A Saturday that saw a pair of previously unbeaten teams vanquished ended with the top two teams in the BcS standings coming away with impressive road wins in potential trap games.
And, after three straight weeks of a No. 1 team in either a major poll or the BcS rankings going down in a heap of flaming defeat, ding-dong the No. 1 jinx is indeed dead. For now.
Auburn, No. 1 in the latest BcS rankings, fell behind 7-0 to Ole Miss within the first 27 seconds of the game, then rolled to an easy 51-31 win over the Rebels in Oxford. With just two games now standing between the Tigers and a potentially epic Iron Bowl the last weekend of November, it appears that Auburn’s lone hurdle will be a Nov. 13 home date with Georgia.
As they’ve done in at least three games this season, Oregon struggled somewhat in the early going against USC. In stark contrast to their 2010 pattern, though, the No. 1 team in all of the major polls failed to immediately step on their opponents throats and choke the life out them… until the second half where the Ducks said “nah, just kidding”, scoring the game’s final 23 points and snuffing out any hope of a USC “bowl win” as the Ducks cruised to a 53-32 win.
Unlike Auburn, however, the Ducks have multiple potential roadblocks to a perfect regular season and a near-guaranteed slot in the national championship game. After a home game next weekend against Washington, Oregon travels to a dangerously schizophrenic Cal team, hosts No. 15 Arizona and ends the regular season with their annual Civil War showdown with Oregon State in Corvallis.
Add it all up, and simply put, both of these teams could take the drama out of the end of the season as far as the national title chase is concerned. If each comes through the final month unscathed, they will square off in Glendale in January. That is about the only guarantee you have at this time of this year.
Recent history suggests, though, at least one, if not both, of those schools will stub their toe before the curtain closes on the regular season. Given the gauntlet Oregon has to weave its way through, and Auburn’s rivalry date with Alabama in Tuscaloosa looming off in the distance, we’re going to give a near-guarantee that one of those — at least — currently atop the mountain gets knocked off before it’s all said and done.
And, waiting in the wings to pounce on any slip up by either team? America’s sweethearts Boise State, as well as under-the-radar TCU if they can run a table that includes a game against fellow unbeaten Utah. Unless it’s Alabama that’s kicking Auburn down the mountainside, of course, at which point all Armageddon breaks loose amongst the one-loss automatic qualifiers and any unbeaten non-AQ.
So, it’s all on the shoulders of Oregon and Auburn. They can either make this a very straightforward last five weekends of the regular season, or they could party like it’s 2007 and make the national landscape a convoluted mess rife with arguments that, in some cases, will end in gunfire.
I know which scenario we’re rooting for…