It's been a surprising three year absence for the Oregon Ducks from the national title conversation. Three straight Novembers, Oregon has come in controlling or coming close to controlling their national title hopes. Three times, Oregon has been upset in astounding fashion--once by Matt Barkley in Autzen, once by Kevin Hogan and his fierce defense, and then an absolute meltdown last season in Palo Alto and Tucson.
After some early hiccups, the Ducks are back in form. Oregon boasts a top 5 offense by most advanced metrics yet again. Their defense is still slightly shaky--the Ducks give up tons of yards compared to their predecessors--but Oregon is generally good at keeping their opponents out of the end zone.
Of all the college football playoff hopefuls, Oregon is the most likely to run the table. According to Bill Connelly of Football Study Hall, Oregon's chances of finishing the season 8-1 in Pac-12 play is a pretty astounding 84.4%. Their odds of winning the Pac-12 are around 80% of winning the conference championship game against likeliest opponents UCLA or Arizona State.
Here are Oregon's odds to win their final three games:
- at Utah: 87.6%. I do think Utah's defense will offer a very stiff test and might slow down the Ducks in ways Stanford couldn't. Nate Orchard is that much of a game changer and will be the toughest matchup for the Ducks since Scooby Wright. This is a game which could rely on their defense forcing Travis Wilson to make mistakes.
- Colorado: 98.6%. If this was in Boulder, I might actually think Colorado would have the points to keep up with Oregon, but in Autzen? It's going to be tough goings for the Buffs defense to keep up with Oregon's offense.
- at Oregon State: 98.3%. Poor Beavers. Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks came very close to knocking off a vulnerable Ducks team last season, but this is last season. The Beavers have one lone win in-conference against Colorado. They are not a good football team right now.
This could bode well for Oregon in final seeding as well, and give them an open date to a Rose Bowl semifinal. Their national odds are very good. According to Connelly, who are the top four odds to get to 11 wins?
- Oregon 85.5%
- Florida State 81.6%
- TCU 62.4%
- Mississippi State 60.3%
While the SEC West has to beat up on one another, Florida State still has Miami and the ACC Championship, and the Big 12 hopefuls have to plow through each other, Arizona State must do battle with Notre Dame and Arizona (and probably eventually Oregon), the Ducks have put most of their biggest tests behind them. They have vanquished the North with still three weeks to go and will clinch it with a win this weekend.
Only Florida State (29% chance to go undefeated, 52% chance to go 11-1) comes even close to matching Oregon's odds of finishing as a one-loss playoff contender. Mississippi State has 60% odds of going 11-1 or 12-0, Alabama leans more toward the 10-2 side, and Auburn is split between 11-1/10-2 fates. And TCU also seems to be in prime position to run the table if they get through this week.
Balls in your court Ducks. Four more wins, and you're in good shape to be spending New Year's in Pasadena.