Ah chaos, it’s great when you’re watching it, not when you’re a part of it. As the SEC teams get their annual late season tune up game against FCS schools, Oregon had to face the best team its faced yet and fell right on their faces. With the loss, Oregon’s national title hopes reduced to a prayer. What’s even worse is that Oregon’s conference title has been taken away from them for one week, and after all the respect the Ducks have mustered this season, it seems as if they will be getting a consolation prize rather than a reward; alas, it is what makes College Football so special: to be the best, you must be perfect. There aren’t any wild-cards, or cinderella stories in the national title game, just the nation’s two best teams, and this year, Oregon is not one of them.
The most important thing to remember is that Oregon’s overtime loss to a top-15 team is considerably more forgivable than Kansas State’s loss to an unranked Baylor team with the worst defense in the country. That could go a long way when talking about possible chaos happening in the final week of the season (a-la 2006).
While it will require a big amount of chaos, it isn’t an unreasonable amount of chaos to ask for. Here are Oregon’s chances at getting back into the national title, and conference title game. I rank each scenario on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest probability.
We’ll go over Oregon’s shot at the Rose Bowl first. UCLA holds the key to it all. Yes, the Civil War isn’t a gimme anymore, but if Oregon can beat OSU, everything sits on the UCLA-Stanford game. Stanford just played one of the biggest game in the program’s history, so an emotional let down is possible. Problem is, UCLA just played one of the biggest game in its history as well, knocking off an embattled USC team. UCLA has a chance to beat Stanford, no doubt about it, but the Cardinal should be the favorite.
Chances UCLA beats Stanford: 7
The national title picture is separate from the conference race, which is a good thing for Oregon (remember Alabama last year?) Oregon’s path is more domino related than anything, and both paths involve some sort of upset to open the door back up for the Ducks. Outside of the SEC championship game, Oregon needs two losses ahead of them. The two best chances of that happening are in the Notre Dame-USC game, and the Florida State-Florida game.
USC is not the team that everyone thinks they are. The Trojans have lost every game that has had implications nationally this season, and have done so in undisciplined, sloppy fashion. Southern Cal will be missing its pride and joy Matt Barkley for the rivalry game, so another Mater Dei quarterback Max Wittek will be called upon to proverbially save Lane Kiffin’s coaching career. Maybe having a freshman under center will make Kiffin simplify his ridiculously complex offense that even his seasoned players don’t understand twelve weeks into the season. On the other side, Notre Dame is four quarters away from a national championship berth.
Chances USC beats Notre Dame: 3
The second key game is probably even more important than the ND-USC game, and that is Florida State vs. Florida. Let’s just say that Florida is not as good as people think, and Florida State is way better than it looks. If it weren’t for the Noles blowing a big lead against NC State, they would be right up there in the national title conversation. This is probably the most likely thing to aid the Ducks next Saturday.
Chances Florida State beats Florida: 8
The final, but more estranged path is through Georgia Tech upsetting Georgia, and Georgia beating Alabama. If the Yellow Jackets can somehow knock of their in-state rivals, which isn’t impossible, the Bulldogs could beat Alabama, which would then allow Oregon to slide through the back door to play Notre Dame in the title game.
Chances the Georgia Chaos Theory plays out: 2
So yes, the chances are slim. Oregon controlled its destiny, and now, it needs a miracle to get it back.