Oregon is finally back in the top five. And boy does it feel good.
After slaughtering Tennessee on Saturday, the Ducks can look to an easy stretch of schedule including Portland State, Arizona State, Stanford, and Washington State.
The only team that poses a threat out of that group is Stanford, led by Heisman candidate Andrew Luck. But without Toby Gerhart by his side, how good is he?
Well they snuffed out UCLA 35-0. That has to count for something.
Oregon is definitely looking for revenge after Stanford upset Oregon in Palo Alto last year. In Autzen Stadium, Stanford may not be so lucky. I'm thinking a victory by 10 points for the Ducks, and look for a high scoring game.
After that comes Washington State and UCLA, two easy wins, before playing perhaps the toughest game of the season in LA against USC (at this point Oregon is 7-0).
Yes, Oregon got prepared for the Coliseum by playing in Knoxville this past weekend. However its an in-conference game, and the stage is all different. Here, USC is looking for revenge.
Matt Barkley and company want payback for the loss on "Fright Night" in Eugene last year. If they get it, Oregon's title hopes might be over.
The key to Oregon's title hopes might be the USC game, believe it or not.
While USC can't win the Pac-10, they can stop Oregon from winning it. A conference loss won't bode well, and will knock Oregon out of the top 10 depending on where the Trojans are ranked at the time.
I'm thinking that Oregon will win by about a touchdown. However, if the crowd is taken out of it as in the Tennessee game, it could get ugly. If the crowd is in it the whole way and USC picks up momentum, Oregon better watch out.
Oregon then faces rival Washington, and another Heisman candidate Jake Locker. He will definitely want to finish his college career with a bang, and a win over Oregon would definitely provide it.
The pass game will have to be surpurb to take down the Ducks, but it can be done.
However, last year people were saying the same thing. And Oregon thumped Washington with authority. This year should be the same. I say a 2-3 touchdown victory for the Ducks here (now they're 9-0)
The season finishes rough, with games against Arizona and Oregon State after Cal (which they should win, making them 10-0). Arizona gave Oregon quite the scare last year, and the Rodgers duo from OSU should challenge the Ducks.
If Oregon can beat Arizona, keeping their offense in check, it all comes down to Oregon State. The Beavers have the potential to take down the Ducks, but Oregon will be ready. If there's any game not to get cocky about, its the Civil War.
Theres three keys to winning it for Oregon:
1) Beating USC
USC will be a tough game, make no mistake. Barkley has something to prove this year, especially to the Ducks. New coach Lane Kiffin has a lot to prove, and he hasn't looked very hot so far (surprise surprise).
If Oregon's defense can keep Barkley in check, and blitz him enough to the point he starts making mistakes, they should win the game. As with Tennessee, they will have to take the home crowd out early too. 90,000 screaming fans will not make it easy on Oregon.
Beating USC will be a huge step towards the national title, and may solidify a top five finish at least.
2) Do not get cocky
As was the problem last year, cockiness may get the best of Oregon. Heading into both Boise State and Stanford overconfident cost them a loss. They cannot repeat those same mistakes.
Chip Kelly cannot let his guys get too sure of themselves after an easy five game stretch including New Mexico, Tenn, Portland State, and Arizona State. It'll be easy for Stanford to squeeze out another upset if that happens.
And if Stanford loses, then they get another two easy games before USC. During that time, overconfidence may be the Ducks demise.
I can't stress enough, do not get cocky. It'll ruin Oregon's chances as it did last year.
3) Alabama, Ohio State, and Virginia Tech losing
This one isn't really up to Oregon obviously, but they need Alabama and Ohio State to lose. They also need Virginia Tech to play horribly, making the Broncos look bad and having them slip behind the Ducks.
Boise State has a good shot of going undefeated, and if that happens they're probably headed for a national championship game. Same with TCU.
But for either the Ducks, Broncos, or Frogs to have a shot, tOSU and 'Bama need to lose. Ohio State faces a few tough opponents including Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, and Michigan.
Wisconsin and Michigan are my two sleeper games I think may creep up on the Buckeyes. A loss in the final week of the season with Oregon in the top five will shoot Ohio State right out of title talks.
Alabama also has a tremendously hard schedule, in that several teams have byes the week before playing them. Between Arkansas, Florida, LSU, and Auburn, they should lose a game. If at that time Oregon is still undefeated...they could move up into a top three position.
Oregon is number five right now. With Ohio State and Alabama both receiving losses, Boise State moves up to number one, TCU to number two, and Oregon to number three.
Boise State has a cupcake schedule other than Virginia Tech and Oregon State. They beat VTech, but now they are out of the top 25, and the game may not mean much by the end of the year. If they also beat Oregon State, its an undefeated year for the Broncos.
Texas Christian has Air Force and Utah to worry about now. I don't think either team has the guns to take down the Frogs.
So here's how I see the top five, provided Oregon goes undefeated:
(For 3 and 4, the winner will be 11-1, the loser 10-2.)
TCU's SOS is easier than Oregon's, and it'll come down to whoever plays better against Oregon State (the only game they have in common) to see who gets the number one spot.
That means if Oregon beats Oregon State by at least ten points, it'll be a first place finish for the Ducks.
Hello National Championship game!
There's a lot of ways this can go wrong however. If Nebraska, Texas, 'Bama, or Florida go undefeated it'll be the Rose Bowl for Oregon again. Especially because they have an extra game to prove their worth in the conference championships.
Oregon has to finish the beat USC, finish the season strong, refrain for getting overconfident, and hope that Bama, tOSU, and Virginia Tech lose.
Then, Oregon has a good chance of getting into the national championship.