The Oregon Ducks enter Week 9 of the college football season ranked No. 7 in the country, one spot behind Pac-12 North rival Stanford.
At 6-1 (4-0), the Ducks have five pivotal games remaining on the schedule against Washington State, Washington, No. 6 Stanford, USC and Oregon State.
If the Ducks are able to win the Pac-12 North division and represent the conference in the inaugural championship game, the Ducks will likely play Arizona State in a rematch for the conference title.
In order for the Ducks to fulfill their dreams of playing again for a national championship, a lot must happen including undefeateds falling and the Ducks running the table.
This is probably the most important part of the Ducks’ dreams of playing in New Orleans. An opening week loss to the No.1 LSU Tigers has been an anchor to Oregon’s season.
Both LSU and Alabama sit at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, still perfect on the year. The two will face off on Nov. 5 in Tuscaloosa, AL in a game that will likely decide one of the teams in the national title game.
Hypothetically, if Alabama wins the game then a one-loss LSU squad would get the nod over Oregon because of the head-to-head win. If LSU wins, it gets a lot more interesting.
The debate then becomes whether it is better to have an LSU-Bama rematch or an LSU-Oregon rematch. Due to an obvious East Coast bias, I think it’s safe to say that the voters would vote the Crimson Tide into the title game.
Oregon needs either LSU or Alabama to lose two games. The only games LSU could potentially lose are the Alabama game, the final regular season game against Arkansas or the SEC title game against the SEC East winner.
For the Alabama Crimson Tide, their potential losses would come against LSU, Auburn in their final game of the regular season or the conference title game if they were to beat LSU. Oregon needs one of these teams to lose two games.
Due to the weak Pac-12 this season, a team from the Big 12 with the same record as Oregon would more than likely make it to the national championship game in New Orleans. Right now there are three teams in the way of the Ducks’ championship dreams; Oklahoma State, Oklahoma and Kansas State.
The Oklahoma State Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners will face off in the final week of the regular season, making for a game that may decide a spot in the national championship. I don’t see the Cowboys being undefeated when that game comes around simply because their remaining schedule is too difficult.
The Cowboys have home games against Baylor, No. 8 Kansas State and No. 9 Oklahoma. Their road games include No. 20 Texas Tech (who just knocked off previously undefeated Oklahoma in Norman, OK) and an overlooked Iowa State team.
Assuming the Cowboys drop one of their games before they take on the Sooners, it is crucial that Oklahoma also loses a game before then.
Oklahoma has the same remaining teams on their schedule with the exception of No. 16 Texas A&M instead of Texas Tech. If the Sooners lose a game, then beat a one-loss Oklahoma State team, both teams would rank below the Ducks.
The one team that is left is Kansas State. Because preseason rankings do mean a lot to the final rankings, a one-loss Kansas State team will likely not be ranked above a one-loss Oregon team.
The Wildcats have arguably the most difficult remaining schedule of any team in the national championship race playing four ranked teams in their remaining five games. Those teams are No. 9 Oklahoma, No, 3 Oklahoma State, No. 16 Texas A&M, No. 24 Texas and Iowa State to finish the season.
My guess is that the Wildcats will be lucky to win three of those, likely dropping at least three games. The remaining Big 12 teams will beat each other up, and the Ducks will need both Oklahoma and Oklahoma State to finish with two losses and Kansas State to have at least one loss.
The Ducks cannot have an undefeated BCS conference team and hope to play for the national title. The No. 6 Clemson Tigers have the easiest road to an undefeated season, with only one top 25 team in their final four regular season games.
The Tigers play Georgia Tech on the road, then a bye week before they play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, then two big road games against NC State and rival No. 13 South Carolina.
If the Tigers run the table and play in the conference championship game, they would play the winner of the ACC Coastal division, which will likely be No. 12 Virginia Tech (who they’ve already beaten, 23-3).
Clemson must drop a game in order for the Ducks to play for the national championship.
I put likely because this opens up a can of worms that is a debate for another day.
Voters still don’t want to vote Boise State into the national championship game simply because their schedule is so weak.
The Broncos have only played one team currently ranked in the top 25, No. 22 Georgia, and they don’t play another for the remainder of the season. Unless the Broncos have another Nevada fiasco like last season, the Broncos will finish the year undefeated and therefore will be in the hunt for a national title.
Note: An undefeated Houston team won’t play for a national title due to their preseason ranking and poor strength of schedule.
This is the other most important aspect to the Ducks’ title hopes. Oregon has taken care of business since their opening loss to the LSU Tigers, but they still have a long road ahead.
The Ducks still have games against Washington, at No. 6 Stanford, No. 20 USC (AP Poll), Oregon State (rivalry games are always a concern) and a conference championship game against No. 21 Arizona State if they win the Pac-12 North. Oregon has a lot of roadblocks.
Oregon's game on Nov. 12 in Palo Alto, CA against Stanford will unveil a lot about the national title picture.
If the Ducks do run the table, they still need a lot of teams to drop games in order for to play for the national title. It certainly could happen though. There is a lot of football left to be played.