It’s big-game Thursday night in college football, with Baylor, No. 6 in the BCS standings, hosting Oklahoma (No. 10), and No. 3-slotted Oregon at No. 5 Stanford. Come to think of it, it has to rank up there among the best non-Saturday cards in the game’s history, other than perhaps some day-after-Thanksgiving schedules, and maybe the classic Thanksgiving Day, Nebraska-Oklahoma game of 1971.
What’s at stake? Well, for three teams, a chance to keep alive hopes for the final BCS championship game before the sport enters the playoff age in 2014.
In the Pac-12, if you’re simply rooting for the conference’s interests, it’s probably best to side with the Ducks, who are presumed to be no worse than No. 2 in the BCS standings if they win out, passing current No. 2 Florida State. Then there’s the question of what a win by either school does for the likelihood of two BCS bids to the Pac-12. Either way, I’d think it would be in good shape, barring losses down the road.
Overall, it’s likely the Pac-12 will have more eligibles than the seven bowls with which it is affiliated — perhaps eight, nine or as many as 10 — so it helps the league if two of the top teams find homes in the BCS. It’s traditionally been worth about $400,000 per school in the league if two of its brethren make the BCS.
It gets pretty crazy if Stanford upsets Oregon — especially if it could do so in a convincing way. That’s where the debate might get hot and heavy. Could a one-loss Cardinal team muscle past an undefeated Baylor and a spotless Ohio State to the title game? Seems unlikely that it would have a great case against unbeaten Florida State, but both the Big 12 and Big Ten are inferior to the Pac-12 this year.
But a Ducks loss, at least in the short-term, would be a setback for the league, which badly needs to win a national title to strip away some of the SEC superiority that has been built up through its astonishing seven-year run of BCS championships.