Bowl projections: Where the Ducks are most likely to land
Week 13 of the college football season provided some clarity to a murky Pac-12 title race. With No. 11 Stanford’s win over Cal, No. 18 Oregon will not be going to the Pac-12 Championship. But outside of the Pac-12 title and College Football Playoff, the Ducks’ bowl game fate has plenty of intriguing possibilities.
Assuming that Oregon can win the Civil War against Oregon State, who is 0-8 in the Pac-12, the Ducks can reach as high as the Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl. Much of it, however, will depend on key Pac-12 games this weekend, particularly Stanford’s matchup with No. 4 Notre Dame and the winner-take-all game between USC and No. 22 UCLA, with the victor representing the Pac-12 South in the conference championship game.
Here are the best, worst and most realistic bowl game scenarios for the Ducks:
Best: Rose Bowl (Jan. 1)
A couple of things outside of Oregon’s control would have to happen in order for the Ducks to get back to Pasadena, California, for the second consecutive season. Most importantly, Stanford would have to sneak into the College Football Playoff, which would require a (convincing) win against Notre Dame and a win in the Pac-12 Championship. If those two things happen, and the Ducks are the highest-ranked team in the conference not named Stanford, they have a slim chance of reaching the Rose Bowl. The Ducks would face an opponent from the Big Ten, possibly the loser of its conference’s championship game. Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan and Iowa could all land here.
Worst: Sun Bowl (Dec. 26)
The Ducks likely won’t fall this far, but if Oregon State manages to pull off a major upset at Autzen Stadium, it could happen. Stanford most likely will bump Oregon out of the Rose Bowl, but for the Ducks to finish the Pac-12 season behind UCLA, Washington State, USC and Utah in the standings, a lot would have to go against them. An ACC team is slated to play against the Pac-12 in the Sun Bowl, likely a middle-of-the-pack team such as Miami, Duke or North Carolina State.
Most realistic: Alamo Bowl (Jan. 2)
The Ducks last played in the Alamo Bowl in 2013, when a Marcus Mariota-led team defeated Texas 30-7. Though the Ducks were somewhat disappointed to land there in 2013, they should consider it a success this season. This bowl is the Ducks’ most likely scenario, mainly because Stanford and the winner of UCLA-USC will have an extra game on the Ducks regardless of the outcome. Oregon would face a Big 12 team that’s not playing on New Year’s Day in this bowl. Possibilities include Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, all of whom would present good matchups for Oregon.
Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1)
The Fiesta Bowl selects two “at-large” teams in the rankings for this New Year’s Day game. The Ducks would certainly have to win convincingly in the Civil War to have a chance of getting in, but more importantly, a significant shakeup in the top 10 would be a must for the Ducks to climb that far in the rankings. Notre Dame could land in this bowl, especially with a loss to Stanford.
Holiday Bowl (Dec. 30)
This scenario could happen if UCLA beats Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Both teams would finish with a better overall record than the Ducks, regardless of the Civil War result. Oregon would likely slide down from the Alamo Bowl, making the Holiday Bowl its best bet. However, if USC beats UCLA, it seems unlikely USC would reach a better bowl than the Ducks, considering their convincing 48-28 victory over the Trojans last Saturday. Realistically, second-tier Big Ten teams Wisconsin or Northwestern will land in this bowl.
Follow Will Denner on Twitter @Will_Denner