The "What If" Game
I think I like trying to figure out which bowl a team will play in... More than the actual bowl itself. It's the closest thing to figuring out who would be Number One before the BCS happened. Remember that? "So, if Nebraska wins the Orange Bowl by more than 40 points and USC loses to Michigan in the Rose Bowl and Georgia beats Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl and Miami wins the Fiesta Bowl by more than 20 points... then SMU is the National Champion? Wait... what?"
Simply, the "what ifs" are more fun than the "what is." So here are the "what ifs" for Oregon's bowl possibilities. I've mentioned this on the air but even if you've seen it, you might have said "Wait... what?"
To play in a Non-BCS Bowl.
This is a fairly unlikely scenario. To wind up in the Alamo Bowl, Oregon would have to...
1) Finish lower than 14th in the BCS Standings.
That likely would require losing to both the Trojans and Beavers. At Autzen. In consecutive weeks. Possible... but not likely.
2) Lose the Pac-12 Championship Game and not get an at-large bid.
That means losing the Pac-12 Championship game at Autzen to a vastly inferior team... do you realize Utah, at 3-4, could still end up winning the Pac-12 South? And then having the other BCS Bowls- Fiesta, Sugar, or Orange- not choosing Oregon.... well, it's possible. But not likely.
3) Or not make the Pac-12 championship game but still finish higher than 14th in the BCS standings and not get an at-large bid.
So unlikely I didn't even think of the possibility until writing this.
1) Not make the Pac-12 championship game but still finish higher than 14th in the BCS standings and get an at-large bid.
About as unlikely as the previous scenario, just because losing two straight at home (which is what would need to happen to not make the title game) and remaining in the top-14 would not happen.
2) Lose the Pac-12 Championship Game and get an at-large selection
Here we have the first real possibility. The Fiesta Bowl would hurt themselves in their haste to select the Ducks should they lose the Pac-12 title game. (Even if, again, the possibility of losing to UCLA, Arizona State, or Utah at Autzen in that game is not likely.)
1) Win the Pac-12 title game
And here is the most likely scenario. The Pac-12 champion is guaranteed the Rose Bowl. If that happens, the Ducks would be Rose Bowling for the second time in three years (which they've never done) and make a BCS bowl three years in a row (again, also never happened before).
BCS Title game
1) Win the Pac-12 title game and get tons of help.
There is no cut-and-dried scenario for this to happen... because a dozen things need to happen for it to even be considered. It's a lot more than having either LSU and Oklahoma State lose a game (or have them both lose). Both of those teams have yet to play during the regular season teams in the BCS rankings that are in the Top-10 but still lower than the Ducks. And if that were to happen, isn't it likely that those teams would vault in the standings the way the Ducks did after beating Stanford? For instance, Oklahoma is 5th and the Ducks are 4th, but the Sooners are at Oklahoma State to end the season (the Big 12 no longer has a championship game because they only have ten teams... that's another blog). If OU beats OSU, then wouldn't Oklahoma move way up because of that? The SEC has LSU and two one-loss teams in the top ten in Alabama and Arkansas. Arkansas could beat LSU at the end of the regular season and still be lower in the rankings than Alabama. This makes my head spin.
Oregon needs a lot of help.
Things will get clearer and clearer as the weeks go on. Just remember, if Oregon wins out the worst that could happen would be a trip to Pasadena. That's not a bad worst-case scenario there, now is it?