As a football fan of the Oregon Ducks tasked with describing the team's main rival, my thinking drifts away from what might be expected. Conventional wisdom might say the Oregon State Beavers, or the USC Trojans, or perhaps the Washington Huskies. I think that in Oregon's recent history at least, the biggest rival has been the entire SEC.
Here's 25 reasons for any fan of Oregon, or the Pac-12, to dislike every team from that conference:
1. Denied the Ducks a national championship
Auburn downed the Ducks in the BCS title game played Jan. 10, 2011. 'Nuf said.
2. Nick Fairley and dirty defense
The questionable play by Fairley and company was one of the biggest reasons Auburn was able to win. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas said Fairley's reputation for dirty play was warranted.
3. Crazy, mixed up mascots
Auburn is the Tigers, it cries "War Pigeon" or something like that at the beginning of its games. Actually, it's "War Eagle," but you get the point.
4. Alabama is equally confused
The Crimson Tide's mascot is an elephant -- huh? Sure, it would be hard to make a mascot's suit that resembled a bothersome red ecological phenomenon, but an elephant?
5. They won't come up here
Oregon coach Chip Kelly has an open invitation for nationally recognized programs and SEC teams who wish to come to Autzen Stadium to play, but oddly, none seem to want to risk the humiliation.
6. Over-hyped greatness
To hear some tell it, the entire SEC is the best thing since grits. Others buy the hype, and the "legend" grows.
7. LSU Tigers
Don't get me wrong, I like Tigers. Just not any from the SEC. LSU, of course, has been another thorn in the side for Oregon recently.
8. "Neutral location"
The Ducks played LSU at Cowboys Stadium, a virtual home game for LSU.
9. Cam Newton in the NFL
After beating the Ducks, one could hope for a flame-out in the NFL, but Newton is doing well. Kind of like the LeBron James of football. How well is a subject of some debate, but he didn't flame out by any measure.
The SEC fans claim to be the best at this, too, but who couldn't grill a burger and slurp a cheap beer? Where's the creativity?
11. Don't travel very often
It's not just going out West to play the Pac-12 that the SEC doesn't do; the teams don't travel to very many other games that might challenge their perceived greatness.
12. The weather outside is frightful
Sure, the South loses some heat and humidity in the fall, but it's still not football weather.
13. SEC homers
Ask any SEC fan and he is certain any school in his conference is better than pretty much any other anywhere. It's like some are still sore about losing the Civil War and want to get revenge on the rest of us through football.
14. Too much television coverage
Do fans everywhere really need to have an SEC game every week? There are so many more exciting games going on.
15. LSU vs. Alabama snore-fest masquerading as a national title game
Did we really need that matchup for the BCS championship game?
16. Football as religion
It's wonderful to be a committed fan who follows his team through thick and thin. It's another to think football is the only thing that matters.
17. Tim Tebow
Credit (blame) the SEC for unleashing all the Tebow hype, drama, and irrational fan fever on the NFL.
18. Auburn fans waste tons of paper toilet-papering trees
Most Oregon fans do at least some recycling. One person's year of recycling is more than wiped out by one Auburn win, with the trees at Toomer's Corner being the recipients of a childish tradition.
19. Alabama fan poisoned the trees
Really, you don't like a rival, so you kill their toilet-papering trees? Accused tree poisoner Harvey Updike, Jr. went on radio before his trial and apologized to Auburn fans for "all the damage I've done," but wouldn't admit that the damage was to the trees. He named his children Bear and Crimson Tyde. How's that for fan extremism?
20. "Free Bird"
OK, folks, the national anthem is "The Star Spangled Banner," not the Lynyrd Skynyrd song.
21. The strength of the SEC schedule
It's part truth, and part myth. Sure, the teams play each other a lot, and the thinking is that since several of them might be ranked, they beat up on each other. It's not that much of a factor if the rankings are slighted toward SEC schools in the first place, and their travel regimen is lessened.
22. It's not jealousy
SEC homers often claim others don't like the conference because of jealousy. Sure, we would have liked to have won the national title. At the end of the day, however, Oregon fans get to live secure in the knowledge that they are far, far north and west of the Mason-Dixon Line.
23. The SEC as a benchmark
Whenever a team has great success, we hear questions centered around how well it might do versus the SEC. There are other measures of success in football, thank you very much.
24. Gene Chizik, Nick Saban
Two of the most obnoxious and self-righteous coaches out there, without question.
The record and image of the SEC means that Oregon has to beat SEC teams frequently to truly establish itself nationally. It's a sad, but true fact that the road to ultimate Ducks football fame goes through the South.
Jeff Musall has been a fan of the Oregon Ducks since the 80s. He is looking forward to the season and another great year in the Pac.12.