Justin K. Aller
Should Oregon start to worry? Another week. Another commanding victory. Another solid No. 2 ranking in the two BCS-relevant polls. Yet, the Ducks might find themselves falling another spot in the BCS standings, slipping behind Kansas State to No. 4.
There is no question that the SEC will again occupy the top two spots in the standings when they're released Sunday at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, after Alabama eased past Tennessee and Florida impressively trounced South Carolina. But Oregon, despite destroying a decent Arizona State team on Thursday, might slip down from its No. 3 slot in last week's BCS standings.
The projected BCS standings top 15:
- Kansas State
- Notre Dame
- Oregon State
- Mississippi State
- South Carolina
- Florida State
- Texas Tech
Kansas State will probably gain enough cushion in the computers after blasting West Virginia to edge the Ducks this week. And at least for the short term, Oregon will not be able to do much to untangle from this predicament, as it will host Pac-12 patsy Colorado next week.
But what about in the long term? Will a 13-0 Oregon team fail to make it to the BCS championship game?
The possibility certainly exists, and it's not even all that improbable. Kansas State is in the driver's seat to win the Big 12, and its chances of winning it without a loss are improving each week. The Wildcats have already beaten both Oklahoma and West Virginia and play three of their final five games at home. Their two road games are against a team without its top quarterback (TCU) and another without a defense (Baylor). K-State also doesn't have to deal with a conference championship game that serves as an additional roadblock.
And then there's the matter of Notre Dame, whose season basically comes down to two games - next week at Oklahoma and the final regular-season game at USC. Should K-State slip up in the final five games of the season, the Irish will swoop in to grab the poll points to close the gap on Oregon. With its superior computer rankings, Notre Dame also might sneak past the Ducks when other unbeatens stumble.
Oregon does have its opportunities to make up some ground in the computers later in the season. But as is always the case in these situations, it's a double-edged sword. The Ducks will face two top-10 teams (USC and Oregon State) on the road, plus a home game against Stanford, in their final four games. And after that, most likely there will be a rematch against USC in the Pac-12 title game.
If the Ducks run the table, the prospects that they'd narrow the gap in the computers against either K-State or Notre Dame are good. But there's no guarantee that they'd erase the computer deficit entirely to get to No. 2, particularly against an undefeated Wildcats, who would finish the season no worse than a close third in both polls.
So if you're an Oregon fan, besides rooting like heck for Oklahoma next week, it's in your best interest to pull for USC and Oregon State, as distasteful as that sounds. The higher these teams are ranked, the better it is for the Ducks.
Non-AQ Watch: Boise State will remain the highest ranked non-AQ team in the standings and likely will breach the Top 20 this week. But as we noted last week, the team that may most affect the Broncos will be Michigan, as its victory over Michigan State assures that the Big Ten will be represented in this week's standings after being absent last week.
Michigan has the potential to zoom past Boise State in the coming weeks in the standings, forcing the Broncos to meet a higher threshold - No. 12 as opposed to No. 16 - to automatically qualify for a BCS bowl berth. That the Wolverines defeated Michigan State, the only team Boise lost to, will become a factor for many voters.
As for the Broncos' non-AQ competition, Western Kentucky has been removed after its overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe. But Ohio, Louisiana Tech and now Toledo will still have a chance to catch them. All three teams are expected to hover just outside of the top 25 this week.
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