3 and out: Reasons Ducks lost to Cardinal
It would appear that Oregon's national title hopes ended with a 26-20 loss at Stanford on Thursday night. But not so fast.
A ray of hope remains, although a very faint one.
Remember, at about this time last season Kansas State was first in the BCS and Oregon sat at second. Both teams were undefeated while Alabama had one loss and an undefeated Notre Dame team was being viewed by some to be the luckiest squad on earth and destined to lose.
That all changed when Oregon and Kansas State lost on the same weekend, opening the door for Alabama to get back to the national title game with one loss.
Could Oregon be so lucky? Not likely but it is possible. The BCS standings is loaded with undefeated and one-loss teams to contend with. Here's what must happen for Oregon to squeeze into the national title game:
1. Win out: Obvious. Oregon hosts Utah, plays at Arizona and then hosts Oregon State. The Ducks will be favored by at least 17-25 points in all three games and should waltz through that group. If not, then losing to Stanford is the least of the Ducks' problems.
2. Hope Stanford loses at USC on Nov. 16: Oregon's best chance to reach the national title game would be to win the Pac-12 championship. That could only happen if the Cardinal, already with one loss to Utah (yes, Oregon lost to a team that lost to Utah), loses to the Trojans. That would open the door for the Ducks to win the Pac-12 North Division and potentially host the conference title game.
3. Win conference title game: The great benefit of playing this game is the boost in strength of schedule at the end of the season and another chance to show voters your stuff. A rematch with No. 16 UCLA or a game with No. 23 Arizona State would accomplish just that.
4. Pray for a whooooole-lot-a help: The top two undefeated teams standing at the end will be invited to the BCS title game. Oregon must hope that there's just one such team. The one benefit of Oregon's loss to Stanford is that the Cardinal is a Top 10 team. It's a quality loss even though the Ducks looked pitiful. Two of the following teams must go down for Oregon to have a shot of getting into the national championship game:
- A) Alabama (8-0) - The Crimson Tide, first in the BCS, host No. 10 LSU tonight and play at No. 7 Auburn to close out the regular season. If Alabama wins out it would play in the SEC title game against either No. 9 Missouri or No. 11 South Carolina. That's three potential landmines for the Crimson Tide. Losing late is always worse than losing early. However, it's likely that a one-loss Alabama team that wins the SEC gets the nod over a one-loss Oregon team given that the Crimson Tide has won three of the last four national title games. But if Oregon is the Pac-12 champs and Alabama were to lose the SEC title game, that would make things interesting. Then again, should a one-loss Missouri team defeat Alabama in said SEC title game then the Tigers could get the nod. Best case for UO is that SEC West rival Auburn defeats the Crimson Tide to prevent Alabama from even reaching the SEC title game.
- B) Florida State (8-0): Before Thursday it was great for Oregon that the Seminoles, second in the BCS, had such a soft schedule down the stretch because that meant the Ducks could remain ahead in strength of schedule, which the computers love. Ooops. The Seminoles' lack of schedule strength is now a positive for them. They end the season with Syracuse (4-4), Idaho (1-8) and at Florida (4-4). They are destroying Wake Forest as I type this. An ACC championship game would likely see a rematch of FSU and No. 14 Miami (7-1), which the Seminoles defeated 41-14 last week. Not a good situation for the Ducks.
- C) Baylor (7-0): The Bears, sixth in the BCS, finally hit the tough part of their schedule and owned No. 12 Oklahoma, 41-12 on Thursday. That doesn't bode well for the prospects of Baylor slipping up against No. 25 Texas Tech or No. 15 Oklahoma State. Baylor also faces Texas (6-2). There is no longer a Big 12 Championship game. With FSU unlikely to lose Oregon must hope that Baylor slips up to have any realistic shot.
- D) Ohio State (9-0): Only remaining tough game is at Michigan (6-2) and then a conference title game against Michigan State (8-1). Whoops. This could be a big problem for Oregon. But at least there is a possibility of Ohio State, fourth in the BCS, getting upset by one of these two teams. Just not a very strong possibility. OSU has not lost since 2011.
- Others: Clemson, Missouri and Auburn all have one loss and should they end that way would each pose a threat to a one-loss Oregon team. But a 12-1, Pac-12 championship Oregon team with one loss at Stanford would have a good shot at getting the nod in most scenarios.
Essentially, it doesn't look good for the Ducks. But strange things such as teams averaging 50-plus points per game then being shutout for three quarters in the most important game of the season have happened before, so you never know.