Who Should Oregon Ducks Fans Be Cheering For?
The University of Oregon’s college football regular season is over, nothing left to do for Duck fans to sit and wait for the bowl game…but which bowl? As the final games play out, despite two frustrating losses, all hope is not lost that Oregon could in fact still play in a BCS bowl. It’s a small chance, with Oregon nearly locked in for the Alamo Bowl out of BCS Bowl contention, but there is still possibility that Duck fans can dream bigger.
This weekend will go a long ways to determine that, with the official bowl invitations sent out shortly after the games end. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s games, and which teams Oregon fans should be cheering for in order to get the Ducks into the best bowl possible. And yes, we realize Rob Moseley just went full Roto-rooter on this topic yesterday with yet another stellar piece on GoDucks.com, but to be fair, we wrote this article DAYS ago and wanted to wait until it was most relevant, the day of the first game!
The BCS has and always will be, in this its final year of existence, about getting the best matchups to generate the highest revenue. They want big name teams that draw big TV ratings and sell tickets. While Oregon’s fan base is small compared to some of the larger traditional powers, years atop the ratings and rankings have proven Oregon a valued commodity with great name recognition, a team the country wants to see.
That cache’ makes Oregon a more attractive selection than some other teams that may be more deserving based on overall season performance. It also helps that people want to watch stars, and in Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon has two the whole country wants to watch.
At stake is the coveted BCS at-large bid. WIth six conferences guaranteed to place one team into the four BCS games plus the BCS national title game (the conference champions of the Pac-12, Big-10, Big-12, SEC, ACC, and the American Athletic Conference), this leaves four spots left in BCS bowl games all contenders are vying to attain. Any team ranked #14 or higher in the final BCS standings is eligible for one of the at-large spots.
While the BCS bowls have traditional alignments with conferences, they are not obligated to specifically select a team from a set conference. The sole goal of the BCS is to have the #1 and #2 teams in the final BCS standings play each other in the national championship, the other games are selected based on making the most attractive matchups based on the top teams in the remaining BCS standings.
BCS Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – Jan. 1st, 2014 2 p.m.
BCS Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (Glendale, AZ) – Jan. 1st, 2014 5:30 p.m.
BCS Allstate Sugar Bowl (New Orleans, LA) – Jan. 2nd, 2014 5:30 p.m.
BCS Discover Orange Bowl (Miami, FL) – Jan. 3rd, 2014
BCS National Championship – Rose Bowl (Pasadena, CA) – Jan. 6th, 2014 5:30 p.m.
OREGON’S CURRENT STANDING
At 10-2, Oregon is third in the Pac-12 conference, finishing second in the Pac-12 north behind Stanford. With Stanford and Arizona State playing for the Pac-12 Conference Championship in Tempe, AZ Saturday (4:45pm – ESPN), Oregon’s best hopes are for an at-large bid to a BCS game.
While for much of the year Oregon was predicted to be playing for the BCS national championship, losses to Stanford and Arizona have completely eliminated any opportunity for this whatsoever. Oregon will finish third in the final Pac-12 standings, but if things fall into place just right, Oregon could end up leapfrogging the #2 Pac-12 team (either Stanford or ASU) for an at-large BCS bowl bid.
BEST PAC-12 OUTCOME
Considering that Oregon did not play Arizona State this year and lost to Stanford, a victory by Stanford in the Pac-12 championship helps Oregon more, in keeping Oregon’s strength of schedule strong while knocking ASU out of the conversation, since Arizona State currently sits at #11 in the BCS standings, one spot above Oregon.
The Pac-12 has seven bowl alignments. These are bowl games that are pledged to select a Pac-12 team, if the conference has seven teams eligible (finishing the year with at least six victories).
Pac-12 #1 – (BCS) Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA (Jan. 1st, 2014 – 2 p.m.)
Pac-12 #2 – Alamo Bowl – San Antonio, TX (Dec. 30th, 2013 – 3:45 p.m.)
Pac-12 #3 – Holiday Bowl – San Diego, CA (Dec. 30th, 2013 – 7:15 p.m.)
Pac-12 #4 – Sun Bowl – El Paso, TX (Dec. 31st, 2013 – 11 a.m.)
Pac-12 #5 – Las Vegas Bowl – Las Vegas, NV (Dec. 21st, 2013 – 12:30 p.m.)
Pac-12 #6 – Fight Hunger Bowl – San Francisco, CA (Dec. 27th, 2013 – 6:30 p.m.)
Pac-12 #7 – Gildan New Mexico Bowl – Albuquerque, NM (Dec. 21st, 2013 – 11 a.m.)
