Sunday’s AP and USA Today coaches polls proved positive for Oregon, as the Ducks nosed past LSU into the No. 2 spot behind Alabama.
In the AP, Oregon has an appreciable lead of 1,414 votes to LSU’s 1,346 for the runnerup position. It’s much closer in the coaches poll, the Ducks with 1,371 to LSU’s 1,361. And remember, it’s the coaches poll that’s part of the BCS formula, not the AP.
You could say Oregon has used a tried-and-true SEC model for getting to this position: Schedule modestly out of the conference — you’d have to say Arkansas State, Fresno State and Tennessee Tech fit that description — so there’s very little risk. Then take care of business in the conference. Oregon didn’t dazzle offensively against Arizona Saturday night, but it used its defense to pull away in a big 49-0 win, the kind that gets the attention of voters.
Of course, you need to have a backlog of national cachet with the pollsters to get a favorable preseason ranking, and the Ducks have earned that.
From here, it’s looked like a fairly free pass for the Ducks until their Nov. 3 game at USC. That’s a risky assumption any year, and especially this season, when it looks like the Pac-12 schedule will have lots of minefields. But Oregon’s next four before that USC game are Washington State Saturday at CenturyLink Field; Washington Oct. 6 in Eugene; Arizona State in a Thursday-night game in Tempe Oct. 18; and Colorado in Eugene Oct. 27.
Meanwhile, the Alabama-LSU knot will work itself out (at least temporarily; given last year’s all-SEC title matchup, we can’t take anything for granted) when the Tide visits Baton Rouge, also on Nov. 3. Long-range, there are other potential challengers to Oregon in its bid for the national-title game — Florida State, for one — but in the first four weeks, the Ducks are well-positioned, much better than when they lost to LSU in a season opener a year ago.
The BCS formula, remember, is still in place this season and next before the four-team playoff takes hold following the 2014 regular season.