In bars in Eugene Friday night, there were no doubt televisions tuned to the Mid-American Championship game, and some people cheering hard for Bowling Green, and more disinterested others wondering what all the clamor was about.
Well, undefeated Northern Illinois’ bid to crash the BCS for a second straight year went badly awry in a 47-27 loss to Bowling Green, which brightens Oregon’s chance of a fifth straight trip to the BCS. It’s still an uphill struggle, but the NIU loss was a big step.
Now Saturday’s games become big for the Ducks, and if they should back-door their way into the BCS, it would radically alter the presumed Pac-12 bowl destinations.
Saturday, Oklahoma State (10-1, 6th in the BCS standings) hosts Oklahoma (9-2, 17th), and Baylor (10-1, 9th) hosts Texas (8-3). Oke State, Baylor and Texas are tied for the Big 12 lead with 7-1 records, and OSU has beaten both Texas and Baylor.
It would appear to serve Oregon (10-2, 12th) best if Oklahoma wins (that might be debatable) and definitely if Baylor loses, as the goal for the Ducks would be a combination of results that sees only one Big 12 team to the BCS. Oklahoma might become a threat to Oregon if it wins (it would need to jump into the top 14 to be eligible, which it likely would with a victory), but that’s probably a better option for Oregon if Baylor wins later in the day. In any case, it would aid Oregon if Baylor loses, but the Bears are a big favorite against the Longhorns.
Assuming Florida State handles Duke, the other game that might be important to Oregon is Ohio State-Michigan State. The Spartans are probably in the BCS win or lose — headed to the Rose Bowl with a defeat in that scenario — but a decisive Ohio State victory would give Oregon the best chance. Even at that, the big fan support Big Ten teams usually get probably tilts the Spartans into the BCS.
So here’s the equation: Oregon figures to be one of four teams jockeying for three remaining spots after Alabama takes one at-large position. The other three would be Clemson, a second Big 12 team, and Michigan State if it loses. And Michigan State and Clemson appear to be better bets than Oregon to make it, so it likely comes down to the Ducks versus the Big 12.
If Oregon joins the Pac-12 winner in the BCS, it would push all the Pac-12 bowl-eligible teams up a notch, and cause a lot of 11th-hour hand-wringing and debate by bowl committees. A second BCS team in the league would also be worth about half a million dollars to each athletic department.