We interrupt regular pigskin programming to offer this public-service announcement to all citizens of Eugene:
Run for your title-game lives!
The Oregon Ducks moved up to No. 2 in this week’s Bowl Championship Series standings and that’s as good as you can get without being No. 1.
If only the top two teams in the final BCS standings on Dec. 2 get invited to the Jan. 7 national title game in New Orleans, why is it not OK for John and Jane Duck to start waddling toward the mighty Mississippi?
Let’s go straight to the source for that answer.
“My history with the BCS is not very good,” Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti said this week. ". . . I don’t have a lot of trust in that regard.”
Why you can’t blame him:
In 2001, Oregon finished No. 2 in the writers’ and coaches’ polls and No. 4 in the BCS. Edging the Ducks out for the title game matchup in the Rose Bowl against Miami was Nebraska, fresh off a 36-point loss to Colorado.
Finishing No. 3 was Colorado, soon to be trounced in the Fiesta Bowl by . . . Oregon.
Flash forward to 2005. Oregon finished 10-1 and thought it maybe deserved an at-large bid to the Fiesta Bowl.
It sure sounded good. The Fiesta Bowl even flew Bellotti and his athletic director -- Bill Moos at the time -- to Tempe for lunch.
There was a slight problem: Notre Dame also wanted to go to the Fiesta Bowl and you know how that works in years when the Irish don’t start 1-9.
Notre Dame had two losses to Oregon’s one and the Irish had stayed in the BCS contention only with a come-from-behind win at Stanford.
Instead of having to make the Oregon-or-Notre Dame call, however, the Fiesta Bowl got bailed out by the BCS rules book. A flurry of last-day losses spit out final BCS standings that moved Ohio State up to No. 4 and Notre Dame to No. 6.
Oregon at No. 5 was dead meat in this BCS sandwich.
Ohio State received an automatic bid because it finished in the top four and Notre Dame was a “must-take” because, as an independent, it needed only a top-six finish.
Notre Dame played Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and Oregon went to the Holiday Bowl.
So, Ducks fans, be afraid. Be very afraid.
This year could be headed for a BCS three-scream-peat.
Even if the Ducks win their final three games, starting tonight at Arizona with a rare ESPN Thursday appearance, they probably will not hold the No. 2 spot if No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 3 Kansas also win out.
Kansas, at 10-0, is the only undefeated team left in the mix.
“And undefeated matters,” independent BCS expert Jerry Palm said this week.
If Kansas closes with wins against Iowa State, No. 5 Missouri and No. 4 Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, the Jayhawks probably will jump Oregon.
That would pit Kansas vs. LSU in the title game and send Oregon to . . . the Rose Bowl.
Hey, remember when that used to be Plan A?
The good news for Oregon -- that the combined record of its remaining opponents is 15-15 -- is also the bad news, because no one is going to be impressed with those three wins.
Oregon might also get jumped by a one-loss Big 12 champion, either Missouri or Oklahoma. Missouri could boast of beating two top-five teams; Oklahoma could claim it just defeated the team that just defeated Kansas.
Palm isn’t convinced one-loss Missouri or Oklahoma would jump Oregon, but he also isn’t ready to bet his Palm Pilot it won’t happen.
“You can’t trust the voters,” Palm said.
So what should Oregon do?
Root for LSU to lose sometime between now and Dec. 2.
The Ducks also have to win, and win big.
A 13-10 result over Arizona tonight is not going to impress anyone but the Ducks’ defensive coordinator.
The BCS ordered the computer operators to remove margin of victory from their formulas -- ironically, that was done as a result of Oregon’s not getting credit for close wins in 2001 -- but the BCS has allowed voters to keep their eyeballs.
Palm says the Ducks have to keep their BCS customers satisfied.
“Don’t give voters a reason to vote you down,” he said.
OK, but is blowing Arizona out even possible?
Tonight’s game in Tucson is the sort of event that can send the whole Oregon argument to an early grave.
