- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Despite being ranked second in the human polls, Oregon is fourth in the second iteration of the BCS rankings.
Man the battle stations! Launch preemptive attack on East Coast bias!
Easy now. Do not fret. Lots of football left.
And if Oregon finishes 13-0, it still remains a good bet the Ducks would play for the national championship, even if there are three unbeaten teams.
First of all, the SEC title game takes care of one team: Alabama and Florida, ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, cannot both finish unbeaten. If they end up 12-0, they will meet in the SEC title game. And, no, a 1-loss SEC team won't eclipse an unbeaten team from another AQ conference.
As for No. 3 Kansas State and No. 5 Notre Dame, both have plenty of work ahead, particularly the Fighting Irish, who play at Oklahoma on Saturday. That game is a win-win for Oregon. If Notre Dame wins, Kansas State's best win will tumble in the rankings. If Notre Dame loses, there is one less unbeaten team to worry about.
Kansas State has a number of tough games ahead, including Texas Tech on Saturday. And, folks, the simple reality is Kansas State ran away from a schedule game with Oregon, which is why the Ducks ended up with such a weak nonconference schedule. It's hard to believe pollsters, knowing that, would consider in appreciable numbers ranking 12-0 Kansas State ahead of a 13-0 Oregon.
But Oregon has a far more arduous slate: No. 9 USC on Nov. 3, No. 17 Stanford on Nov. 17 and No. 7 Oregon State on Nov. 24. Then the Ducks would play what figures to be a ranked team in the Pac-12 title game.
That schedule should make up considerable strength of schedule ground for the Ducks. And if they stay ranked No. 2 in the human polls, which is two-thirds of the vote, the odds are strong they will finish ahead of Kansas State or Notre Dame, even if they both remain unbeaten.
Of course, there are variables. What if one or more of these presently highly-ranked Pac-12 teams face plants? Kansas State and Notre Dame have the same issue, by the way.
The bottom line: It's too early to know how this plays out. And, really, Oregon needs to focus on the only thing it can: winning.
As for the rest of the BCS standings: Oregon State is seventh overall and fifth with the computers. The Beavers most certainly are not out of the national title picture if they finish unbeaten. Truth is, the Beavers' strength of schedule ranking could end up better -- far better, in fact -- than Oregon's.
USC is ninth in the standings, behind two one-loss teams: No. 6 LSU and No. 8 Oklahoma. The Trojans are not out of things, particularly if there is only one unbeaten team at season's end.