This is a big week for Oregons BCS title hopes.
No, not because the second-ranked Ducks play hapless Colorado. Thatll be a breeze.
The teams directly ahead of Oregon in the BCS standings (Alabama, Florida and Kansas State), and the one right behind (Notre Dame), all are playing ranked foes Saturday.
So the Ducks, fourth in the BCS standings, could get some of the help they need to move up or they could slip further back in the race to the national championship game.
Its a bit early to get overly worked up about the BCS pecking order. There are 11 undefeated teams in major college football, and the most there could be at the end of the season is seven. But you can whittle that down to four serious contenders for a spot in the BCS title game in Miami.
Ohio State is ineligible. Ohio University doesnt play a tough enough schedule. The Big East champion probably wont be able to climb over the top teams from the Southeastern Conference, Pac-12 and Big 12, and Notre Dame.
Out of the top five teams, Oregon seems to be the most likely to get left out of the national title game if more than two teams finish unbeaten. Excuse Ducks fans if they are a bit skittish. The BCS hasnt always worked out in their teams favor (see 2001 and 05).
Heres an example of the Ducks problems: Notre Dame is at Oklahoma. If the Fighting Irish win, theres a chance they could jump the Ducks in the BCS standings the way Kansas State did last week. If Oklahoma wins, it makes Kansas States victory at Oklahoma look even better and could push the Wildcats further ahead of the Ducks.
The Ducks problems come down to schedule. Oregons opponents so far just havent been particularly good, and its especially weighing the Ducks down in the computer ratings.
Oregon is second in both polls that are used in the BCS standings but sixth in the computer rankings.
And part of Oregons strength of schedule problem stems from a game it was supposed to play against Kansas State.
The Ducks and Wildcats had agreed to play a home-and-home series in 2011 and 12. Oregon asked to reschedule when it got a shot to play LSU in Texas last year.
With the Big 12 headed toward playing nine conferences games, Kansas State suggested canceling the whole thing. The Ducks agreed.
That left the Ducks with Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech to tune up with this season. Oregon easily dispatched all three, but two months into the season the Ducks still dont have a marquee victory.
Obviously, Kansas State couldnt have known how this would play out, but its looking like one of the best decisions coach Bill Snyder has made since returning to the sidelines.
After Colorado, the Ducks get into the teeth of their conference schedule with Southern California, Stanford and Oregon State all coming up, plus a possible Pac-12 title game (and maybe a rematch against USC). Win all those and the computers will spit out some different numbers on the Ducks.
Will it be enough to catch Kansas State if the Wildcats keep winning? Or fend off Notre Dame?