When the Oregon Ducks fell in overtime to the Stanford Cardinal, the mood in Eugene grew grim. This is arguably the best Ducks team that Chip Kelly has had and many were expecting them to run the table and represent the Pac 12 in the BCS national title game. Losing to the Cardinal extinguished that dream, or at least it seemed to. But there’s still a glimmer of hope for the Ducks, as they can still make it back into the national championship picture.
They are going to need a lot of help to get there, though. The Ducks did serious damage to their campaign with the loss, but with most of the contenders for the top two positions in the BCS sitting at one loss, the Ducks are in the middle of the pack and can still move their way to the top with some fortuitous bounces.
As it stands right now, the Ducks sit fifth in the BCS standings. They trail the undefeated and unanimous No. 1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Alabama Crimson Tide, Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators. Either Alabama or Georgia is guaranteed at least one more loss because they’ll likely face each other in the SEC title game. But Oregon will need a lot more help than that.
First things first, the Ducks need to handle their own business. That means going into Corvallis for the Civil War and beating the Oregon State Beavers, which is easier said than done this year. Oregon will have to do a better job against a stout run defense than they did against Stanford, or their miracle run to the title game will be officially over.
Then they’ll need the UCLA Bruins to knock off Stanford this Saturday. A Bruins win, paired with an Oregon win would give the Ducks the Pac 12 North division title and they would host the Pac 12 Championship game for the second straight year. Obviously, Oregon would then need to win the Pac 12 Championship against UCLA, securing the Pac 12′s automatic bid into the BCS, finishing with a record of 12-1 with a conference championship.
The rest of Oregon’s title game scenario is completely out of their hands. The first step is for Notre Dame to slip up in their season-finale against the USC Trojans. Ending the season on a loss, since Notre Dame doesn’t have a conference title game to play in, would seriously damage Notre Dame’s chances of staying in the top two of the BCS. An Irish loss would also split up the vote for No. 1 among the one-loss teams, evening the field, in theory.
For the three SEC teams ahead of Oregon, the Ducks need just one of them to lose this weekend. The most likely upset would be of Florida who travel to Tallahassee to play the Florida State Seminoles. FSU has plenty to play for in this rivalry and Florida will be playing with a limited Jeff Driskel at quarterback, which makes it likely that the Gators fall.
Shockers by the Auburn Tigers over Alabama in the Iron Bowl or by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets over Georgia in their rivalry game would also work, though are not nearly as probable. Auburn is 0-7 in SEC play this season and Georgia Tech, though winners of the Coastal division of the ACC, hover just above .500 at 6-5.
With losses by Stanford, Notre Dame and at least one of the SEC schools this weekend, Oregon would likely move up to No. 3 in the BCS with the Pac 12 title game to play. In this scenario, No. 1 and No. 2 in the BCS would be between the two remaining one-loss SEC teams, Alabama and Georgia, who would be squaring off in the SEC title game.
On Championship Weekend, Oregon would then need to take care of UCLA and then watch as one of the two teams ahead of them fell in the SEC title game. That, in theory, would be enough to push Oregon up to No. 2 in the final BCS standings and send them to Miami for the BCS National Championship January 7 against the SEC champion.
It’s a complicated, convoluted mess of possibilities, and the chances of it all working out are slim at best. But as long as there’s a chance, Oregon can keep the dream alive.