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The Oregon Ducks probably have the inside track for the BCS National Championship Game. The Kansas State Wildcats and Notre Dame Fighting Irish aim to make things interesting with their strength of schedule and high computer rankings.
The Oregon Ducks have to feel pretty comfortable waking up this morning and believing their BCS title hopes rest on their shoulders. Despite being ranked 3rd, they have to know that the SEC teams will eventually cannibalize each other. If they win out, they should feel comfortable that they'll end up in Miami.
But how comfortable should they feel?
First of all, Oregon doesn't have a great computer ranking. They're currently ranked 6th, well behind Notre Dame and Kansas State, who are currently their closest competition in the BCS poll.
Moreover, it's not clear how they'll be able to catch up with regards to the computers. The Ducks do play USC, Arizona State and Oregon State, but Kansas State gets West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU and Texas (and they already have Oklahoma), while Notre Dame battles Oklahoma and USC on the road. Oregon should hang on, but all it takes is one or two impressive wins to move the human pollsters and suddenly everything is chaos.
The case of Kansas State is curious. The Big 12 finds themselves in the position the Pac-12 were in a few years ago; without a conference championship game, and without a marquee non-conference opponent on their schedule (a Miami rout means nothing), Kansas State could have trouble racking up a quality strength-of-schedule.
Wouldn't it be bitterly ironic if the cancelled Kansas State vs. Oregon matchup ends up edging Notre Dame over both of them? Oregon's wins over Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennnessee Tech are holding them back in that regard. The Irish really haven't played anyone of note outside maybe Stanford or Michigan, but the fact that they generally avoid FBS opponents could work in their favor, particularly if they go to Norman and Los Angeles and pull out big road wins.
There are things working in favor of Oregon too. For one, they have the conference title game, which means they could be 13-0 over K-State's and Notre Dame's 12-0. Kansas State and Notre Dame will be watching TV the first week of December. In a major conference, that could make all the difference. And as we've mentioned before, the backend of their schedule is loaded with their most difficult games.
It might sound strange, but the Ducks need to root hard for USC outside of their matchup in November. Two wins against USC might be a big sticking factor, since the Trojans seem to be the top n-loss team regardless and it'd land them two quality victories against the marquee of all marquee opponents. And playing an undefeated or one-loss Oregon State team in the Civil War would also help raise the stakes.
So Oregon should feel relatively comfortable about having the inside track for the BCS title game. Of course, we never know with BCS math, so Ducks fans might want to keep the fingers crossed there.