How the Ducks Can Crash the Playoff Party

Garrett Sharp-Craig Editorials

ATTENTION DUCK FANS! We’ve got a shot at this whole playoff thing.

On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff Committee announced its first set of top 25 rankings. As expected, Oregon was ranked seventh in the country behind a pair of Big Ten teams, three SEC teams and Clemson. There were a few surprises in the rankings, such as Ohio State being ranked first nationally and Penn State slotted at fourth ahead of Clemson, but the majority of their rankings seemed fair and accurate.

Some Oregon fans might be displeased with being ranked behind a one-loss Georgia team, but Georgia does have the better quality win against Florida. Nevertheless, there are still four weeks left in the regular season before the conference championships. Oregon is still very much in the playoff hunt, but a few things need to happen for Oregon to find itself back in the tournament.

Win Out and Win Big

This one is about as simple as it gets. Any loss immediately ends Oregon’s playoff hopes. Also, there are six teams ahead of the Ducks in the playoff committee’s current rankings, so they need help getting into the playoff even if they win out. Oregon will be favored in its final three Pac-12 regular-season games, and also have the good fortune to play two out of the three at home.

Not only must Oregon win all three of those games, but the margin of victory in each needs to be 20 or more. If all goes as planned, the Ducks will face off against either Utah, USC or UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship — and must win that as well.

Juwan Johnson reaches for the endzone

Utah Wins Out

Although the Ducks have been dominant in the majority of their games, their soft schedule may be cause for concern for the committee. The only team in the current AP Top 25 that they have played is Auburn, which as we all know did not end as we had hoped it might.

Zach Moss ran through the Washington defense.

If Utah wins its final three regular-season games, its record going into the Pac-12 Championship will be 11-1, and it will likely be in the top eight in the CFP rankings. If the Ducks play and beat the Utes in this potential top-10 matchup — in front of a national audience on a Friday night — the committee could certainly decide that Oregon is a playoff-caliber team.

Alabama Loses to LSU

When LSU squares off against Alabama in Tuscaloosa this Saturday, there will be massive playoff implications on the line, not only for themselves but every contending team below them in the CFP rankings. Alabama hasn’t yet played a current top-25 team, and a loss against LSU at home would most likely not only cause them to drop out of the top four, but lose out on a chance to play in the SEC Championship game. If this happens, Alabama’s best win will be over unranked Texas A&M. Comparing that resume to a 12-1 Pac-12 champion with wins over Utah, USC and Washington, the committee would most likely favor Oregon.

Oregon needs Alabama to lose on Saturday.

LSU Beats Georgia in the SEC Championship

If LSU beats Alabama, it will likely breeze through the rest of its regular season slate of games and make its way to the SEC Championship game, likely facing an 11-1 Georgia. If LSU loses that game to Georgia, the floodgates will open to having two SEC teams in the playoff. SEC champion Georgia would be in despite its one bad loss, and the final playoff spot would be down to a decision between LSU, Alabama and Oregon.

The Ducks need to be big LSU fans.

However, if LSU takes care of business against Georgia, it will eliminate Georgia’s playoff chances with two losses. LSU would then advance to the playoff and likely leave Alabama and Georgia on the outside looking in.

Penn State Loses to Ohio State

Two of the six teams ranked above Oregon are in the Big Ten: Ohio State and Penn State. Currently both teams are undefeated and are ranked first and fourth nationally. Luckily for Oregon, the two schools will meet each other on November 23. Barring any losses before then, both teams should still be ranked above Oregon when they play.

Ohio State and Penn State are familiar foes.

A win for Ohio State would keep it ranked at the top and would also almost certainly knock Penn State out of the Big Ten championship game against either Minnesota or Wisconsin. Although it isn’t impossible that Penn State could be accepted into the playoff as a one-loss non-conference-winner (it has happened once, with Alabama in 2017), its most impressive win would be over Michigan at home. That win is unlikely to  trump a 12-1 Oregon team.

The Oddball

The last of the six teams ranked ahead of Oregon is Clemson. Although the Tigers have not been particularly impressive, they will likely walk into the college football playoff without playing against anyone noticeable. They are 9-0, with their most impressive win coming early in the season against Texas A&M at home. They will likely breeze through the rest of their regular-season schedule, which consists of NC State, Wake Forest and South Carolina.

Clemson will be heavily favored in each one of these games, and unless it somehow loses to Wake Forest it will play a mediocre Virginia or Pittsburgh team in the ACC Championship. Unfortunately, no matter how underwhelming Clemson’s schedule has looked, it is hard to imagine the committee leaving out a 13-0 reigning national champion.

Clemson remains undefeated.

So … Who’s Making the Playoff?

If all of this comes to pass, we will likely have LSU, Ohio State, Clemson and Oregon in the playoff. The only team I could see overtaking Oregon for the number-four spot is Alabama.

Alabama has to date never been left out of the playoff, but if it doesn’t win the SEC West and consequently doesn’t participate in its conference championship, it has no right to be included.

If Oregon wins out, it will be 12-1 with a Pac-12 championship under its belt, a winner of 12 straight games and one of the hottest teams in America. The committee has a tendency to reward teams that lose early rather than late, because it shows development, and late-season games are a better representation of how good a team is now.

As we can see, there are quite a few things that need to go right for Oregon to make the playoff. The only one of those things the Ducks can control is winning, and winning in dominant fashion.

Dye and Winston Jr. celebrate after beating Washington.

If you are a religious Duck fan, take this bye week to watch some quality games that can greatly impact Oregon’s season. There are two undefeated matchups in Penn State vs. Minnesota and LSU vs Alabama. Not only will these games be entertaining as hell, but they could be massive in helping Oregon reach the playoff.

All I can say is “Go Gophers, Go Tigers, Go Ducks!”

Let’s take care of business.

Garrett Sharp-Craig
Eugene, OregonTop Photo by Eugene Johnson


Bob Rodes, the Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.

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