How Does the USA Today Preseason Poll Alter Oregon's BCS Path?
The Oregon Ducks are entering the 2012 season as Pac-12 and Rose Bowl Champions.
After two seasons that saw them come up just short of their BCS dreams, the Ducks have finally reached new heights and ascended into the ranks of college football powerhouses.
While LaMichael James and Darron Thomas as well as a bevy of other talented players have headed past college life, a core group of talented players along with a surplus of incoming talent will look to lead the Oregon charge down the field in 2012 as they campaign for their fourth straight conference title and BCS bowl appearance.
Yet, many Duck fans have higher hopes than just an appearance in any BCS bowl game; they want a shot at the big one again.
Ranked No. 5 behind LSU, Alabama, USC, and Oklahoma in the first USA Today coaches' poll, it would appear as though the Ducks have a legitimate shot at a BCS National Championship appearance should things go their way this season.
Also appearing in the first poll from the Pac-12 are USC and Stanford, with Washington being on the brink of the top 25.
Here are five things that Oregon can take out of the first preseason poll of the season.
Non-Conference Schedule Hurts
Oregon has been relatively blessed with great non-conference games these past few years.
Though they may not have always gone in favor of the Ducks, these games have helped to bring Oregon into the national spotlight on several occasions and given them valuable time in front of cameras where people all across the nation could see the strength their team possesses.
LSU, Boise State, Michigan and Oklahoma are just a sample of the prestigious programs Oregon has had adorn their schedule in recent years.
Though every program has the ability to win on any given Saturday, the teams Oregon faces this year may harm its BCS National Championship chances if there are other teams that finish undefeated as well.
The Ducks face Arkansas State, Tennessee Tech, and Fresno State—none of them all too imposing when you look at the statistics they produced last year and the players they return in 2012.
While these games will give Oregon the chance to adapt to the new players on both sides of the ball, the Ducks may be wishing they played tougher non-conference games come the end of the season should a team like Georgia, Florida State, or Michigan go undefeated.
Washington Game Even More Important
Though the Washington Huskies have seen some poor years as of late, 2012 may be their best shot at a comeback season.
While Chris Polk has left for the ranks of the NFL, a group of talented returning players, headlined by Keith Price, are looking to make a splash in the Pac-12 this season.
In a season where Oregon does not have the strongest schedule, their game against the Washington Huskies may be crucial when positioning them for a BCS National Championship run.
Right now, the Huskies sit just outside the top-25 in the USA Today coaches' poll and will be poised to be ranked when they play the Oregon Ducks. In order to do so, the Huskies will have to prove themselves. Not only will they face Oregon at Autzen Stadium, they will also have to play competitively against both LSU and Stanford.
Should Washington shock the world with wins in both those games, they will come into Autzen Stadium as one of the hottest teams in the nation, and it will be the perfect opportunity for the Ducks to put a big win on their schedule early on in the season.
Stanford Game as Important as Recent Years
The Stanford Cardinal are heading into the season ranked 18th in the first USA Today coaches' poll.
While some may believe the Cardinal lost their team with Andrew Luck's departure to the NFL, Stepfan Taylor and company are ready to prove to the nation that they are just as good as they have been in past years. Luck was crucial in the rise of Stanford into prominence, but Taylor has been the tank behind the Cardinal offense in the past few years.
The Cardinal, unlike many would come to believe, are generally a running team. They open up their passing game with the run, and this game style has proven very efficient for them recently.
Oregon and Stanford meet later on in the season on November 17th. At this point, Stanford will have had to play both Washington and USC. If they still have an admirable record at this point, Stanford will likely be ranked at least in the top 15, if not better.
This year's contest with the Cardinal will be just as important as it has been in recent years.
USC Game Will Be the Game of the Year
This game has been a long time coming.
2012 will be the first year that USC is back from their NCAA postseason ban and are looking to contend for a BCS National Championship once again.
During the time the Trojans have been away from the postseason, the Ducks have taken the reins of the Pac-12 en route to three straight conference championships.
In 2012, the teams will likely get to meet on November 3rd both ranked in the top 10 and undefeated, setting up a contest for the ages.
Oregon vs. USC is beginning to become one of the better rivalries in college football, and this year's game will be a staple in both of the teams' histories.
Play the Game the Ducks Have Been Playing
As mentioned previously, the Ducks have won three straight conference titles and made an appearance in three straight BCS bowl games.
Clearly they are doing something right.
If the Ducks wish to see themselves back in the BCS National Championship at the end of 2012, they need to keep on playing the game they have been playing recently.
Yes, rankings are very important when determining whether or not you are considered for the BCS National Championship.
No, they should not alter the way your team plays.
Oregon's mantra is "Win the Day."
They must use this mantra more than ever this year as they try not to overlook any opponent and become too infatuated with rankings.
Play the game they have been playing these past few years, and the rankings will figure themselves out in the end.