If a Pac-12 team gets selected for an at-large BCS bowl in addition to the Rose Bowl, then each team moves up one spot. This means that Oregon’s bowl slot remains very much in flux, possibly going anywhere in the top two Pac-12 slots or a BCS bowl.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP (Tempe, AZ) – SATURDAY 4:45 p.m. – ESPN
#7 STANFORD vs. #11 ARIZONA STATE
If Stanford wins:
If the Stanford Cardinal claim the Pac-12 title, they receive an automatic invitation to the 2014 Rose Bowl. The loss would drop Arizona State out of their current spot ahead of Oregon in the BCS standings, but would remain ahead of the Ducks in the Pac-12 standings. If Oregon isn’t selected for an at-large BCS bid, this would mean Oregon would finish third, playing in the Holiday Bowl vs. the #5 Big-12 team–most likely Kansas State, a rematch of last year’s BCS Fiesta Bowl.
If Arizona State wins:
If the Arizona State Sun Devils beat Stanford to claim the Pac-12 title, Arizona State would receive the automatic invite to the Rose Bowl, while Stanford would drop out of BCS contention with three losses. This would place Oregon in position as the likeliest of Pac-12 teams to possibly receive an at-large BCS bid, but considering Oregon lost to Stanford it would also hurt Oregon’s overall standing, most likely resulting in zero Pac-12 teams receiving a BCS at-large bid.
Best Case Scenario
Cheer for Stanford, Duck fans. While Oregon has no way to leap over Stanford in ranking if the Cardinal win, a Stanford victory helps Oregon’s overall standing more than it hurts because of the victory over the Ducks last month.
MAC CHAMPIONSHIP (Detroit, MI) – Friday 5 p.m. – ESPN2
BOWLING GREEN vs. #14 NORTHERN ILLINOIS
There is no game with bigger implications on Oregon’s bowl future than the MAC championship tonight…which is the only time those words will ever be stated again. While Northern Illinois sits behind Oregon in the current BCS standings, as one of the last remaining undefeated teams in the country and led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Jordan Lynch, NIU is the most likely “BCS buster” this year, the non auto-BCS conference team that could force their way into a BCS bowl game. For Oregon to be considered a viable candidate for an at-large BCS selection, NIU must be removed from the picture.
If Northern Illinois wins:
Oregon’s BCS hopes might be dead if NIU wins the MAC. As an undefeated team with a conference championship, despite their inferior schedule, the resume may force a bowl to reluctantly select them. Make no qualms about it, no BCS selection committee wants Northern Illinois in the mix, knowing it would draw poor TV ratings and low ticket sales in what would be a likely blowout, but it would be difficult to justify selecting a two-loss Oregon over a 13-0 NIU conference champion.
If Bowling Green wins:
Bowling Green beating NIU would eliminate Northern Illinois from the BCS, likely remove Jordan Lynch from the Heisman conversation, and cause a huge sigh of relief around the country. Bowling Green unlike NIU has no chance of entering the BCS conversation, but the nation will be pulling for them simply to avoid another BCS-buster scenario.
Best Case Scenario
Bowling Green wins tonight by any means necessary. This must happen Duck fans, tune in and cheer loudly. For three hours tonight be the biggest, boldest, brashest, loudest Bowling Green fan in history, tomorrow it’s back to status quo. A Northern Illinois victory could possibly eliminate Oregon from BCS contention, securing a spot in either the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl. A trip to San Antonio or San Diego is great, but a sub-par bowl for the heights Oregon reached this year would be a stark disappointment. GO BOWLING GREEN!!!!
#17 Oklahoma vs. #6 Oklahoma State (Stillwater, OK) – 9 a.m. – ABC
#25 Texas vs. #9 Baylor (Fort Worth, TX) – 12:30 p.m. – Fox
Best Case Scenario:
Two Big-12 teams sit above Oregon in the standings, Oklahoma State and Baylor. WIth the conference reduced to 10 teams and lacking a conference championship but still with a BCS auto-bid, the hope for Oregon fans should be chaos. Oklahoma State and Baylor both are 10-1 on the season, and one will be a BCS team. If Oklahoma and Texas both win these games, it likely drops both teams below Oregon in the overall BCS standings, making it likely that a Pac-12 team (Oregon) would get selected for an at-large bid over a Big-12 team.
Hope for big wins by Oklahoma and Baylor, not just defeating but absolutely embarrassing Oklahoma State and Baylor. With the human polls still controlling 2/3rds of the BCS formula, perception often trumps reality, hence a poor showing by both could drop them below Oregon in the final BCS standings.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP (Atlanta, GA) – 1 p.m. – CBS
#5 Missouri vs. #3 Auburn
Best Case Scenario:
WIth three 1-loss SEC teams, there is an almost certain chance that the conference will get one of the at-large bids. Alabama waits in the wings while Missouri and Auburn battle to determine conference champion. Bama is a virtual lock to be an at-large, with the loser of the title game also in the conversation to possibly get a BCS at-large bid.
Based on Auburn’s victory over Alabama last week, they are the talk of the college football world, with some believing that a victory in the SEC title game could leapfrog them over undefeated Ohio State into the BCS national championship. It is unlikely that Missouri would get enough of a lift to do so, barring an Ohio State loss.
