The news of Chip Kelly's decision to leave Oregon for the Philadelphia Eagles sent the residents of Eugene, Ore., into a natural funk. But it also should have saddened many of the people who reside in SEC country.
The sexy Oregon-SEC national championship matchup that has become a regular storyline in college football over the past few years just lost a monster amount of its luster. Are the same athletes still on campus? Oh, yeah. But Kelly isn't, and the storyline of Kelly vs. the SEC was such a good one for college football.
While Kelly had been bested by the SEC in recent attempts (see: Auburn and LSU), he still seemed like the only coach who really had what it took to end the SEC's reign of terror on the rest of the college football landscape. SEC fans snickered at a lot of teams that thought they had the recipe for stopping the SEC, but they had respect for Kelly and his Oregon teams.
Now, that respect will take a little bit of a hit. That's not to say Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas won't be elite players in 2013, but that team as a whole has to replace one of the best football minds in the game. During the better part of his tenure at Oregon, Kelly engineered one of the most exciting football programs to watch. Outside of the flashy uniforms, Oregon had tricky formations that took full advantage of all that speed that is legitimately comparable to what the SEC is packing.
That speed isn't going anywhere, and those formations will likely still be there, but the intangibles of having Kelly running things will be missed. It just won't be the same watching Oregon attempt a run for the BCS title game, because Kelly and that genius mind of his won't be there on the sideline. And it won't be as exciting if an SEC team has a chance to be paired with the Ducks in the big game. Sure, the overload Nike and neon will attract a lot of attention, but something will be missing if the Kelly-less Ducks meet the SEC in the championship game.
It just won't feel right, because Kelly was such a big part of what made Oregon such a formidable foe for the SEC. Kelly's mind was as interesting as the team he fielded, and his absence really does affect the buzz around what has turned into a fun little rivalry.
It wasn't necessarily as big as Good vs. Evil, but it was a fun "rivalry" to talk about every season. When the possibility of an Alabama-Oregon national championship became a realization, college football was truly buzzing. When Alabama crushed Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship, Oregon was the first team brought up when discussing which opponent would have given the Crimson Tide an actual challenge.
Kelly vs. the SEC is one of those matchups that doesn't get old because it feels like one that could actually bring the SEC down. SEC fans certainly don't want to see the end of their conference's historic run, but the thought of a real challenge is intriguing. Kelly brought that intrigue.
With all that talent returning, Oregon likely isn't going anywhere, but an Oregon team lacking Kelly's presence won't be as appealing to SEC folk. The visor and the quirkiness are gone. He figured to be the top coach out there, with the right mind and equipment to top the SEC. Losing that just takes a little bit of the excitement out of the thought of the SEC taking on Oregon.