Oregon back in title discussion (sort of)

November, 13, 2011
11/13/11
11:00
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Oregon is still a longshot to get into the BCS national championship game, but its 53-30 win against Stanford at least puts it back in the discussion.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireCoach Chip Kelly has his Oregon team back in the hunt for the national championship.
And as we all know with BCS discussions before the final click of the season, the conclusion is always, "But you never know."

At the very least we can say this: Oregon seems to be peaking and is well-positioned to be the top-seed out of the Pac-12. That means the Rose Bowl. Or the title game.

The Ducks, first of all, will need to end their celebration quickly. USC comes to Eugene on Saturday playing like a top-10 team. It stomped Washington 40-17 over the weekend and its only loss in the past six games was the triple-overtime defeat to Stanford.

But if Oregon manages to beat USC and then Oregon State, it will win the North Division -- it actually can split those two and still win the North, but no matter -- and then play a patsy from the South Division, which is an embarrassment and likely to produce a "champion" with at least four losses that will be looking up at the ineligible Trojans in the standings. Not what commissioner Larry Scott wanted.

Then, at 12-1 after delivering a butt-kicking in the Dec. 2 Pac-12 title game, Oregon would wait. And hope.

Above all else that comes before it, the Ducks need unbeaten Oklahoma State to lose. The Cowboys are at Iowa State on Friday and then they play host to Oklahoma on Dec. 3. If the Cowboys go down, that would open up the debate: Who is the best 1-loss team?

The top contenders would be Oklahoma, Alabama and Oregon. Maybe.

The SEC is the first major problem. If Alabama and LSU win out and Oklahoma State loses, most BCS standings watchers believe Alabama would eclipse Oregon. But what if Alabama loses at arch-rival Auburn on Nov. 26? That would give the Ducks a big boost.

Then Oklahoma could be a road block. If the Sooners, despite major injuries, beat the Cowboys, they'd have a pretty strong case, too. Of course, the Sooners lost at home to Texas Tech. The Ducks to No. 1 LSU. It would be up to voters. And computers.

The Ducks could use the Sooners going belly-up at home against Iowa State on Nov. 26. Just saying.

Variables? What about this: What if Arkansas wins at LSU on Nov. 25? The Razorbacks, whose only loss was to Alabama, are an SEC team with an offensive pulse. They might be able to score a few on the Tigers. A three-way tie atop the SEC West with Alabama, LSU and Arkansas would be decided by the BCS standings.

Then what if the West champ loses to the East Champ (Georgia) in the SEC championship game?

Yes, it makes your head spin. The ultimate conclusion, however, is this: If Oregon takes care of its business, its most likely destination after a third consecutive conference title is the Rose Bowl opposite the Big Ten champion. Not exactly a trip to Rikers Island or anything.

There are a lot of buttons -- too many it seems -- that need to be pressed for Oregon to end up opposite LSU for a second time this season in the BCS title game on Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

Unlikely. But not impossible.

Ted Miller | email

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