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Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)
October 25th, 2021
A few weeks ago, I buried the Pac-12 after Oregon suffered an overtime loss to Stanford.
What I didn't factor in at the time was how uninspiring the rest of the College Football Playoff contenders — other than Georgia — could be.
So, after the Ducks got past a pretty poor Cal squad and took down solid a UCLA team, they're back in the conversation. It just might not be about their play as much as the play of others.
Oregon is tied for sixth on the odds board to win the CFP National Championship, but do the Ducks really have a shot?
Let's take a deeper look at their chances and the chances of some other contenders in college football.
It undoubtedly helped the Ducks' cause when No. 2 Cincinnati and No. 3 Oklahoma looked average against far inferior opponents last week. Those results helped move Oregon from +6600 to win the national title to +3300 this week.
I give the Bearcats more of a pass, because even though Navy has just one win, it is always a painful task to prepare and execute against the triple option.
The Sooners get no pass for a dismal performance against an awful Kansas program. The Jayhawks' only win of the season came with a 17-14 result against South Dakota in their opener, and they were outscored by a margin of 246-83 in the next five games.
Yet Kansas looked like it would defeat Oklahoma until very late in the third quarter. The Sooners couldn't muster a point in the first half against a Jayhawks defense that allowed more than 40 points to Coastal Carolina, Baylor, Duke, Iowa State, and Texas Tech. Oklahoma woke up eventually and scored 35 points in the second half, but Kansas is legitimately one of the worst teams among the major football conferences.
🚨 UPSET ALERT 🚨Kansas leads No. 3 Oklahoma 10-0 at the half! 😳Jayhawks +24.5 (1H) 💵Under 37.5 pts (1H) 💵#BoomerSooner | #RockChalk pic.twitter.com/UTQPng5YnO— TwinSpires Sportsbook 💵 (@TS_Sportsbook) October 23, 2021
🚨 UPSET ALERT 🚨Kansas leads No. 3 Oklahoma 10-0 at the half! 😳Jayhawks +24.5 (1H) 💵Under 37.5 pts (1H) 💵#BoomerSooner | #RockChalk pic.twitter.com/UTQPng5YnO
So what does that mean for Oregon? The Ducks still have an outside shot, but they have to run the table and probably need to do it impressively.
Considering how they've played against far inferior opponents like Cal and Fresno State, not many games ahead are safe. A game at home against Colorado this week is about as easy as it gets in the Pac-12 (unless you're playing Arizona), then comes an underachieving Washington team on the road and a poor Washington State squad back in Eugene.
Then it gets a bit sticky.
Utah, in Salt Lake City on Nov. 20, will be no easy task, and Kyle Whittingham's Utes keep getting better, even after a tough loss at Oregon State last week.
Then comes the Civil War with Oregon State, and luckily for the Ducks, that game is in Eugene, because the Beavers are talented this season. I watched Oregon State dismantle USC in person not too long ago, and B.J. Baylor might be the best running back you've never heard of. Baylor has run for more than 110 yards in all four Pac-12 games for the Beavers and scooted for 152 against Utah last week.
Feed the big man! 🍴B.J. Baylor's explosive 68-yard run is the 2nd longest of the @BeaverFootball RB’s career.📺 Pac-12 Network📱 https://t.co/PU19brOSGx#GoBeavs | #Pac12FB pic.twitter.com/hhIzJcwn1f— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 24, 2021
Feed the big man! 🍴B.J. Baylor's explosive 68-yard run is the 2nd longest of the @BeaverFootball RB’s career.📺 Pac-12 Network📱 https://t.co/PU19brOSGx#GoBeavs | #Pac12FB pic.twitter.com/hhIzJcwn1f
If the Ducks can get through all that, they'll have to take down Utah, Arizona State, or UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Cincinnati needs to go undefeated to get into the CFP, and the Bearcats should, but there is no margin for error. Oklahoma, based on what we've seen this season, could lose any of the games on its remaining schedule, including ranked clashes with No. 16 Baylor, No. 22 Iowa State, and No. 15 Oklahoma State. Undefeated Michigan (tied with Oregon at +3300 to win the national title), also has a rough road, with No. 8 Michigan State this weekend, then No. 20 Penn State and No. 5 Ohio State ahead.
Can the Ducks get into the CFP, with all of the uncertainty beyond Georgia? Yes. But everything would have to go perfectly, and I wouldn't bet on anything to go perfectly for any college football team this year.
Even though Penn State has fallen off (+10000 to +25000), after its demoralizing, nine-overtime loss to Illinois, the Big Ten East is still the most compelling major-conference race in the country.
Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State are all 4-0 in Big Ten play, but their odds to win the CFP National Championship do not suggest parity. The Spartans (+10000) and Wolverines (+3300) are both undefeated but are still well behind one-loss Ohio State (+450), which fell to Oregon in Columbus.
The race will get some clarity this weekend, after Michigan and Michigan State clash in East Lansing, while Ohio State will host an embarrassed Penn State squad seeking redemption.
But there will still be ample opportunity for drama ahead. Michigan State will head to Columbus Nov. 20, and Michigan will host the Buckeyes on Nov. 27.
One of the biggest positive moves of the week was Pittsburgh's jump to eighth on the odds board (+5000 from +10000), after the Panthers' 27-17 victory over Clemson.
DJ Uiagalelei just threw a touchdown pass… to Pitt. Clemson becomes the first college program to bench someone with a national television commercial deal following this play https://t.co/GxmHH8EJ48— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) October 23, 2021
DJ Uiagalelei just threw a touchdown pass… to Pitt. Clemson becomes the first college program to bench someone with a national television commercial deal following this play https://t.co/GxmHH8EJ48
The Panthers have a legitimate chance to win the ACC, but a team with a loss to Western Michigan on its résumé will never be selected for the CFP, especially a program with a lack of championship pedigree like Pitt.
Clemson, in turn, dropped from +8000 to +100000 to win the national title, so you can officially put a fork in the Tigers. Previously undefeated Oklahoma State also came back down to earth in a 24-21 loss to Iowa State and moved from +8000 to +15000.
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