It takes a lot of imagination to see the Ducks losing — and surrendering a spot in the national-title game.

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Maybe they’re trying to lull Oregon into a false sense of security.

But today, it takes a lot of imagination to see the Ducks losing — and surrendering a spot in the national-title game.

Saturday, the team Oregon (9-0) plays in its finale Dec. 4, Oregon State, seemed to show that it’s not of the ilk of recent years, losing to UCLA. The penultimate opponent, Arizona (at Autzen Stadium on Nov. 26), got schooled by Stanford. And this week’s hurdle, California, struggled to beat Washington State as backup quarterback Brock Mansion looked very mortal.

What we learned

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Stanford is trying to avoid the Riverwalk. For most folks, that attraction in San Antonio holds allure, and the Alamo Bowl in that city is due to get a Pac-10 No. 2 team in the first year of a new deal.

But the Cardinal (8-1), fresh from schooling Arizona and taking the No. 6 spot in the BCS standings, is still kicking for a berth in one of the bigger bowls. With Texas Christian’s big win over Utah and Alabama’s loss, Stanford’s chance of ending up in the Rose Bowl looks improved.

If Oregon goes to the title game and TCU and Boise State don’t, the higher-ranked among those two automatically goes to the Rose opposite the Big Ten, squelching Stanford’s chances. In that scenario, Stanford could go to the Orange or Sugar, but will have stout competition among heavier-traveling fan bases.

But if, say, TCU can slip into the title game, that would take the Rose Bowl off the hook and that would be a likely destination for Stanford. A one-loss Auburn (No. 2 BCS) or Louisiana State team (No. 5) might be the biggest hurdle for TCU to make it all the way to the title game.

From now on, Washington (3-6) gets everybody’s best shot. UCLA thrust itself back into bowl contention with its upset of Oregon State, so the Bruins (4-5) will face UW on Nov. 18 with something on the line. That’s also likely the case with Cal (5-4) on Nov. 27, unless it can upset Oregon or Stanford the next two weeks.

After that, it’s the Apple Cup in Pullman, where the Cougars likely won’t be able to take anything away from this season except a potential upset.

Thomas Weber has had better nights. But then, so has Trevor Hankins. Hankins, the nation’s third-leading punter (47.1), stayed home in Tempe after violating an unspecified team rule at Arizona State. That left both the place-kicking and punting chores to Weber, the 2007 Lou Groza (place-kicking) Award winner.

It was a thoroughly forgettable night at USC for Weber, who punted poorly; had a punt blocked; in his regular endeavor, had a key extra point blocked and returned for two points; and finally, missed a 41-yard field goal that would have won it for the Sun Devils.

Considering USC (which won, 34-33) had a staggering 52 snaps inside ASU territory, it was miraculous the Sun Devils had a shot at all.

This week

Stanford travels to Arizona State in what could be a dangerous game for the Cardinal.

Times Players of the Week

Offense: Stanford’s Andrew Luck was 23 of 32 for 299 yards, two TDs and no interceptions.

Defense: Cardinal CB Richard Sherman had 10 tackles and an interception.

Special teams: UCLA K Kai Forbath’s 51-yard field goal on the last play of the game won it for the Bruins.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or

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