Poll Position: Week 9… BCS lingers, Oregon slips again, K-State climbs, OSU too

By REED NELSON

If Chip’s not worried, then there’s no need to worry.

And Chip’s not worried.

After all, he is the head coach of the nation’s fastest unbeaten team, the nation’s most exciting unbeaten team and the nation’s most rout-errific unbeaten program.

The Ducks have blown out all challengers — MWAC teams, Pac-12 teams, ranked teams, non-AQ teams — with the same ruthless efficiency. One could argue that they are an equal opportunity merchant of despair.

But for a million quantitative reasons within the BCS computer’s ranking system, the Ducks have slipped in the eyes of the Totalitarian Regime for the second straight week, from No. 3 to No. 4.

And for the second straight week, the humans have witnessed what the computers couldn’t possibly fathom: This Oregon team is fan-freaking-tastic.

Coach Kelly knows it, the other coaches know it, the writers know it, and, if all goes Oregon’s way, by the end of the season the BCS computers will know it too.

“The only time it counts is the last week of December,” said coach Kelly after yesterday’s practice. “If you’re concerned with it now then you don’t have the right approach.

“I’ve seen too many coaches complain about what’s going on in October, then they lose once and they’re out of it.”

(At least coach Kelly is attacking complacency coming into this week’s game against the always-tough Colorado Buffaloes. God forbid the Ducks would come out flat against the Pac-12’s Town Drunk.)

So again, if Chip’s not worried, there’s no need to worry.

Like hell. Kansas State is scarier than Leatherface right now. They cruised past Oregon on the inside this weekend, executing a flawless pass by drafting off the new BCS Rabbit, West Virginia 1.

And the hypotheticals get scarier. (Warning: For those with hypertension, I advise skipping the next 150 words.)

Currently, Kansas State’s marquee win is their 24-19 win over then-No. 6 Oklahoma, in Norman, OK, during primetime. If Oklahoma kept losing, everything would be peachy. But they didn’t. They rebounded from the K-State loss by beating Texas Tech 41-20. Then, for an encore, they thrashed then-No. 11 Texas, 63-212 in the Red River Rivalry.

This weekend, they face No. 5 Notre Dame in college football’s most tantalizing weekly offering. And this game is huge for three reasons: With a win, Notre Dame would pass its last tough test prior to Nov. 24, when they face USC. If Oklahoma wins, Kansas State’s win over Oklahoma becomes the win of the year, by any team in any conference, which would give them poll position in the Non-SEC Race for the Natty. The bad part about this particular matchup, however, is that Oregon stands to gain very little from either result. If Notre Dame wins, they pass Kansas State AND Oregon in the BCS rankings, and all but guarantee themselves the No. 2 ranking going forward. If Oklahoma wins, Kansas State could pass Oregon in the human polls, which would be the ultimate slap.

And Kansas State. Oh boy. If they can get past Texas Tech this week, then they’ve cleared the minefield portion of their schedule (three ranked teams in the last five weeks) and will have just one ranked team (No. 23 Texas on Dec. 1) remaining3.

But the Ducks fearless leader has taken a wait-and-see approach. It’s an attitude that has served him well in the past because, you know, Oregon can’t exactly claim “snub” if they don’t win out, and play themselves into a position to be snubbed; it doesn’t work like that in the oft-trivialized Pac-12. Sure, it’s a feat easier said than done, but consider this (and please knock on wood while considering): The Ducks are 29-2 in Pac-12 play since 2009. Their only two losses in that timeframe came at the hands of Andrew Luck (2009) and Matt Barkley (2011).

The hole in the theory is obvious (Oh, like the two potential meetings with Matt Barkley and USC!? Duh, Reed.), but it doesn’t change what Oregon needs to do. Nor does it change what Oregon needs to hope for from their biggest rivals.

I wrote on this a few weeks back, but it rings especially true now. If Oregon hopes to pass Kansas State or Notre Dame in the polls sometime before 2013, they need No. 9 USC to beat Arizona this week, and handily. They need No. 7 Oregon State (who avoids USC this season) to remain unbeaten until the Civil War on Nov. 24. And they need No. 17 Stanford to lose to Oregon State, but only Oregon State.

And they also need a little bit of help on the outside. A Texas Tech win over Kansas State this week would be nice, but it’s not exactly bankable. Alabama needs to handle their business against LSU on Nov. 3, and either take care of Florida in the same manner (or allow themselves to get thrashed by the Gators, either works) in the SEC Championship game. Whatever the case in the SEC may be, the last thing the Ducks want is parody. The further the Division of Talent Gap, the better.

But if all goes as Chip hopes, then Oregon should be on the inside, or at least first alternate within the next two polls. It isn’t the time to panic, but it just might be time to remove the plastic casing over the red button.

Rising: Stanford (No. 20 to No. 17), Oregon State (No. 8 to No. 7), USC (No. 10 to No. 9).

Falling: Oregon (No. 3 to No. 4).

Footnotes

  • Why the West Virginia hate? I really have no idea. But in the last two weeks they have devolved from a potential title contender to the metaphorical back that Big 12 foes use to get a leg up on the rest of the country, thus capitalizing on an evaluation error. The error? West Virginia is half a team. And if their offense can’t give their porous defense plenty of rest, opposing teams score touchdowns the way that Roger Federer holds serve. But by reaching the Top 5 two weeks ago, a win over West Virginia the last two weeks has been worth much more on paper than in actuality. Don’t believe me? An unranked Texas Tech team beat the Mountaineers two weeks ago. Now, they’re ranked 14th. Kansas State was ranked fourth, both in the human polls and by the computer average going into their Morgantown Showdown. By beating WVU, Kansas State took over the No. 2 spot from Notre Dame, jumping two full rankings. And the most egregious crime? West Virginia is still in the Top 20. Even after losing their last two games by a combined score of 104-28. Jump.
  • A game that would have been a 63-7 game if Oklahoma hadn’t started watching Cheers with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. On a related note, Case McCoy threw a touchdown pass in garbage time of this one. Jump
  • What about the SEC, you ask? Somehow, that conference presents the lowest threat level to Oregon. They should play themselves out of it this season. Florida has already beaten LSU, which means that if Alabama beats LSU, the Tigers’ BCS hopes are dashed. If Florida remains unbeaten, they would still need to play either Alabama or LSU (again) in the SEC championship game. And South Carolina already got SEC’d in the last two weeks, and so did their BCS hopes. Jump.


Categories: Analysis, Features, News & Notes, Poll Position

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. For someone who does not live and die Ducks, I enjoyed the analysis. You gave me great insight and I would hope, as a Bear fan, that your avoidance of Cal as a risk is simply an oversight, given our obvious success, a very long time ago. If our young offensive line can give Zack some time he can be very effective, the key to a win is stopping your offense, something no one has yet figured out. You can’t get into a track meet with the Ducks because you will lose. As a Bear fan I know, I can hope for a win, but I expect us to give you a scare. If all goes according to your plan, we as part of the Pac 12, will need you in the BCS title game — $$$.

    David

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