as the Ducks’ head coach. He couldn’t handle Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. He couldn’t hang with the SEC against either Auburn on the biggest stage of ’em all or LSU at the beginning of the 2011 season.
Kelly’s biggest wins so far have been against Stanford two years in a row. Don’t get me wrong, beating Andrew Luck twice in three tries is nothing to scoff at, but eventually, Kelly had to — ahem — spread his wings.
Bowl cynics say the postseason games don’t matter. To an extent, they may be right for reasons other than reputation, but games like the Rose Bowl, the BCS national title — those are measuring stick games. Before tonight’s win, Kelly and Oregon hadn’t measured up because, well, they hadn’t won.
You can’t be elite unless you beat the elite and do it at least semi-consistently. Oregon’s been building a championship-contending program since the Mike Bellotti era; Kelly was given the notice he would take the controls with the expectations that he would bring the Ducks to the national stage.
He’s gotten ’em there, the team just hadn’t capitalized. But get there enough, and eventually one will go your way.
Chip Kelly and Oregon got that one tonight. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be the only signature win they’ll ever get.