Arizona has won two straight after a 2-6 start. And not only has Coach Mike Stoops saved his job, defeating Oregon would help his brother, Oklahoma Bob, move another step closer to the national title game.
Arizona isn’t a top-drawer outfit, but it has a recent history of picking off ranked opponents: No. 18 Arizona State in 2004, No. 7 UCLA in 2005 and No. 8 California in 2006.
So, nothing really matters for Oregon if it can’t get out of Lute Olson’s backyard with its ninth win.
Bellotti knows this to be a fact.
“If we win out, then we put ourselves in a position that people have to consider us,” he said.
He also knows:
“In 2001 we should have been in the championship game and in 2005 we should have been in the BCS, in a BCS game, and weren’t in either.”
* More e-mail-inducing tidbits about Kansas football: The Jayhawks are No. 1 in BCS computer man Jeff Sagarin’s ratings despite having a schedule rank of No. 97. Kansas will play eight of its 12 regular-season games in the state of Kansas. The Jayhawks’ Nov. 24 game against Missouri is in Kansas City, but that’s Kansas City, Mo. Kansas did not leave the state to play until Oct. 20 at Colorado.
Kansas is a real nice story, but that doesn’t mean the Jayhawks get to skip the national title confirmation hearing.
Oh, and Kansas didn’t just miss Oklahoma and Texas on the Big 12 schedule. Kansas also missed Texas Tech. Those three “misses” have a combined record of 25-7. The record of the six Big 12 schools Kansas has defeated is 29-35.
Up Saturday is 3-8 Iowa State. A week later, Kansas plays its second Big 12 opponent with a winning record: Missouri. A win there and Kansas heads to the Big 12 title game, probably against Oklahoma. A win there and see you in New Orleans.
* Hey, let’s start a campaign: Division I-AA powerhouse North Dakota State is 10-0 and ranked No. 45 in this week’s Sagarin ratings, ahead of several bowl-eligible major college schools: The Bison, however, can’t participate in the playoffs as they are in the final year of their transition period from Division II status.
North Dakota State has defeated two BCS schools this year, Central Michigan and Minnesota, raising speculation the Bison should be considered for a bowl game.
“The chances are slim and none and slim left town,” school spokesman Jeff Schwartz said this week. But that doesn’t mean the school isn’t looking into the possibility.
North Dakota State has applied for a special exemption that would allow it to play a 12th game. The NCAA would also need to waive the provision that requires a bowl-eligible school to have six wins against major college opponents -- the Bison have two. However, this is the year the Associated Press altered its policy to allow members to vote for I-AA schools, the result of Appalachian State’s stunning victory against No. 5 Michigan.
Let’s say “slim” hasn’t yet left town: The Las Vegas and Armed Forces bowls will be looking for at-large candidates as it appears the Pacific 10 Conference is not going to produce six eligible schools.
Hello, North Dakota State? Of course, NCAA officials would have to play along here, and you know what sweethearts they are. Scratch all this nonsense talk if North Dakota State loses Saturday to South Dakota State.
* Thank you, Illinois 28, Ohio State 21. One week after Rose Bowl scenarios seemed as snarled as rush-hour traffic, a diamond lane opened. One half of the game is all but set with the winner of Saturday’s Ohio State at Michigan game earning passage west. Those of us who love Lloyd Carr like an uncle but have welcomed Michigan three times since 2003 are sort of hoping it will be Ohio State for the first time since the 1996 season.
This scenario gets fouled up if Michigan wins or Ohio State somehow climbs from No. 7 back to No. 1 or No. 2 in the BCS standings, which would take a minor miracle.
If Oregon wins out and goes to the title game, the other Rose Bowl spot may go to the winner of USC-Arizona State on Thanksgiving. If Ohio State doesn’t make the Rose Bowl, don’t worry, the Buckeyes will be here next September to play USC in the Coliseum.