BCS Playoffs: Where Do the Ducks Stand
After 14 long and painful years of inadequate structure, the BCS will now allow a champion to be crowned on the gridiron. To the countless D-1 college football fans who have been nagging for decades about the need for a formal postseason playoff structure, your wish has been granted. On Wednesday, select university presidents approved a proposal for a 4-team playoff in college football that will commence for the 2014 regular season.
At the conclusion of each regular season/conference championship game, a selection committee will choose which four schools will be granted access to the playoff and where each is seeded. Week one of the playoff, No. 4 will play No. 1, and No. 3 will play No. 2. The winner of each contest will meet in the final championship game.
But what does this mean for the Ducks? What would this have meant for the Ducks?
Going back to the Joey Harrington-lead 2001 Oregon Ducks football team that ended the regular season 10-1 (a lone loss at home to Stanford) and a birth in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite a No. 2 ranking in the AP Poll, the BCS system punished the Ducks for a light schedule and dropped Oregon all the way to No. 4 behind the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Colorado Buffaloes.
Nebraska played consensus No. 1 Miami in the national championship, with the Hurricanes blowing the Cornhuskers out of the water 37-14 in the Rose Bowl. Likewise, the Ducks took care of business by hammering a much-outmatched Colorado team 38-16.
So had this current system been in place a decade ago, what would have been the scenario?
Despite the Ducks’ No. 4 rank (BCS), I think it’s safe to say that a selection committee would not have placed Oregon any father down than third, due to their strong rank in the voters’ eyes (No. 2). Regardless of the inclusion of strength of schedule in the selection process, the Ducks play on the field and resumé justifies a No. 2 or No. 3 seed. Oregon would play either Nebraska or Colorado in round one, with the other playing Miami.
Considering the lopsided score in both of the games played that bowl season, it’s safe to assume Oregon and Miami would have meet in the eventual national championship game. I can’t say who would have come out on top in that game. It’s hard to see anybody taking down Miami in 2001. Larry Coker’s Hurricanes steamrolled its competition, with some unfathomable wins, and never dropped lower than No. 2 all season long. Included in those notable wins are a 59-0 shellacking of No. 14 Syracuse and a 65-7 victory over No. 12 Washington.
Besides Harrington, Miami had advantages at pretty much every position. Clinton Portis, Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Jeremy Shockey, Bryant McKinnie Sean Taylor are a few of the names on a stacked team that sent almost its entire starting lineup to the NFL.
Regardless of the outcome in the playoff, Oregon would have been given its shot a national title that it never received.
The next time this playoff system would have been important for the Ducks was in 2005, when the 10-1 regular season Ducks nearly went undefeated with just a USC loss blemishing an otherwise amazing season.
The 2005 season is one of the few times that there was no controversy for the top two spots. Only USC and Texas finished the regular season undefeated, and were the two best teams in the land by far. Had a four-team playoff existed, it would have been a doozy for a selection committee to decide on who should play the Trojans and Longhorns.
The 10-1 No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions are the obvious choice for the third spot, but who gets the final opening? Do you go with another Big 10 team in 9-2 Ohio State, a 10-1 Oregon team, 9-2 Notre Dame, 10-2 and SEC Champ Georgia, or someone else? Oh the options.
Ohio State was loaded offensively, and would end the following season as BCS champs. It’s hard to imagine that an SEC team would be left out of the picture. I can’t see that going over well with some of the more outspoken SEC fans.
But, how about Notre Dame? Say what you want about the Irish, they consistently play one of the toughest schedules in college football. The Irish lost by a total of six points in their two games, a 3-point OT loss to Michigan State and a 3-point loss to rival USC.
I can’t see the Ducks finding a way to squeak into the top-4 in 2005. Considering Oregon’s loss to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl that same year, facing a No. 1 USC team would have just been a repeat of the domination already seen earlier in the season.
Now, to 2010. No. 1 Auburn and No. 2 Oregon would be in with No. 3 TCU and whoever the selection committee slated against Auburn. Maybe one-loss Stanford Cardinal team, or a one-loss Wisconsin squad. It’s hard to see two Pac-12 teams in the playoff, and a Big 10 team left out. Regardless, Auburn would likely have knocked off whomever they faced, and the Ducks and TCU would have battled for a spot in the title game.
So in 2010, a four-team playoff would have left the Ducks in the same position, or worse. TCU could have easily pulled an upset and knocked off the Ducks. Don’t believe me? Re-watch that 2011 Rose Bowl and see how solid that TCU defense was.
In 2011, the Ducks finished the regular season and Pac-12 Championship game with a record of 11-2, and a No. 5 ranking in the BCS. It’s pretty safe to say that LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State would take the one, two and three spots with a debate for who should round out the playoff. Here is where a selection committee is needed.
Do you go with the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal with just a loss to Oregon, or do you go with those same Ducks who smacked Stanford around on their own field for 60 minutes, but ended with two loses to No. 1 LSU and No. 5 USC (AP Poll)? Do you punish the Ducks for scheduling LSU early on and reward Stanford for taking easy victories over lesser competition? That’s not for me to decide. Head-to-head would favor the Ducks in this situation.
And what about in 2012? There seems to be four clear favorites to make a run to the title game: LSU, Alabama, USC and Oregon. One of the two SEC teams could possibly knock the other one out of contention, and USC and Oregon could meet twice in 2012. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a playoff this year? But, we’ll have to wait at least two more seasons.
Looking at history, a four-team playoff would have kept the Ducks in national title situations in 2001, 2005, and 2011, with just 2010 being a hindrance. But what’s different in 2001 and 2005 from 2010 and 2011? In 2005, the Ducks were not even ranked in the top-25, while in 2010 the Ducks sat at No. 11 to start their year and No. 3 in 2011 (even receiving four first place votes).
The Ducks are no longer the “little sister of the poor”, and are a top-5 program nationally. Oregon is with the LSU, USC and Alabama’s of the world, starting the season top-5 and not needing a playoff to save them from poor early seeding.
But with college football, one game can change everything. By going undefeated, or ending with just one loss, the Ducks are almost certain to finish a top-4 team nationally. Historically, a four-team playoff would have been beneficial for the program. But, it’s all speculation. And let the speculation begin.