The familiar phenomenon of late-season chaos in college football opened the possibility Oregon could squeeze into a BCS bowl, but cracking the elite group still looks like an uphill battle for the Ducks as bowl bids become official Sunday.
One bowl official Saturday night said he gives the Ducks a minimal chance of getting to the BCS at 10-2, as Oregon will have to fight Clemson (10-2) and Oklahoma (10-2) for an at-large spot, and has reason to fear those two have more immediate cachet and a bigger following than the Ducks.
Oregon getting to the BCS would push Pac-12 bowl-eligible teams up a notch in the pecking order.
Friday night’s loss by previously undefeated Northern Illinois removed the possibility of a BCS-busting team for this season and set up debate among several teams wrangling for at-large spots in this final year of the BCS.
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In the Big 12, Oklahoma (10-2, 17th in the BCS standings) upset Oklahoma State (10-2, 6th), opening the door for Baylor to nail down the conference title and Fiesta Bowl berth with its victory over Texas.
Six of the 10 berths in BCS games (including the title game) will be filled by Florida State, Auburn, Baylor, Stanford, Central Florida and Michigan State. Alabama and Ohio State are considered locks for at-large berths, which leaves two spots open among Clemson, Oklahoma and Oregon.
The Michigan State upset over Ohio State was at least a small setback for Oregon, because Michigan State wasn’t considered a certainty, only a likelihood, to be taken at-large.
The Orange seems likely to take Ohio State with its replacement pick for Florida State (headed to the title game) and probably will match Clemson (10-2, 13th) with the Buckeyes.
The Sugar is the other possible landing spot for the Ducks, who figure to be battling Oklahoma for that spot. But Oklahoma offers a team with easier proximity and a longer-standing tradition than Oregon, which stumbled twice in November after entering the month undefeated. An Alabama-Oklahoma matchup would pair two of the most tradition-bound programs in the country.
Meanwhile, if Oregon gets to the BCS, it would leave the Alamo Bowl, ironically, with no choice but to take Arizona State, loser of the Pac-12 title game to Stanford. ASU, at 8-1 in the league, is two games better than any other choice available to the Alamo, which would exceed the one-game limit allowed for a Pac-12 bowl to “jump“ a lower team.
USC has indicated it wants to play in an early bowl rather than delay a transition to a new coaching staff, so the Holiday would be deciding between UCLA and Washington. The Sun would take the team the Holiday doesn’t, USC figures for the Las Vegas Bowl, and the Fight Hunger would decide between Washington State and Arizona, with the New Mexico probably taking what’s left.
More likely is the setup that took shape after last weekend’s end of the regular season in the Pac-12.