Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Winning Is What Matters, Not October Rankings

Many Oregon fans felt slighted by the initial BCS rankings that came out last Sunday, but the truth of the matter is that the Ducks’ got what they deserved. Good thing for them is that championships aren’t decided in October.

Judging by the reaction on social media sites and discussion boards across the northwest last Sunday, you would have thought that fans were told the Oregon Ducks would not be able to qualify for any of the BCS bowls this winter.

However, when the initial BCS rankings were released Sunday night that was far from the case. In fact, the Ducks actually have themselves in a perfect position. By sitting at number three behind Alabama and Florida (the two would meet in the SEC championship if they remain unbeaten), the Ducks actually control their own destiny and have a great opportunity to play in their fourth straight BCS bowl, possibly even their second national championship in three years.

Anyone who had been following the entire college football landscape this season as well as objectively following the Ducks, knew this was coming. The initial ranking and the overreaction to said ranking were as predictable as Lou Holtz's undying defense of Notre Dame in any and all situations.

Then, like clockwork, both things happened this past weekend. Holtz passionately defended Notre Dame's clear robbery against Stanford and Oregon fans drastically overreacted to being ranked third in the initial BCS standings. Both fans of the Ducks and proponents of Pac-12 felt that Oregon should have been ranked number two in the BCS, just as they were in both the human polls.

However, the BCS computers don't like Oregon as much as the humans do, at least not yet. The problem the Ducks currently have is that they haven't played anyone the computers find relevant. Oregon's most impressive wins so far this year have come against Arizona and Washington. While Oregon looked impressive in both wins, neither opponent is exactly lighting up the BCS computers rankings.

Currently, Arizona’s average ranking in the six BCS computer polls is 35.5 (with a highest ranking of 22 in Wolfe, low of 46 in Colley), while Washington’s average ranking is 37 (high of 16 in Billingsly, low of 52 in Sargin). While Oregon’s victories over both teams were extremely lopsided and rather impressive to the human eye, neither home victory was very impressive to the computers. In fact, the human eye is Oregon's only saving grace at this point, because if it were up to the computers, Oregon would be ranked sixth in the country. Imagine the upheaval that would have created.

If anything a number three ranking should be cause for celebration, not anger. The Ducks have yet to play a highly ranked team this season, but are still impressively ranked in the top three.

If Duck fans really want to be mad at someone or something, they should be mad at Kansas State, not the BCS computers. Had the Wildcats not backed out of their home and home series with the Ducks (due to the fear of an expanded Big 12 conference schedule), KSU would have traveled to Autzen on September 1st this year. Kansas State started the season ranked number 22 in the preseason rankings, so a win over the Wildcats would have served the Ducks much better than the massacre of Arkansas State did.

On top of that, it just so happened that Oregon’s first three conference games weren’t against stellar competition either. So due to reasons beyond their control, the Ducks currently aren't a sexy pick to the BCS computers.

The good news for the Ducks is that the meat of their schedule is definitely still to come. Oregon will face their toughest test thus far this season on Thursday when they travel to Tempe, Ariz., to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils. ASU isn't exactly topping the BCS computers either (avg. ranking of 38.5), but the game is at Sun Devil Stadium which will help.

From there it gets even tougher for Oregon in the eyes of the computers. After a home game against Colorado (which won't help with the computers) the Ducks travel to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans who are currently ranked number ten in the BCS.

Two weeks later (after a trip to Berkeley to play Cal) the Ducks will host the twentieth ranked Stanford Cardinal, which is followed by a trip to Corvallis to take on a Beaver team that is currently ranked eighth in the BCS. Granted a showdown between Oregon State and Stanford on November 10th will lower one of the teams' rankings before they play the Ducks, it will also propel the other even further up the BCS rankings. Then, assuming the Ducks win all of these tough games they will then have to take on the Pac-12 South champion in the conference championship game December 1st.

The fact is, three of the Ducks final six games are against teams currently ranked in the top-twenty of the BCS, and two of them are road games against top-ten BCS teams. A potential conference championship game will just be the icing on the cake that is Oregon’s strong second-half schedule.

It doesn't matter what a team is ranked in week eight of the college football season. What matters is where they’re ranked in the final regular season poll. Oregon's schedule will take care of itself and if they continue to win, they will find themselves in the all-important top two spots of the final BCS rankings.

So instead of worrying about where Oregon is ranked on October 14th, fans should instead use that energy to root for the Trojans, Cardinal and Beavers when they aren’t facing the Ducks. They should also root for the SEC to continue to beat each other up and most importantly keep rooting for the Ducks to win each week. And then, if they really want justice, hope that Kansas State also keeps winning so the Ducks can get the chance to exact some revenge in Miami Gardens come January.

Arran Gimba
Be sure to check out other great articles at Oregon Sports News.
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