Three SEC teams with 1-loss, one guaranteed to be in the BCS, another guaranteed to get an at-large, the worst thing for Oregon would be for all three to get a slot. Therefore, one must be eliminated, and odd man out needs to be Missouri. Hope for an Auburn win, but a very ugly sloppy game that doesn’t give them any more cache’ than what was already earned in the Alabama win, preventing Auburn from reaching the BCS national championship game.
This would make Auburn the SEC champion, and Alabama taking an at-large, with a two-loss Missouri team then fighting out for an at-large slot neck-and-neck with two-loss Oregon. It seems almost certain that Oregon would have the advantage in that scenario, the BCS not wanting to take three teams from the same conference.
BIG-10 CHAMPIONSHIP (Indianapolis, IN) – 5:17 p.m. – Fox
#2 Ohio State vs. #10 Michigan State
Best Case Scenario:
Ohio State’s path is clear – beat Michigan State to capture the Big-10 title and earn a spot in the BCS national championship. Currently resting at #2 in the standings, it is unlikely any team behind them could jump them into the championship, unless Ohio State either loses or plays truly horrible vs. MSU, while the SEC champion (Auburn more likely than Missouri) looks amazing. The perception could close the current BCS gap, but not likely…win and you’re in, Ohio State.
This is the game where Oregon fans must not hope for chaos. Ohio State in the national championship is the best case scenario for the Ducks, cheer for Ohio State in dominating fashion. The reason is simple: the SEC. A loss by Michigan State would drop them below Oregon in the BCS standings out of contention for an at-large, while Ohio State in the championship would keep the SEC out of the big game, with that conference probably only taking two at-large bids in Alabama and the winner of the SEC title game.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP (Charlotte, NC) – 5 p.m. – ABC
#1 Florida State vs. #20 Duke
Best Case Scenario:
This game seems obvious, Florida State has dominated every opponent while Duke has for decades been a football punchline. Yet Duke has very sneakily been a solid team this year, and if FSU doesn’t take them seriously Duke has as much of a chance as anyone to have knocked off the Seminoles. Florida State is clearly the better team and should dominate the Blue Devils, but it shouldn’t be considered an automatic victory.
An easy win for Florida State secures their spot in the BCS national championship. Duck fans need to hope for the Seminoles to cruise over Duke, guaranteeing FSU stays in the BCS title game and not a SEC team. If Florida State wins, that leaves Ohio State (with a solid victory over Michigan State) in the championship, blocking the SEC from a repeat opportunity. Hope for Florida State to win it here, and be favored to win the national championship vs. Ohio State in January.
GAMES BREAKDOWN RECAP
While Oregon sits idle waiting outcomes, here is the best overall outcome for the Ducks to enter a BCS game.
Oregon is considered a finalist for an at-large BCS bowl bid, announced earlier this week. The committee is eyeing Oregon, games on Friday and Saturday need to go Oregon’s way to make it official. If not, then the Ducks will be bound for San Diego (Holiday Bowl) or San Antonio (Alamo Bowl).
It won’t be the Rose Bowl, but the Orange Bowl against Alabama is a very real possibility (validating those idiotic “We Want Bama” shirts that were sold earlier this year, neglecting that half the season was still left to play).
For Oregon to reach BCS dreams once more, it is going to take an awful lot of luck and help. Give it about a 5% chance of coming true, we’ll know more after Friday night. The reality is that of the 10 BCS slots, six will be slotted as the automatic-qualifying conference champions.
That means four remaining, of which Alabama is an absolute lock, leaving three. Like the Rose Bowl’s association with the Pac-12, there are traditional conference alignments in place, the ACC being closely tied to the Orange Bowl. That means an at-large bid for the Orange, Oregon’s best shot at the BCS, will instead go to Clemson. And then there were two…
Of those two remaining slots, Oregon would be in contention vs. Northern Illinois, UCF, the loser of the Big-10 and Big-12 championship games. And don’t also forget about the Pac-12 championship, a Stanford victory in a hard-fought game could give Arizona State an apples to oranges comparison for human pollsters and the selection committee to think ASU is a stronger team than Oregon.
That’s a lot of if’s, so to make Oregon the clear choice this weekend’s games must result in not only losses for the key competing teams, but perception has to be sour stemming from poor performances of those teams. With Oregon not playing this weekend, the perception of watching these teams play right before selection could tip the scales in their favor. It could very likely be out of sight out of mind, the Ducks left out of the BCS dance for the first time since 2008.
The likely result? Hope for the best, but prepare for the very likely conclusion that Oregon will end up in the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, TX.
Regardless of whichever bowl game Oregon reaches, the Ducks had a fantastic 2013 season, reaching 10+ wins for only the ninth time in school history. Be loud and proud of our Ducks for their accomplishments, and with Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu announcing their intent to return to school for the 2014 year, great things may be in the works next year too.
For now, watch the games this week intently, which will determine the best clear path for Oregon to possibly reach a BCS bowl for a record fifth-straight year.