Rivalry is Ducks' first domino

Scenarios being talked about don't matter if they don't get by Oregon State
Oregon coach Chip Kelly leaves the field after his team playe an NCAA college football game against Stanford in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Stanford won 17-14. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)AP

EUGENE — Sunday is a day off for Oregon football players, though a few trickled into the Casanova Center to watch film or get medical treatment, while coaches were breaking down Saturday's loss to Stanford and this week's opponent, Oregon State.

The 17-14 loss in overtime to the Cardinal dropped the Ducks from No. 1 in the Associated Press poll to No. 5, and they no longer control their own destiny for either the Pac-12 or BCS championships. If that was weighing on the players Chip Kelly encountered Sunday, including Dion Jordan and Hamani Stevens, it didn't show.

"They were good," Kelly said Sunday evening.

Oregon (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12) also fell in the BCS standings released Sunday, from No. 2 to No. 5. Notre Dame is the new No. 1, replacing Kansas State, which also lost Saturday and fell to No. 6.

While the Ducks' loftiest of postseason goals have been crippled, they're not totally dead. An Oregon win in the Civil War on Saturday at noon in Corvallis, followed by a UCLA win over Stanford at 3:30 p.m., would bring the Bruins to Eugene for the Pac-12 title game.

And, a USC win over Notre Dame on Saturday at 5 p.m. would get the Ducks back into the national-title hunt, which they could then solidify by winning the Pac-12. In short: wins for Oregon, UCLA and USC on Saturday, and another for the Ducks in the Pac-12 title game, get Oregon back into the BCS title picture.

"It could be as simple as that," BCS expert Jerry Palm of CBS Sports said, projecting a title game matchup with the SEC champion, either Alabama or Georgia.

The Ducks, of course, aren't thinking that far ahead.

"The only thing that matters is winning on Saturday," Kelly said. "You can run through 27,000 scenarios "… but if we don't win Saturday, none of them come true."

In Sunday's rankings, Oregon was behind not only Notre Dame (.997), Alabama (.933) and Georgia (.876) but also Florida (.843), too. Palm believes that, were Oregon (.832) to win the Pac-12 and go 12-1, with the Irish losing to USC, the Ducks' strength in the two polls would outweigh Florida's edge in the computers.

"I think the voters would prefer anything other than another all-SEC title game," Palm said, referring to last year's Alabama-LSU BCS championship game.

Should Oregon win the Civil War but not reach the Pac-12 title game because Stanford beat UCLA this week, Palm still sees a path to the title game for the Ducks. But that would require not only a Notre Dame loss but also Florida losing to Florida State, and perhaps Kansas State losing as well.

As Kelly said, it all starts with how the Ducks handle themselves as early 10-point favorites in Corvallis on Saturday. And, on the days of practice in between.

The Beavers (8-2, 6-2) were No. 15 in the BCS standings after beating California Saturday night.

Oregon's 14 points against Stanford knocked it off track as it threatened to break the NCAA season scoring record. The Ducks are averaging 51.09 points per game, now second nationally behind Louisiana Tech (52.27) and well off Army's average of 56 points per game in 1944.

Freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota dropped from first to sixth in passing efficiency (168.01), though he remains on pace to set an FBS freshman record for completion percentage (69.79). Both Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner "lost any and all Heisman momentum" with subpar performances against Stanford, according to Chris Huston, the "Heisman Pundit" for CBS Sports.

The Ducks lost to Stanford for just the third time in 13 matchups, though all three (2001, 2009, 2012) were Oregon's only conference loss each season. The Ducks will lament a series of "what-if" moments, including Mariota's long run that could have been a touchdown with a De'Anthony Thomas block, or a near-recovery of a fumble in overtime, or a field-goal attempt that hit the upright.

"It's one of those games, because of how the game went, there's about a million plays you can keep running over," Kelly said, pointing out that the Ducks benefited from just such a play in the Rose Bowl, when a Wisconsin fumble stayed in bounds to be recovered by Oregon's Michael Clay.

On Saturday, Clay had 20 tackles, highlighting one of the best efforts of the year by Oregon's defense.

"I don't rank things, but our defense played outstanding," Kelly said.

With his two forced fumbles against the Cardinal, UO cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is now in the top-five nationally in both fumbles forced (six) and passes defended (18).



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