Is Oregon or Alabama More Likely to Stumble Before the BCS Title Game?
The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Oregon Ducks have remained at the top of the polls throughout much of the season and seem destined to meet for an epic bout for the BCS National Championship.
Together, they have outscored their opponents by a combined 499 points, but as dominant as both teams have been thus far, they each still have a long way before they reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
And with numerous BCS title hopefuls waiting in the wings, including Ohio State, Florida State and Baylor, the margin for error is none.
So, between Alabama and Oregon, which team is most likely to slip up and be knocked out of the BCS title game?
The answer is tough to come by, as both have had their past struggles, and both have an equally tough road ahead.
Oregon has three ranked teams left on its 2013 slate: No. 12 UCLA, No. 6 Stanford and No. 25 Oregon State. The Bruins and the Beavers will each come to Eugene, and both will be tough outs.
UCLA is in desperate need of a win after losing to Stanford last week. The Bruins are led by a star at quarterback, redshirt sophomore Brett Hundley, who will be hungry for a turnaround after a rough game in the 24-10 loss to the Cardinal.
Meanwhile, the Beavers boast the No. 1 passing offense in the nation and the country's most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks. If the Ducks are still undefeated in the final week of the season, their bitter rival Beavers will be gritting their teeth, waiting to knock them out of the national title picture.
To make it to that scenario, the Ducks must first face their demons and take down Stanford. Oregon was a shoo-in to make the national title last year but was shut down by the Cardinal, losing 17-14 in overtime. Stanford is strong again, but so is UO. This time around, the Ducks will look to draw from their previous two results against the Cardinal, in which they scored more than 50 points and won.
The Crimson Tide will also need to avoid a regular season loss, which they weren't able to do in either of the last two years. They already exacted revenge on Texas A&M, which spoiled their perfect season a year ago. And they have already racked up two games' worth of revenge on LSU, which beat them in the regular season in 2011.
Alabama was fortunate to make the national title game despite losing to A&M and LSU in each of the last two seasons, but that isn't likely to happen this year with so many national title hopefuls still alive. This year, the Tide will have to make it past No. 13 LSU and No. 11 Auburn.
Before the LSU Tigers lost to Ole Miss last week, they were looking like a serious threat to Alabama's title hopes. And even with the loss, LSU will still give 'Bama all it can handle. The last eight regular-season meetings between LSU and UA have been decided by 14 points or less, with the last three being decided by four points or fewer.
Meanwhile, the Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn could end up deciding the SEC West Division champion. If both teams win out until that game, it will be the de-facto division title game.
For both the Tide and the Ducks, if they can make it through their archrivals and toughest conference competitors, they'll still have to win their conference title games on Dec. 7.
Which team has the tougher road to the BCS title game?
As of Week 9, No. 5 Missouri and No. 21 South Carolina are the most likely opponents for Alabama, while Arizona State and UCLA are the likely foes for Oregon.
That weekend looks like it will be a bit tougher for Alabama, though the Ducks have the tougher regular-season road thanks to the matchup with Stanford.
However, when looking at rest of the road from start to finish, it's a toss-up. Both Alabama and Oregon will have to remain sharp, and healthy, to make the national title game.
All the while, teams like Florida State and Ohio State will be pulling out AJ McCarron and Marcus Mariota voodoo dolls, looking for any possible route to a BCS title berth.
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