The fast, sleek and uncatchable sports car that is the Oregon Ducks was humming along all season, up with the other leaders of the pack until it blew a tire.
After a ruinous loss at the hands of a punishing Stanford team, the Ducks no longer control their own destiny.
As we all know, wins and losses only account for part of the decision making as to who plays in the BCS bowl games, but the Ducks will need some help from what takes place on the field, before fate is left in the hands of voters and computers.
As it stands now, the Ducks rank No. 5 in the BCS Standings, heading into their final regular-season game. Notre Dame is the new No. 1, with Alabama back in a comfy spot at No. 2, Georgia at No. 3 and Florida at No. 4.
It is a safe bet to say that no matter the outcome of other games, if the Ducks win out, no team will jump them.
At this point, the likelihood of a BCS bowl game appearance is still high for Oregon, provided they win at No. 15 Oregon State next weekend.
On the slate for this upcoming weekend are a bevy of potentially chaos-inducing matchups. Notre Dame will travel to USC to face the Trojans, a game in which, if the Irish win, will clinch them a spot in the national title game. The Fighting Irish will be helped by an injury that will keep Trojans’ star quarterback Matt Barkley out of the game.
No. 4 Florida will play No. 10 Florida State in Tallahassee. Both teams have one loss. Florida’s was against Georgia in a tight game, and the Seminoles lost to NC State by just one point.
Another game with big implications in Los Angeles is the Stanford versus UCLA matchup. This game has the most relevance to the Ducks. If UCLA wins, Oregon (provided the Ducks beat the Beavers) is in the Pac-12 Championship game, played in Eugene. If Stanford wins, the Cardinal win the North Division of the Pac-12 and will play UCLA again, this time at home, for the Pac-12 crown. Oregon fans will be rooting for UCLA in this one.
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia both play at home: Alabama hosts Auburn and Georgia takes on Georgia Tech. The Tide and Bulldogs should win these games, but they are rivalry matchups and after the last two weeks, there are no guarantees in college football. Both Alabama and Georgia have clinched their divisions of the SEC to lock up the SEC Championship billing.
Whether the Ducks play for the Pac-12 Championship will be decided by the Stanford-UCLA game, but if the Ducks beat OSU, they will most likely move up in the polls after Dec. 1, due to the result of the SEC Championship game.
Oregon could make the national championship by virtue of the following scenarios:
First, if Oregon is eligible to play in, and wins the Pac-12 Championship it will help its case, but this isn’t necessarily required to get into the BCS Championship.
If Notre Dame loses to USC, the Irish are out.
For Alabama to make it to the BCS Championship, the Tide need a victory this week and then another in the SEC Championship against Georgia. Alabama is done if they lose either.
Georgia is in the exact same boat, needing two wins to secure a bid to the BCS Championship.
For Florida to make the BCS Championship it needs to win its final game this week against FSU. The Gators would then hope for an Irish loss or for Alabama and Georgia to trip this week. If only one of ‘Bama and Georgia falls this week then that losing team would need to conquer the other in the SEC title showdown.
It is inevitable that either Georgia or Alabama will be eliminated via the SEC Championship, both could be killed off through a regular season loss and Florida could be sent packing if they lose their last regular season game.
If things play out according to the current BCS Standings, then all top-five teams will win this weekend, with Alabama in turn beating Georgia in the SEC Championship to face Notre Dame in the final and all-important game of the season.
For Oregon to make it to Miami on Jan. 7 it will hope for an Notre Dame loss and for the three top SEC teams to slip this week or for some combination resulting in two SEC teams being beat.
If this chaotic mess doesn’t happen, the Ducks will hope for a UCLA win this week to allow for an Oregon-UCLA Pac-12 Championship, giving the Ducks a chance to play for an automatic Rose Bowl berth.
If the above doesn’t happen and no mess is made at the top of the standings, Oregon (if they win this week) will likely finish the year ranked at No. 4, possibly No. 3, left out of the BCS’s top game and the Rose Bowl. But with a top-five standing the Ducks are almost a sure lock for an at-large selection to one of the other BCS bowls: the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange, with the Fiesta being the most likely, as it has first choice of at-large teams after conference champions have been placed in their respective tie-in bowls.
It’s going to be a wild finish. Buckle up.