What a day for Oregon Football … Sorry if I gave you a scare, but don’t worry; you didn’t sleep through the game.
While the Ducks got some much-needed rest this past Saturday, a few of the necessary dominos fell to give the Ducks a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Miracle in Minnesota
The first matchup was a clash between undefeated teams: Penn State and Minnesota. In the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, Penn State was No. 4 in the country whereas Minnesota sat at No. 17. Although Minnesota was one of the final seven undefeated teams in the country, their soft schedule and lack of “quality” wins had prevented them from moving up the ranks. However, a home game against Penn State gave them the perfect opportunity in front of a national audience to prove that they belong in the playoff conversation.
And they did just that. Minnesota narrowly defeated Penn State 31-26 in a game that came down to the final minute. Gopher fans stormed the field in what was one of their most important games in recent memory.
While Minnesota improved their chances of advancing to the B1G Championship Game and potentially the playoff, simultaneously, they made Penn State’s road to the playoff much, much harder.
Minnesota now controls their own fate in making the playoff. They have Iowa, Northwestern and their rival and likely biggest test, Wisconsin, left on their schedule. In order to make the conference championship, the Golden Gophers need to win two of those three. If they were to do so, they would likely play Ohio State or Penn State in what could be a CFP play-in game.
As for Penn State, they will now have an uphill battle with Indiana, Ohio State and Rutgers to end their regular season. Although Indiana and Rutgers might not pose much of a threat, the game at Ohio State will be the most important game on PSU’s schedule. A win would send them to the B1G Championship in a revenge game against Minnesota and would give them a revived chance at the playoff. A loss would ultimately end any conference championship and playoff hopes.
Burrow the Baller
The second undefeated matchup of the day took place in Tuscaloosa between LSU and Alabama. Backed by Heisman favorite Joe Burrow, LSU was able to dominate from the kickoff. LSU won 46-41, but the final score was a bit deceiving, as Alabama scored 21 in the fourth quarter.
Nevertheless, LSU’s dominant win was exactly what Oregon needed. LSU now sits at the top of the SEC west with a record of 9-0 and has unranked Ole Miss, Arkansas and Texas A&M to close out its regular season schedule. Barring a shocking loss, LSU will walk its way into the SEC championship against a one-loss Georgia team (as it stands).
As I have mentioned previously, LSU needs to beat Georgia. A loss would most definitely put Georgia into the final four and would force the committee to decide between one-loss Alabama, LSU, Oregon and potentially Oklahoma or Baylor. Based on historical bias and the SEC’s strength of schedule, I believe Oregon would be on the outside looking in.
As for Alabama, their loss at home against LSU might turn out to be detrimental to their playoff hopes. Even if the Crimson Tide were to win out (which includes the Iron Bowl at Auburn), Saban’s squad still may be out of luck. The loss against LSU almost guarantees to keep them out of their conference championship game, leaving their best win at Texas A&M and potentially Auburn. Neither of these wins should trump a potential 12-1 Oregon team with a conference championship win over Utah.
Looking Ahead …
This past weekend was HUGE for Oregon’s chances to make the playoff. Although they obviously didn’t do anything to help their own chances, teams around them fell and the playoff picture became slightly clearer.
Oregon is going to need to do everything in their power to prove that they belong. They need to win and dominate each of their next three regular season games as well as their conference championship.
As the season comes to a close, passionate Ducks fans need to watch more than just Oregon games. Aside from Arizona coming to Autzen next week, Georgia plays Auburn in a huge SEC matchup that could drastically change the playoff landscape. An Auburn win would most likely eliminate a two-loss Georgia team from playoff contention and would additionally make Oregon’s early season collapse against the Tigers look less concerning.
Additionally, one-loss Oklahoma travels to Waco, Texas to take on undefeated Baylor in what should be a thriller. These two teams will probably face each other in the Big 12 championship, so any series split is Oregon’s best-case scenario, as it will likely cause them to cannibalize each other and prevent a Big 12 playoff participant. It’s hard to say who Oregon would prefer to lose first, but we will likely know more when the next college football rankings come out tonight.
Make sure to tune in to the unveiling of the updated playoff rankings to see how Penn State and Alabama’s losses impact Oregon’s ranking. Maybe they can jump into the top five, but we will see how the committee values Alabama’s late-game comeback.
Eugene, OregonTop Photo From Twitter
Chris Brouilette, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is a current student at the University of Oregon from Sterling, Illinois.
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