Chip Kelly was asked if Autzen Stadium is a particularly tough place to play, and his answer was more than curious. Of course, he intimated, but he made sure to say other environments in the Pac-12 are difficult for road teams, too. He used one example: Washington.

Maybe it’s reading too much into an innocuous comment, but surely Kelly knows the relationship between those two programs. Trying to make it less about Oregon specifically? Maybe he wanted to downplay his role in all this. With ESPN’s College GameDay coming to town for the matchup and both sides entering the game ranked in the AP Top 10, there is going to be a strong “Kelly returns to Oregon” narrative throughout the run-up to the game.

Nevermind that Kelly has taken the Bruins to Eugene twice since returning to the college game in 2018. This one is different. Neither side was ranked in 2018 when Oregon won 42-21. UCLA wasn’t ranked in 2020 either, and Oregon took the game 38-35.

This is the best Bruin team Kelly has had. They’re efficient on offense and destructive on defense.

This Oregon team is no joke, either.

But both head coaches said those narrative pieces won’t help anyone.

“The environment, the noise, the fans, all those pieces are great elements, but none of those things are playing the game,” said Oregon coach Dan Lanning on Monday when he was asked how Kelly’s experience in Autzen might help him. “None of that’s really going to have a factor.

“He’s got great experience in this place. I’m sure he has some fond memories in this place. But none of that’s really going to carry into what actually has to happen from an execution standpoint on the field.”

Kelly took the same approach.

“I’m not playing the game,” he said. “We’re totally focused. We get in Friday around 6 (o’clock), we play at 12:30 the next day, so we all know what this entails. It’s a business trip, just like any other away game in this league.”

Kelly says the Bruins will be prepared. They’ve already faced a pair of top-15 opponents and they’ve emerged victorious in both games.

They were both at the Rose Bowl, though. Autzen will be much louder. Maybe Kelly gets a warm reception. After all, his time running the Ducks revolutionized the game of college football. He piloted a run of unprecedented success in Eugene.

And those memories don’t fade.

“It’s always special going back there,” he admitted. “It’s a special place in my life and there’s a lot of great people there that had a profound impact on my life.”