Thursday, October 28, 2021

Stanford upset Oregon (again), and the Pac-12 had no undefeated team left: breaking the playoff path

STANFORD – A blown lead, a late touchdown drive, an overtime stunner and history came at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Pac-12’s playoff chances were cut in half.

Stanford scored a tying touchdown on an untimely down at the end of regulation, then beat third-placed Oregon in 31–24 over time for a brutal, but not fatal, loss to the Pac-12’s top playoff.

It is the fifth time in the last 20 years that Stanford has ranked the Ducks in the top 10. (Other years: 2001, 2009, 2012 and 2013.)

Here’s what this means for a conference that hasn’t sent a team to the college football playoffs since 2016:

– Five weeks into the season, there are no undefeated teams left in the Pac-12 – an ominous development given that in the last seven years of the CFP, no two-loss teams have been selected for the semi-finals.

(That could change this year, given the chaos of the early season. But if the selection committee eventually invites a two-loss team, it doesn’t look like the Pac-12 will be the first of all leagues to have an advantage.)

Within that framework, there seem to be two avenues for the CFP to position a one-loss team in the conference.

1) Either Oregon (4-1) or Oregon State (3-1) must win in the regular season and defeat the South representative in the championship game.

2) The winner of tonight’s UCLA-Arizona State game—both teams are 3-1—must run to the table and beat the answer winner in the title game.

– Out of a quartet of one-loss teams, UCLA and Oregon are likely to have the best resumes due to non-conference victories: UCLA beat LSU in Week One; And Oregon beat Ohio State in the second week.

Arizona State lost to the only challenging opponent they faced outside of conference play (Brigham Young), while Oregon State’s defeat at Purdue took a darker tone today when the Boilermakers lost to Minnesota.

The chances for the conference to play favorably in any scenario now seem remote, especially given Oregon’s semi-weak performance at Stanford Stadium.

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The Ducks trailed 17-7 at halftime and appeared to be in command with 17 consecutive points in the second half. But Stanford covered 87 yards in the last minute with two individual foul penalties on ducks.

The Cardinals scored the tying touchdown to an untimed down (followed by a defensive holding penalty), converted the first possession of overtime, then intercepted a duck to secure the win.

Oregon looked nothing like the team that decisively beat Ohio State in week two and everything like the team that fought Arizona to overcome in week four.

But the duck is not used in the CFP race.

Unlike the 2019 season, when Oregon lost its marquee non-conference game (to Auburn), the win over Ohio State created a cushion in terms of the very development that played out today.

The victory in Columbus meant the Ducks could suffer a loss in conference play and still end up with a marquee victory as a 12-1 conference champion – a combination that recent history suggests. That would be enough to secure a playoff berth.

In 2017, Oklahoma lost to Iowa State by seven points in the middle of the season, but won the Big 12 title with a 12–1 record.

Like These Ducks, Those Sooners Had an Early Season Win in the state of ohio on their resume.

And they easily made the CFP the No. 2 seed.

That’s the way it is for Oregon at this point.

The pillow is gone.

It’s time to run the tables.

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