The Rose Bowl, one of the five bowl games that make up the Bowl Championship Series, is set up to have the Pac-10 Champions take on the Big Ten (11) champions.
While the Rose Bowl is the home stadium of the UCLA Bruins, its bowl games have been dominated by the Bruins' cross-town rival, the USC Trojans. The Trojans have won the Pac-10 title six consecutive years (in 2002 they were co-champions with Washington State).
Is another Pac-10 team destined for the Rose Bowl this season? It may be the Oregon Ducks.
After Dennis Dixon suffered a season-ending ACL tear in the Ducks' loss to Arizona, many thought that offensive genius Chip Kelly (the offensive coordinator) would devise a surefire way to change the offense to at least get Oregon to the Rose Bowl.
This did not occur, as we now know, and Oregon lost their final three regular season games before winning the Sun Bowl vs. South Florida.
Now a new season is about to start. USC has again been picked to win the Pac-10 conference, going for their seventh straight title. Arizona State is behind them at No. 2, and Oregon sits at No. 3.
In order to see if Oregon really has a shot at winning the Pac-10 this year and returning to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1995, when the Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Ducks 38-20, one must analyze the Ducks' 2008 season schedule.
Game 1: Aug. 30 vs. Washington
The only real threat that the once-mighty Huskies pose to the Ducks is their dual-threat quarterback, Jake Locker, who Oregon recruited.
Let's just say that Oregon won this game last year, even though their offense needed to win it for them. This year though, with the Ducks' secondary being touted as the best in the nation, Locker will be forced to run the ball.
He won't get very far against Oregon's preseason All-American defensive lineman Nick Reed, who led the Pac-10 in sacks last season. Oregon's linebacking corps is also solid with John Bacon returning to action.
Plus, this rivalry game is at Autzen Stadium, one of the toughest places to play in college football.
I say the Ducks win this game easily.
Game 2: Sep. 6 vs. Utah State
Let's just say that Utah State used to be in the Sun Belt, the worst conference in Division I-A college football. They are now in the WAC, a huge step up for their program.
Then again, they haven't really staked claim to any success in the conference, which has been primarily ruled by Boise State, Hawai'i, and Fresno State in recent years.
Again, it's at Autzen. Oregon wins.
Game 3: Sep. 13 at Purdue
This game should prove to be an interesting one. Purdue used to be a powerhouse program. When Dee Andros coached the Oregon State Beavers to beat teams such as Purdue and USC, people proclaimed them the "Giant Killers."
Purdue has not had the same success in recent years though. They won the Motor City bowl this past season against Central Michigan, but this doesn't amount to much. Central Michigan is from the MAC, not exactly the best conference in college football.
Even though the Ducks are on the road, I still pick them to win this game.
Game 4: Sep. 20 vs. Boise State
The Boise State Broncos, up until their loss to Washington last season, held Division I-A's longest winning streak. Think about this: They lost to Washington, who hasn't made a bowl game since 2002.
This Boise State program is not as hot as it has been in recent years. It's another home game for the Ducks, which most likely means another win.
Game 5: Sep. 27 at Washington State
Even though Oregon lost to Washington State two years ago on their most recent trip to Pullman, Oregon crushed WSU last season. The Cougars finished dead last in the conference last year.
Expect a win for the Ducks.
Game 6: Oct. 4 at USC
This may be the first game of the season that Oregon loses. The Ducks have not come out of the collesium victorious since 2000, when Washington, Oregon and Oregon State were all co-champions of the Pac-10. With both teams having great defenses, this could be a low scoring game. I do not know who exactly to pick in this game, but it could be a great one.
Game 7: Oct. 11 vs. UCLA
The Ducks will avenge their shutout loss to the Bruins last season. The Autzen crowd will overpower the visitors once more.
Game 8: Oct. 25 at Arizona State
Arizona State could not score on offense last season against the Ducks, and their defense wasn't as good as it is this year, and not as experienced either.
Look for another Duck victory.
Game 9: Nov. 1 at California
Another loss avenged. With Nate Longshore gone, this game can be won, and most likely will be.
Game 10: Nov. 8 vs. Stanford
Last time Stanford came to Autzen, they got creamed. Look for another rendition this season. Stanford has been declining for a long time.
Game 11: Nov. 15 vs. Arizona
With Arizona's All-American cornerback gone, Oregon should win this game. They will not let Arizona win three consecutive seasons against the Ducks, two at Autzen.
Game 12: Nov. 29 at Oregon State
This year, Oregon returns the favor and beats Oregon State on their own turf. Oregon will avenge their loss last year.
Potentially, as I see it, you have Oregon either ending the regular season undefeated, 12-0, or the runner-up in the conference at 11-1. That's unless Stanford can beat USC again—not likely—or ASU, which is more likely.
It's lofty to think that Oregon could finish undefeated and go to the Rose Bowl, but stranger things have happened. Oregon's impressive run last season came after a horrible slide to end the season. Who'd've thunk it?
Either way, I believe that Oregon will at least get a Holiday Bowl berth.
Will Oregon make the Rose Bowl? It's hard to predict at the current moment. My predictions are based on news feeds coming out of the Duck camps and what I know about the team. We will see what this season has in store for this Ducks team.