STANFORD, Calif. — A blown lead, a late touchdown drive, an overtime stunner and history came full Saturday at Stanford Stadium.
Meanwhile, the Pac-12’s playoff chances were cut in half.
Stanford scored the tying touchdown on an untimed down at the end of regulation, then defeated third-ranked Oregon in overtime 31-24 to hand the Pac-12’s top playoff hopeful a brutal, but not fatal, loss.
It marked the fifth time in the past 20 years that Stanford has beaten the Ducks when they were ranked in the top 10. (The other years: 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013.)
Here’s what it means for a conference that has not sent a team to the College Football Playoff since 2016:
— Five weeks into the season, the Pac-12 has no undefeated teams remaining — an ominous development given that in seven previous years of the CFP, no two-loss team has been picked for the semifinals.
(That could change this year given the early-season chaos. But if the selection committee were to finally invite a two-loss team, it seems unlikely the Pac-12, of all leagues, would be the first to benefit.)
Within that framework, the conference seemingly has two paths to place a one-loss team in position for the CFP.
1) Either Oregon (4-1) or Oregon State (4-1) must win out in the regular season and beat the South representative in the championship game.
2) The winner of the UCLA-Arizona State game (late Saturday night) — both teams are 3-1 — must run the table and beat the North winner in the title game.
— Of the quartet of one-loss teams, UCLA and Oregon likely would have the best resumes because of their nonconference wins: UCLA beat LSU in Week One, and Oregon defeated Ohio State in Week Two.
Arizona State lost to the only challenging opponent it faced outside of conference play (Brigham Young), while Oregon State’s loss at Purdue took on a darker tint when the Boilermakers lost to Minnesota.
The likelihood of either scenario playing out favorably for the conference now seems remote, especially given Oregon’s semi-lackluster performance at Stanford Stadium.
The Ducks trailed 17-7 at halftime and appeared to take command with 17 consecutive points in the second half. But Stanford went 86 yards in the final minute, with help from two personal-foul penalties on the Ducks.
The Cardinal scored the tying touchdown on an untimed down (after a defensive holding penalty), converted on the first possession of overtime, then stopped the Ducks to secure the victory.
Oregon looked nothing like the team that beat Ohio State decisively in Week Two and everything like the team that struggled to put away Arizona in Week Four.
But the Ducks aren’t done in the CFP race.
In contrast to the 2019 season, when Oregon lost its marquee nonconference game (to Auburn), the victory over Ohio State created a cushion in case of the very development that played out Saturday.
The win in Columbus meant the Ducks could afford one loss in conference play and still finish as a 12-1 conference champion with a marquee victory — a combination that recent history suggests would be enough to secure a playoff berth.
In 2017, Oklahoma lost by seven points at unranked Iowa State in the middle of the season but won the Big 12 title with a 12-1 record.
Like these Ducks, those Sooners had an early-season win at Ohio State on their resume.
And they made the CFP easily, as the No. 2 seed.
That’s the path for Oregon at this point.
The cushion is gone.
Time to run the table.