With a No. 4 BCS ranking, the Oregon Ducks should feel slighted. Winning the past two games by a total of 78 points should not equate to a drop.
But that is exactly what has unfolded. After dominating Arizona State on the road last Saturday, the Ducks (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) dropped one spot from No. 3 in Week 9. Then, after destroying Colorado Saturday and then-No. 2 Florida falling at the hands of Georgia, Oregon was again discredited, as Notre Dame jumped ahead to the No. 3 spot behind new No. 2 Kansas State and No. 1 Alabama.
Both the USA Today Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25 put the Ducks where they belong – at the second spot – most likely because they have actually watched this team pick apart every opponent.
But a soft schedule plagues the team, as Oregon has played just a single currently ranked team, No. 22 Arizona. This is why the Ducks are fifth in the computer-generated ranking that accounts for one-third of the BCS ranking.
The problem is there is nothing more Oregon could do to increase its appeal.
The offense, led by freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota, has scored at least 42 points in each of its first eight games. Sophomore De’Anthony Thomas has rushed for seven touchdowns, tallying three more receiving. Averaging 53.4 points per game should be enough for a higher spot than fourth, right?
Perhaps what makes this offense the most impressive is its ability to get things done early, and there is no better example than what happened Saturday in Eugene, Ore. The Ducks outscored the Buffaloes 56-0 — in just the first half. Yes, you read that right, 56 points in two quarters. Colorado is by no means a serious competitor against Oregon, but four touchdowns in each quarter puts a whole new meaning to the word offense.
The Ducks’ defensive play makes these early scores look that much better. While the defensive unit is not on the same level as the powerhouse offense, scoring at least 40 points every game means it’s OK to give up a few touchdowns. The team is 24th in the nation in points allowed, averaging 19.4. If you look at each win, Oregon has never truly faced a serious challenge yet this season. The closest game for the Ducks was back in Week 2, when they won by 17 points. The other seven games have been victories of at least 20 points.
And against the tougher competition, Oregon looked even better. The Ducks completely shut out Arizona, and against the other then-ranked team, No. 23 Washington, they gave up just three touchdowns after taking a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, going on to win 52-21.
However, the marshmallow-like schedule is about to change, and quickly. Heading into Week 10, the Ducks will travel to southern California to play No. 17 USC. And after a trip to Memorial Coliseum, Oregon will take on two more ranked teams in the month of November.
It’s a rare situation for a team to want success for conference opponents, but for Oregon that ironically is exactly what they need. Remaining ranked opponents USC, No. 14 Stanford and No. 11 Oregon State will be doing the Ducks a service by winning, as the higher these teams are ranked, the more impressive it will look when Oregon plays, and likely defeats, each of them.
Another advantage for the Ducks heading into November is the unimpressive lot Kansas State and Notre Dame will play. The Fighting Irish have a single opponent remaining that is above .500, and it happens to be USC. Not only will this be the team’s 12th game, it will provide a common opponent to the Ducks.
Kansas State has two opponents, Oklahoma State and Texas, remaining on its regular season docket, but both are barely clinging onto their spots as the No. 24 and No. 23 ranked teams, respectively. While this means the Wildcats will likely go 12-0, the competition Oregon faces in November should bump it ahead if the team remains successful.
It should also not be overlooked that Oregon, unlike Kansas State and Notre Dame, will play in a conference championship game, and if the Ducks win, it will be another quality opponent to add to Ducky’s long list of victims.
So for now, the Ducks should feel a bit snubbed, but the prospect of success down the road in this last stretch should not cause the computer rankings any doubts that Oregon is the real No. 2 team in the nation.
Caroline is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. What do you think about the current BCS rankings? Let her know by emailing [email protected].