While Ducks Are Virtually Locked Into Fiesta Bowl, Opponent Still Unclear

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In recent years, Oregon Ducks fans have become spoiled. They’re used to assuming the Pac-12 is their conference to win, and a BCS bowl is just a routine way to end the season. While the latter is true this season, Ducks fans will find themselves in a situation they haven’t been in since 2008, and that is watching two other teams square off for the conference championship.

Missing out on a fourth consecutive conference championship isn’t all bad for the Ducks (11-1, 8-1), though. Sitting at No. 5 in the BCS, and probably No. 4 after this weekend’s SEC title game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, the Ducks are virtually guaranteed an automatic berth in a BCS game. Thanks to No. 8 Stanford defeating No. 16 UCLA last weekend, the Ducks get to kick their feet up this weekend. Meanwhile, Stanford and UCLA will square off once again, this time in Palo Alto, for the conference title. It’s a high stakes game, with the winner heading to the Rose Bowl, and the loser heading to the Alamo Bowl. Oregon doesn’t have to run the risk of missing the BCS in this game, and almost certainly will head to Glendale for the Fiesta Bowl. The only question that remains is who the Ducks will play on January 3rd.

The most likely opponent is No. 6 Kansas State. The Wildcats can win the Big 12 with a win over No. 18 Texas, and secure a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to face the Ducks. Right behind Kansas State, however, is No. 11 Oklahoma. The Sooners can win the Big 12 with a win over TCU, paired with a Kansas State loss. While the scenario of Kansas State winning the Big 12 is more likely,but Oklahoma winning the conference isn’t out of the question. OU should take care of business against TCU, and Texas isn’t a terrible football team. The Longhorns could easily upset Kansas State.

But here’s where things get interesting. Officials from Oklahoma have contacted the Sugar Bowl to discuss a possible trade. The Sooners have played bowl games in Arizona in four of the past six years, so you can’t blame them for wanting a change of scenery. While this is rare, there is a provision within the BCS that says trades can happen after the selections are made. Just like the Big 12 has a tie-in with the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl has a tie-in with the SEC. That means Florida is the most likely choice for New Orleans this year. So what we’d be looking at in this trade scenario would be Oklahoma to the Sugar Bowl, and Florida to the Fiesta Bowl.

It’s safe to say Oregon fans would love to see the Ducks face the Gators. Oregon has struck out during their past chances to knock off an SEC powerhouse, falling to Auburn and LSU, and Ducks fans would love nothing more than another chance to finally quiet SEC fans. Just for the record, Oregon has faced Florida only once before. Way back in 1929, the Gators defeated the Ducks 20-6.

But since bowls prefer to honor their strong ties to conferences, it’s unlikely we will see a non-Big 12 team in Glendale. There’s one team on the verge of crashing the BCS party that could make this trade irrelevant, and that is the No. 17 Kent State Golden Flashes. No, your computer screen isn’t broken. Kent State, sitting at No. 17 in the BCS, could receive an automatic berth with a win over Norther Illinois this weekend in the MAC Championship Game. How is this possible you ask?

There is a section of the BCS selection procedures that states the following:

Such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.

With a win over NIU this weekend, Kent State could likely jump into the top 16. UCLA is sitting at No. 16, and are underdogs against Stanford this weekend. The second part basically says that if a team is in the top 16, and finishes ahead of a conference champion from the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC, they get an automatic berth to the BCS. This is the lucky year for Kent State due to the Big East failing to have one team ranked in the BCS.

Right now, Kent State is standing in line to the BCS club, trying to convince the bouncer they are cool enough to be let in. If Kent State pulls off a miracle and reaches the BCS, the trade scenario involving Oklahoma goes out the window. If the Sooners win the Big 12, they would be stuck in the Fiesta Bowl. A trade to the Sugar Bowl would be out the window, because that trade would involve either Kent State or the Big East champion (Louisville or Rutgers). There’s no way the Fiesta Bowl would agree to that. If Kansas State wins the Big 12, the Sooners could miss the BCS entirely because if Kent State receives an automatic bid, there is only one at-large bid available. That bid would go to the Ducks.

At the end of the day, the Oregon-Kansas State matchup is virtually locked up for the Fiesta Bowl (pending Kent State doesn’t crash the BCS party). Either Kansas State wins the Big 12 for the automatic berth to the Fiesta Bowl, or Oklahoma wins the conference and is traded to the Sugar Bowl for Kansas State.

So get ready for a month of debates of who has the better quarterback, and you know, that whole cancelled home-and-home series.

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