Last night in Eugene, the No. 9 Oregon Ducks defeated everybody’s preseason Pac-12 darling, Arizona State, 41-27.
The win improved the Ducks’ record to 5-1, with their only loss coming against No. 1 LSU during the season’s opening weekend.
By disposing of the Sun Devils, has Chip Kelly’s squad re-entered the National Title picture?
A quick glance at Oregon’s schedule reveals that the Ducks have a very good chance at finishing the rest of the season unbeaten, as long as they can get by Andrew Luck and Stanford on Nov. 12.
Not counting the Cardinal, the only other real test on the Ducks’ schedule comes Nov. 19 against USC, and the game is at Autzen Stadium.
A 6-0 finish would all but assure Oregon a berth in the inaugural Pac-12 title game, and a win in that matchup against the Southern Division champion would leave them with 12 wins.
If other AQ teams like Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Clemson falter during the second half of the season, it is likely that a one-loss team will be playing either LSU or Alabama for the Coaches Trophy in January.
Given their strength of schedule in this scenario—wins over Arizona State, Stanford and USC—their Pac-12 title trophy and a “good loss” against LSU, the Ducks could be the best option for New Orleans on selection Sunday.
One interesting storyline to keep in mind is that loss vs. the Tigers.
Are the Ducks a legitimate national title contender?
In the past, the BCS powers that be have been reluctant to reward one-loss teams with a rematch against the team that beat them. It’s bad TV, and it’s viewed as a waste of time.
With that caveat in mind, you can bet that Chip Kelly’s team and the Ducks’ faithful will be pulling for the Crimson Tide when they host LSU in early November.
One last team for Oregon to keep an eye on is Boise State.
Every year, the Broncos set themselves up on a collision course for BCS controversy by finishing undefeated and leaving the voters to decide if a mid-major team is worthy of a chance to be No. 1.
With the way this season is shaping up—so many unbeatens from so many AQ conferences—the BCS might be spared this awkward and embarrassing decision in 2011.
However, if they are forced to choose, a one-loss Oregon team seems as good an option as any.