The Oregon Ducks travel this weekend to Los Angeles to take on the USC Trojans in a match-up that has lost some of its luster nationally but remains the premier game in the Pac-12 this season. There will be many eyes on the game nationwide, including, most importantly, the eyes of some of the top recruits in the nation. The game is still a day away, so we'll go ahead and open up the mailbag in order to occupy the minds of fans everywhere as they wait for Saturday afternoon's game.
Tom M (Sandy, Ore.): Is there a chance the Ducks could get left out of the national championship game even if they go undefeated? Would another Rose Bowl win satisfy the fans and, more importantly, recruits?
DuckNation: There is a chance it could happen. Stanford will have at least two -- potentially three or four -- losses by the time it heads to Eugene. Oregon State will have at least one -- maybe two or three -- by the time the Civil War comes around. Should the winner in the OSU-Stanford game maintain its loss total, it would have a positive result for the Ducks in the computers. If either team wins out by the time they play the Ducks, they should be a top-10 or top-12 team.
If the Ducks beat USC soundly, there is a chance the Trojans could fall out of the rankings. They would be the fourth team the Ducks would have knocked out of the rankings so far this year. Another loss by the Cardinal or the Beavers before they play the Ducks could spell doom for Oregon, as a loss to the Ducks would likely have the Ducks themsevles drop out of the rankings as well.
Oddly enough, the Ducks need Washington and Arizona to win out -- both have three of four games remaining against teams with losing records -- and finish at 8-4 and 9-3, respectively. That might be the Ducks' best hope for the computers to recognize their strength. USC beating Notre Dame would also help a great deal, but the teams from the SEC and Kansas State are the ones to worry about.
The Ducks will almost assuredly jump Notre Dame with a win this weekend, as they only trail the Irish by the slimmest of margins in the BCS rankings (ND- .915, UO- .914). The BCS would love an SEC vs Notre Dame match-up in the title game, but Kansas State has a closing schedule that almost matches what the Ducks have left. Kansas State has a good-sized lead (.940 to .914) on Oregon right now, but the Ducks have more room than the Wildcats to move up in the computers -- which is the Ducks' biggest detriment at this point.
If they do get left out somehow -- and return to the Rose Bowl for the third time in four years -- Ducks' fans better be satisfied. The Ducks won their first Rose Bowl in 95 years in 2012 and any BCS win is a good one.
Pedro M. (Los Angeles): Any validity to the rumors about Eddie Vanderdoes flipping to the Ducks? Will another win against USC help his decision?
DN: There is always a chance that he could flip to the Ducks -- the school once considered a heavy favorite for his signature -- but at this point it is just speculation. Vanderdoes is set on USC and it would be a surprise to see that change.
Another win on the field would go a long way to prove that the Ducks are now the premier program in the Pac-12. However, the result of one game having such an impact on a recruit that he would consider changing his commitment is unlikely and usually an overblown theory.
Lance E. (Coos Bay, Ore.): Does a win over USC this weekend mean the Ducks are THE team in the Pac-12 and on the West Coast? What impact would a win have on recruiting moving forward?
DN: Oregon is THE team in the Pac-12 right now. Sure, the Trojans beat the Ducks last year in Eugene, but the Ducks have the upper hand on the field through the past five years -- and dating to 1994. USC is still the elite recruiting program in the Pac-12, but the Ducks have been the conference champion three years straight. A win this weekend would signal that the power shift is complete.