The Oregon Ducks may hold their College Football Playoff fate in their own hands right now. A lot of people believe if they win out, whip Utah in the Pac-12 championship game, they will punch their ticket to the national playoff.
But I’m not sure Auburn – the only team to have beaten the Ducks this season -- doesn’t still own a big piece of Oregon’s postseason fate. That’s because the Tigers meet Alabama on 11/30 in a crucial SEC game. The Crimson Tide, of course, will be playing without its All-America quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who is out for the season. If ‘Bama can somehow figure out a way to win at Auburn without Tagovailoa, I would guess it has a real shot at finishing ahead of the Ducks in the rankings.
Oregon lost 29-21 to Auburn on a neutral field with nine seconds to go, after leading all the way. But the Ducks had an edge in that game, playing the Tigers in the very first college game for Auburn’s true-freshman starting quarterback Bo Nix. And although Nix was terrific late in the game, he was shaky early and Oregon didn’t take full advantage of that. If Alabama can beat the Tigers on the road, that would certainly make it easier for the committee to pick the Tide over the Ducks.
And I think the big problem for the Ducks is that Alabama is, well, Alabama. That game a week ago vs. LSU drew a terrific television rating and that counts for something, I would guess. Even though it’s not supposed to count.
Oregon must overcome the Alabama aura and also hope that Georgia doesn’t knock off LSU in the SEC championship game, which would probably push both those teams into the final four. along with Clemson and Ohio State.
Can the Ducks get into the final four? Yes, I think so. But remember, the final four is a football’s version of a dog show. It’s all about appearances. You better be ready to look charming, cute, adorable, etc. when the judges are looking.
You must not only be the best team, you have to look good doing it. And that’s not going to be easy, especially coming out of the Pac-12, where I believe it’s difficult for teams to improve throughout the long season because the caliber of opposition is often not going to be challenging. Just last week, Oregon wasn’t at its best but Arizona wasn’t good enough to even make the game close.
A lot still has to go Oregon’s way -- including Auburn putting a good beating on Alabama next week.