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BCS Rankings: Oregon Needs Big Upsets To Return To The National Championship Game

STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 12:  Darron Thomas #5 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Stanford, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
STANFORD, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Darron Thomas #5 of the Oregon Ducks celebrates after they beat the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 12, 2011 in Stanford, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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This presumes Oregon wins out. Things get way too complicated if the Ducks stumble the next three weeks.

Now that they have their marquee victory of the season and (barring disaster) are pretty much assured of winning the Pac-12 conference, the Oregon Ducks can start thinking again about returning to the BCS National Championship game.

Oregon is ranked 4th in their latest BCS rankings, trailing only one-loss Alabama and undefeated LSU and Oklahoma State. But the good news is that they hold a sizable margin over Oklahoma, and they should be able to maintain that margin if both win out (especially since Oregon will have an extra victory to factor into their final record).

If either Oklahoma State or LSU lose, can Oregon top Alabama? It's possible, since the Crimson Tide aren't going to get that extra victory because they won't be playing in the SEC title game.  Alabama does still play Auburn, but Oregon does play USC. It'll be up to the pollsters to decide whether the Ducks are a worthier contender as a title candidate over the Tide, and it could be too close to call.

Say Oklahoma State loses (most likely to Oklahoma in Bedlam), leaving LSU as your first national championship finalist. If it came down to these two teams, LSU has faced both Oregon and Alabama. Since Oregon and Alabama are closely matched in the rankings, it could come down to the human element and deciding what matchup they'd rather see.

Alabama proved that their defense can go head-to-head with LSU, while Oregon stumbled and bumbled through most of that opening game. But Alabama lost at home, while Oregon lost in what amounted to  a semi-road game in Dallas.  There's a good case to be made for either side, which is why the Ducks would be better off if the Tide lose their rivalry game and eliminate this worry altogether. Winning out for either team is likely to end in pain for both sides.

So what Oregon wants is for both undefeateds to fall. LSU losing (likely to Arkansas) would throw everything into chaos, because that could throw the Razorbacks right into it and force an unpredictable three-way tie for first in the SEC West (Team Speed Kills believes that it'll end with Alabama winning it; click here for an explanation). But it could give Oregon a better chance since it eliminates the LSU argument, which probably will not work in their favor (Pollsters would probably prefer to see an LSU-Alabama rematch rather than LSU-Oregon because of the relative closeness of that contest). 

If the top two to lose, that probably means Oregon would face the winner of the SEC West if they win the SEC Championship, or Oklahoma if the SEC team stumbled multiple times. Unlikely, but possible. 

  • Oregon-LSU rematch? Possible if Oklahoma State gets upset. Alabama would probably get a slight edge at this point, but the Ducks could really make their case if they keep on pouring the points on the next three weeks and make people want a rematch of opening week rather than another defensive slugfest.
  • Oregon-Alabama? Arkansas beats LSU, Oklahoma upsets Oklahoma State, and Alabama wins out, wins the tiebreaker, wins the SEC title game. Oregon possibly gets in as one of the top one-loss team, while Alabama somehow takes Oregon's place.
  • Oregon-Oklahoma? Could happen, even if it means every upset that could happen has to happen. Not terribly likely that the Sooners can get vengeance for their criminal 2006 defeat in Autzen.
  • A one loss Oregon would not likely face an undefeated Oklahoma State, as a one loss SEC champion will likely top them in the computers and the human rankings because of strength and schedule.

Basically, Oregon getting back to the title game is unlikely, but possible. Best they take care of their own ship first.