One of the best parts about College Football is the exclusivity of its postseason; to guarantee your spot in the title game, you must be perfect. Oregon was not perfect in 2012. The Ducks’ shortcomings in several areas led to their defeat against their best competition, but their successes allowed them to remain in the national title conversation all the way into week 13, a feat only a handful of other teams accomplished this season.
Coming into Saturday, Oregon needed three losses ahead of them to return to the national title game, and a UCLA win to earn a shot at defending their conference title. They were guaranteed one loss as Georgia and Alabama had already clinched their matchup in the SEC title game, and had to look at the remaining games on the slate for the other two losses. Georgia and Alabama were big favorites in their games, but Notre Dame and Florida had tough rivalry challenges to overcome in order to remain in the title conversation. As expected, Georgia and Alabama laid the hurt on their rivals, while Florida and Notre Dame took care of business in their rivalry games, shutting the door on Oregon’s chances at a national title.
Attention then turned to Pasadena as the PAC-12 North title remained in limbo. The UCLA-Stanford game appeared interesting from afar, but in reality, the Stanford Cardinal were miles ahead of a peaking UCLA team. The Cardinal exploited UCLA’s weaknesses just as they did to Oregon the week before.
As Chip Kelly earned his respect over the past few years, David Shaw compiled the nation’s best football team- there is no doubt in my mind that Stanford could play and beat any team in the country on any given day. Of course in hindsight, Kevin Hogan’s initial position on the depth chart may have cost Stanford a shot at the national title as he definitely would have changed the outcome of their loss to Washington, and non-loss to Notre Dame.
When Oregon lost control of its destiny, the odds were stacked against them, and at the end of the day, the teams that executed when it mattered the most will enjoy the rewards of their success. As Oregon’s magical season wraps up, the idea of an at-large BCS bowl bid has turned into somewhat of a consolation prize for the Oregon fan base. Perhaps it indicates arrogance, or perhaps it indicates a true landmark of the changing culture in Eugene.
As Chip Kelly’s future at Oregon becomes more uncertain with every passing day, there is no doubt in my mind that Oregon’s football program will stay the course, and remain in the national title conversation for years to come.