Recent History Shows the Door to the National Title Game is Far From Shut

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Kevin Cline

Two weeks ago, the Oregon Ducks endured one of the toughest losses in recent memory when they fell to the Stanford Cardinal, 20-26, to move to No. 6 in the BCS standings.

As frustrating as this loss was, the following media attention hurts nearly as much.  “The Ducks can’t win the big game.” “Oregon’s gimmicky offense will always fall to traditional teams.” “The Ducks are doomed without Chip Kelly.” These were the common themes echoing across college football nation.

Luckily for the Ducks, recent history indicates that they are far from out of the picture.  In fact, the Stanford loss to USC gave control right back to Oregon in the Pac-12 North.  Should Oregon win out, a Rose Bowl berth, likely against Ohio State, is the worst-case scenario.  Not too shabby, Duck fans.

Marcus Mariota bounced back from the Stanford loss with three TDs against Utah

Kevin Cline

Marcus Mariota bounced back from the Stanford loss with three TDs against Utah.

Even Alabama still has to play Auburn and the winner of the SEC East in the conference championship game.  Florida State still has to win the ACC, while their Heisman-caliber quarterback deals with an impending sexual assault investigation.  Ohio State still has to get through Michigan at the Big House.

Though they no longer control their destiny in the national title hunt, the door very well may open for the Ducks to step right back into the big picture.  After all, recent history has seen no shortage of late-season shakeups in the national standings.

In 2010, a 10-0 Boise State squad was causing controversy atop the national standings due to its dominant wins against a very weak schedule.  However, the Broncos fell in Week 13 to Colin Kaepernick’s Nevada team, pushing them out of the Top-10 and national championship conversation.

In 2011, No. 2-ranked Oklahoma State was upset by Iowa State after a 10-0 start, opening the door for a one-loss Alabama team to step back into the national title game, which became a rematch against LSU.

Last season, Oregon was among a large string of late-season losses by top teams in a two-week span.  Alabama fell to Texas A&M, and a week later Baylor and Stanford upset Kansas State and Oregon, respectively.

Even after that late loss, the Ducks had a shot to get back into the title game.  All they needed was for USC to beat

If Terrance Mitchell can play as well as he did against Utah for the rest of the year, Oregon's secondary will be tough to beat.

Kevin Cline

If Terrance Mitchell can play as well as he did against Utah for the rest of the year, Oregon’s secondary will be tough to beat.

Notre Dame, Florida State to beat Florida, and for UCLA to beat Stanford in the final week of the regular season.

While that may seem like a lot, the chances of that exact set of circumstances would not have been very surprising.  Unfortunately for Oregon, injured quarterbacks and a hot Stanford team kept that situation from playing out.  Still, it demonstrates how much can happen in the final week of the season.

This year, the Ducks may have lost early enough to make their way back into the title hunt.  With the Stanford loss to USC, Oregon moved back up to No. 5 in the nation, making them the highest-rated one-loss team in the BCS.  On top of that, as was previously noted, each team ahead of Oregon still has plenty of challenges ahead of them.

The Ducks have made a habit out of bouncing back from tough losses since the dawn of the Chip Kelly era.  To find the last time that Oregon lost back-to-back games, one would have to go back to the 2007 season, when the Ducks lost three straight to end the season.  This was in the wake of losing quarterback Dennis Dixon for the year (here I exclude the consecutive losses to Auburn and LSU as they spanned two different seasons).

The fact is that many top teams lose late.  The Ducks learned this the hard way last year, losing to Stanford only a week after Alabama fell to Texas A&M, allowing the Tide to waltz right back into the national championship picture.  This year, Oregon may have lost early enough to move right back up should any number of the teams above them fall in the final few weeks of the year.

DAT's kickoff return TD gave the Ducks a spark against Utah that will hopefully light a fire under the team for the rest of the season.

