In the span of just nine days, the Oregon Ducks went from having their Pac-12 and BCS championship hopes dashed with a loss to Stanford to controlling their destiny in the race for the Rose Bowl.
The BCS championship hopes are still a pipe dream, but the Pac-12 title is once again there for the taking. If the Ducks end the season atop the conference, they can thank the team that won seven consecutive conference titles before the Ducks dethroned them in 2009.
When the resurgent USC Trojans ended their four-game losing streak to Stanford on Saturday night, Oregon was given another chance to cement its status as the premier program in the conference.
After USC's legendary run from 2002-2008, Oregon took over as the Pac-12's dominant program, but it has struggled with Stanford in recent years. The Ducks have lost three of the past five meetings with the Cardinal, but that hasn't done much damage to Oregon's quest for conference titles.
Despite the head-to-head losses, the Ducks have won three league titles in the previous four seasons to just one for the Cardinal. After USC's win over the weekend, Oregon has the table set to make it four league titles since 2009.
The Ducks have two games remaining on the schedule, both of which should be decided early in the second half. If they beat Arizona and Oregon State, Oregon would host the Pac-12 Championship Game for the second time in its three-year history.
Who the Ducks would face in the game isn't quite as simple. Arizona State holds a one-game lead over UCLA, whom they will battle at the Rose Bowl on Saturday. If the winner of the game goes on to win its season finale, it would represent the South in the title game.
As a result of their head-to-head win over USC, Arizona State holds the tiebreaker and what amounts to a two-game lead over the Trojans. Even if UCLA beats Arizona State and the Trojans beat the Bruins, it would still require an Arizona upset over Arizona State to give the Trojans the Pac-12 South title.
Nothing is given in the world of college football, and the Oregon Ducks know that as well as anyone. That being said, the Pac-12 championship scenario is pretty clear for the Ducks. Regardless of who they would face, the Ducks will be favored in the friendly confines of Autzen Stadium if they handle their business over the next two weeks.
For them to reach the national championship game, it will require a series of upsets in the BCS Top Five.
No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Florida State are virtual locks to face off in the BCS title game if they win out. Both of them have gimme wins this coming weekend as they face Chattanooga and Idaho, respectively.
Things could get interesting in the weeks following, however, as the Crimson Tide will face its bitter rivals, No. 6 Auburn. If they win the "Iron Bowl," Alabama will face another ranked opponent in the SEC Championship Game.
After facing one-win Idaho, Florida State will face the reeling Florida Gators in its regular-season finale. The Gators have been awful in recent weeks but have the ability to upset the Seminoles. If the Seminoles clear that hurdle, they will face either Duke or Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game.
If either of them should lose, Oregon would still need losses by Baylor and Ohio State to earn BCS title-game berth. On paper, the Bears and Buckeyes each have potential losses on the schedule, but the way they are playing, the best bet for the Ducks is to take care of what they can control and let the chips fall where they may.
It appears the No. 3 Buckeyes have an easier road ahead, with a home game against Indiana and a trip to Michigan to close out the season. With two wins, the Buckeyes will be headed to the Big Ten championship game against Michigan State.
Baylor has a much tougher road on paper but no conference championship game to boost its resume at the end of the season. The No. 4 Bears are primed to jump the Buckeyes with a win at No. 10 Oklahoma State this weekend.
The bottom line is the Ducks need a lot of help to get back to the BCS Championship Game, but that shouldn't be on their minds right now. After being given a second chance to control their own destiny, it has become a two-game season for Oregon.
If they win both of those, the Ducks will be one win away from another Rose Bowl berth. Before Chip Kelly took over the program in 2009, Oregon's matchup with Penn State in the 1995 Rose Bowl was its first appearance since 1958 and just the fourth in program history.
If the Ducks win the next three games, they will be headed back to Pasadena for a potential rematch with Ohio State. The loss to Stanford might have awoken Oregon from its national championship dream, but the Ducks shouldn't lose sight of what is still possible.
Oregon has been to the Rose Bowl six times in the history of the program. Before Chip Kelly took over as head coach in 2009, the Ducks had played in "The Granddaddy of Them All" in 1917, 1920, 1958 and 1995.
Kelly helped guide the Ducks to Rose Bowl appearances, despite November losses to Stanford in 2009 and USC in 2011. With wins in their next three games, the Ducks will be headed to the Rose Bowl for the third time in the last five years, despite a late-season loss.
Considering the somber mood of most Oregon fans after the Stanford loss, a potential 12-1 season would be a nice way to end the BCS era.
If the Ducks were to go on to win the Rose Bowl, it would be just the third Rose Bowl win in program history. It would also mark just the second time in 119 years of Oregon football that the Ducks would finish with 13 wins in a season.