DALLAS — You’ve heard of America’s Team? Well, welcome to America’s Scheme. Because it’s becoming evident that nobody wanted Oregon in the national title game.

Not the sponsors. Not the national media. Especially not the television network that will carry the broadcast. Which is only to say, the Ducks have become the uninvited guests of this College Football Playoff finale and the country sounds annoyed they’ve stopped by.


You were expecting Jameis Winston?

Is this a bad time, America?

Oregon doesn’t have great history. The team’s best player, Marcus Mariota, isn’t going to win the news conference in the way that Winston always did. Coach Mark Helfrich is a single scoop of vanilla on a cake cone. There’s also the prevailing perception that the Ducks are all flash and no finish, that Phil Knight not only outfitted his alma mater in gear, but bought it a spot in the title game.

In an NCAA Basketball Tournament run like this the Ducks might be viewed as the Cinderella team led by Prince Charming. But not in this fairy tale. The Heisman thing is only cute for so long before it begins to nauseate the outsiders. Further, Mariota hasn’t hired an agent, hinted at his future or shown up poolside surrounded by coeds in bikinis. Does Mariota know that won’t move the needle?

Don’t know if anyone noticed, but ticket prices are plummeting as kickoff approaches, the storylines are exhausted, and the national media sounds miffed that nobody wearing — ahem — silver and white is saying much of anything this week except, “Next man in,” and “We won’t allow distractions.”

Oregon even made a couple of failed drug tests boring.

It got so bad on Saturday that Bill Hancock, the executive director of this playoff, had to answer questions about why Groupon started selling tickets for the ancillary playoff event festivities at steep discounts. Lenny Kravitz’s Saturday concert won’t sell out. Sting tickets on Sunday night are being offered for half price.

Oregon will get blamed, watch.

Ohio State is a brand name. ESPN can sell that. Winston and Florida State were the dream date for either the Buckeyes or Alabama. But Oregon interfered and the hope here is that the Ducks notice the growing contempt for their presence in this game and seize on that.

I know. I know. Helfrich reiterated on Saturday that distractions only become distractions when a team allows a distraction to become a distraction. It makes sense, but imagine what Jimbo Fisher might have done with a couple of positive drug tests.

He’d have put on a tinfoil hat and blamed the SEC.

Oregon was methodical and workmanlike in its dismantling of Florida State. The Ducks made 59 points feel like an errand. UO isn’t on its third-string quarterback. And the head coach’s arrival after Chip Kelly, fair or not, is viewed by outsiders like Larry Coker winning a title at Miami.

Nobody wants Oregon in the championship game except Ducks fans worldwide. Also, Nike employees and bettors in the sports book. Also, die-hard Michigan honks. But outside of that, what we have here is Oregon performing the equivalent home invasion of Jerryworld.

What’s the deal, America? Really? Haters?

Oregon is 13-1 and has the best college football player I’ve ever seen at quarterback. The team has mostly behaved this season. No serious arrests. No NCAA investigations. One of the major storylines of media day featured linebacker Tyson Coleman, who tattooed his forearm with the word “Oregonian.” For the state, not the paper, I’m presuming, although he chose the newspaper’s unmistakeable masthead font.

I texted his father, Lionel, who replied, “If you’re going to do it, do it right!”

Maybe Oregon would be more interesting if Helfrich fired a shot across Urban Meyer’s bow. Maybe the Ducks would feel like an invited guest if Mariota would go clubbing on the eve of the title game. Maybe ticket prices would rise and the television networks would begin talking about how fascinating this matchup really is.

Because it is.

Until then the Ducks feel as though they’re trespassing here. And I have no doubt that America is going to be further irked if Oregon should beat Ohio State say, 48-41, and Mariota picks up the Most Outstanding Player award by thanking his parents and teammates afterward.

The bums.

A night like that ought to drive the country off the deep end.


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