Kevin Cline

DAT’s kickoff return TD gave the Ducks a spark against Utah that will hopefully light a fire under the team for the rest of the season.

To get to the national championship game, absolutely everything has to go your way.  Well, unless you are in the SEC, where lately the norm has been to be granted a mulligan and still head to the title game.  Fair enough, SEC teams do play some tough schedules.

This year, the SEC has eaten itself alive, and Alabama remains the only undefeated team in the conference.  Missouri and Auburn are the only teams with one loss while everyone else has at least two.  That means, should each team ahead of Oregon lose, the Ducks could easily receive the nod to head back into the NCG, despite not being in the SEC.

There is plenty of time for this all to play out, with two weeks remaining in the regular season.  Still, the Ducks need to do their part.  They got off to a good start, rebounding this past weekend with a 44-21 win over Utah behind a virtually one-legged QB, and they’ll have to carry that momentum into the final weeks of the season.

The Ducks may not control their own destiny in the national title picture, but they can certainly be seen within that frame.  Three more wins will put Oregon back into the Rose Bowl, an accomplishment to be extremely proud of.  However, if recent history has anything to say about it, there remains a chance that those three wins will put the Ducks back into the big one.

 

 

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Joey Holland

Joey Holland

Joey Holland graduated from the University of Oregon in 2013, majoring in History. He played several sports in high school, though football remains his passion. He has yet to miss a single Oregon Ducks home football game during his time in Eugene. Joey has written previously for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Joey welcomes your feedback.

  • Bryan Holt

    Great run through the books, and indeed, there is still a lot of football to be played.

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Sorry, but I seem to remember a 2 Loss Nebraska getting to Play Miami, and they didn’t even win their Conference, Colorado did and we Beat the you know what out of them in the Fiesta Bowl. See the BCS has always found a way to screw Oregon out of the Title picture and this year would be NO different and that’s why Oregon has to always make sure its not up to them and when they leave it up to themselves well that spells disaster. A 1 Loss Alabama see they would never say anything disparaging against them playing a Team like Chatanooga this late in the Season and they could probably get away with playing them twice in one season and still trump Oregon, because they just don’t get the respect and that clearly should not be anything involved in any of the formulas. If we do get to the Rose Bowl this year, that’s 5 BCS Bowls in a row, now that’s respect, because NO other Team except Alabama can lay claim to that kind of record, regardless, If we cant win the Big one. Hey If Chip just Kicks a field Goal against Auburn instead of going for it on 4th and Goal, we win a National Championship instead of Losing by 2.

    • Gem Hunter

      The Ducks lost by 3 , 22-19. Have to give you props though, I haven’t seen that much denim since Patrick Swayze in “RoadHouse”

  • MAITAIDUCK

    For this to happen, 1st Hopefully this Coaching staff has this Team motivated to win in Arizona, and If I’m Coach Helfrich just tell Players like DAT and Huff you cannot talk to the Media, because BB Material does motivate your opponents no matter what people may think and when you tell Stanford your going to put 40 on them, well that didn’t work out to well. 3rd this Team needs to Know we’ve been here done that before so, Go out tomorrow on Live TV and from the start they need to play a perfect Game because we really haven’t seen that yet, They start off slow, and I do not know why that is maybe Helfrich isn’t a firey type of Guy, but against Stanford this Team did not look interested at all, So if you want to play in BIG Games and win them you have to come out and PUNCH your opponent in the MOUTH like USC did against Stanford. I would just once like to see that fire from our O Line, and hopefully they start recruiting Bigger Meaner Nastier Guys that play with a Attitude because our Center Grasu, Johnston, Mana Greig lets face it should not be starting on this Team, HE’s tooooooooo Small to be over powering Big physical DT”. Here’s hoping the Ducks Coaching Staff wins out and If they do then we will know Coach Helfrich is the right guy for the job, because lets face it, they should of beaten a Stanford Team with a 1 Dimensional Offense!