The next three weeks in the Pac-12 will set the stage for a fantastic finish in the final year of the BCS. Before they can stake their claim to a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, the top three teams in the league will all face each other in the next few weeks.
If the Oregon Ducks win the remainder of their games, they will likely be in the BCS Championship Game no matter what happens with the other top teams in the country. In order to keep themselves in the discussion in the coming weeks, the No. 2 Ducks will have to win back-to-back contests against UCLA and Stanford.
Before taking on the Ducks, the undefeated Bruins will travel to Palo Alto on Saturday to face off against the Cardinal in a game with serious Pac-12 and national-title implications.
Which team should Oregon fans be rooting for on Saturday?
Utah's upset win over Stanford certainly hurt the Cardinal's BCS aspirations, but the defending Pac-12 champions are still very much alive. The Cardinal have a tough schedule the rest of the way and wins over UCLA and Oregon would likely vault them back into the Top Five.
Even with a loss, Stanford would likely remain in the rankings despite consecutive losses to league foes.
If the Cardinal beat the Bruins, both teams will likely remain among the Top 15 teams in the rankings. Making three consecutive BCS Bowl appearances has given Stanford enough cache that one loss might not end their hopes of winning their first national championship since 1940.
According to ESPN.com's Ted Miller, the Pac-12 looks to be firmly entrenched as the best conference in the country outside of the SEC, so it is conceivable that a one-loss Pac-12 champion could shake up the final BCS standings.
If No. 9 UCLA beats Stanford, it will be on the verge of the Top Five when they face the Ducks. If the Bruins are able to navigate the back-to-back road contests against Top-15 teams, they will be firmly in the discussion for a berth in the BCS Championship Game with five games remaining.
Should they split the two games, the Bruins would still be the favorite to reach the Pac-12 Championship Game. If they make it that far with one loss, a rematch against Oregon or Stanford would likely await.
If two of the three teams finish with one loss and face off in the Pac-12 Championship Game, the winner would have a legitimate argument for a berth in the final BCS Championship Game.
The Bruins, the Cardinal and the Ducks are all in control of their own destiny, but the Ducks are sitting in the best position. Oregon has the talent, the experience and the benefit of watching the other two square off before it hosts UCLA.
By the time the Ducks take the field against Washington State on Saturday night, they will have a better idea of what they are up against in the next few weeks. UCLA is coming off an easy win against Cal, while Stanford will try to bounce back from just its fifth loss since the 2010 season.
The clash of styles between Oregon and UCLA could produce one of the best games of the year, and the game could be the first of many BCS dominoes to fall in the coming weeks.
If the Ducks can make it through the regular season unscathed for the first time since 2010, everything else that happens will have little impact on where the Oregon winds up. Should the Ducks trip up against either the Bruins or the Cardinal, the Pac-12 will be set for a fantastic finish to the season.
It is sure to be a wild ride over the next eight weeks and it all starts Saturday in Palo Alto.