PHILADELPHIA — The closest thing Chip Kelly has to Tennessee Tech on the Eagles schedule this year is the Oakland Raiders, which points up one of the differences between life in the NFL and college. It's part of Kelly's adjustment to his new job, where parity is commonplace and losing is more frequent.
Kelly won 46 of the 53 games he coached at Oregon, a percentage unseen in the NFL. He might lose seven games in just his first year in Philadelphia. The Las Vegas odds suggest he will.
"Every day you go out there you don't think, 'Hey, we're going to win 46 out of 53,'" Kelly said. "I know it's extremely difficult to win in this league. You just look at everybody's record over the history of the game. It is a different game from that standpoint. But that's just part of it. That's the challenge. You look at it and kind of embrace it."
Oregon's schedules weren't necessarily easy — they were among the most difficult in college football in two of Kelly's four seasons at Oregon, according to NCAA metrics. But the disparity on the schedule is more pronounced. There's a far wider degree of difficulty between playing Stanford and Tennessee Tech than there is between playing the Packers and the Raiders.
Of the 12 regular-season, nonconference opponents Kelly coached against, nine were from the non-BCS conferences. However, two of his opponents in 2009 were Utah and Boise State, which finished a combined 24-3 and among the nation's top teams. And the BCS opponents scheduled were not bottom-of-the-standings schools but included Louisiana State to open the 2011 season.
Yet three opponents during that period were from Division I-AA, and Oregon won those games by a combined score of 188-21. This is not an indictment of Kelly or Oregon; this is common in college football. Plus, if a BCS school replaced Tennessee Tech on last season's schedule, Oregon likely would have won, and would have won big.
But it's also true that Tennessee Tech isn't on the schedule in the NFL, and even bottom-of-the-pack teams (like the 2012 Eagles) can beat the Super Bowl champions.
Kelly said it's a "fallacy" that he could create his own schedule in college and insisted that many schools refused to travel to Eugene to play against the Ducks. The Ducks opened against Boise State on the road in a year the Broncos went undefeated, and also played LSU in a neutral-site game one state away from the Tigers' rabid fan base.
"We were challenged with going on the road a lot, which you got to do, but if everybody could make their schedule, everybody would be playing home games, nobody would be playing anybody," Kelly said. "I think when you generalize and say, 'You got to make your own schedule,' there were some times when we played some lower opponents because we couldn't get anybody to fill that game and either we got to play (and) these are the only three teams that are available or we don't play a game. I didn't enjoy playing those games."
Kelly also said that he never viewed a game as a walkover, even if evidence would suggest the Ducks could dominate the opponent. Those teams weren't just nonconference foes. In the two seasons Colorado was in the Pac-12, Oregon beat the Buffalos by an average margin of nearly 50 points. That won't happen against the Giants or Redskins or Cowboys.
"The day you think you've got it made is the day you're probably going to get upset," Kelly said. "That was the one thing I was really proud of our team at Oregon, is that when we were supposed to win, we won.
"That's what's funny about this game. You always pick up the paper, especially in college football on a Saturday, and go, 'Who beat who? How did that happen?' I think that's because probably they overlooked that opponent. They didn't give them enough respect and were looking past to the next game."
Kelly does not buy into the pageantry of a "rivalry" game. Even if Eagles fans have distaste for the Cowboys, Kelly is unlikely to play into the narrative. He said he had 12 rivals with the Ducks — not just Oregon State. He'll likely say the same about the 13 opponents on the Eagles schedule.
"I think that method worked for us in terms of never letting our guard down, and we'll take the same approach here," Kelly said. "But do we expect to go 46-7 over the next whatever years? No."
Kelly knows that's a difference between college football and the NFL. But one loss also won't preclude him from vying for a championship, like it often does in college. So the ramifications of a loss are different, too.
One thing is the same, though. Whether he's playing Tennessee Tech or the Tennessee Titans, he needs good players. When asked how he won early at Oregon, he pointed to his players. If he's going to win early with the Eagles, he'll do the same.
"That never changes," Kelly said.
And that's true no matter the opponent.