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Originally published Sunday, November 18, 2012 at 6:57 PM

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Oregon could still sneak into the national title game

Taking a look at the bowl games of the Pac-12

Seattle Times colleges reporter

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Stanford's startling 17-14 upset of Oregon on Saturday night jumbled an already fluid picture of Pac-12 bowls — for nobody more than the Ducks themselves, who could mimic an old SEC ploy and squeeze back into national-title contention without playing for the Pac-12 championship.

In that scenario, Notre Dame, now top-rated in the BCS, would have to lose to USC on Saturday and Florida (No. 4) needs to lose to Florida State the same day. In theory, at least, the Ducks (No. 5) could edge into the No. 2 spot in the standings, although No. 6 Kansas State's final game against Texas might also be a consideration.

To make it all the way back, Oregon might also need to get to the Pac-12 title game to get a strength-of-schedule computer bump, which it could use.

Otherwise, Oregon's logical destination, if it isn't the Rose Bowl, is the Fiesta.

Other Pac-12 bowl possibilities:

Rose — If UCLA beats Stanford, the Bruins travel to Eugene for the league title game if Oregon beats Oregon State. If the Cardinal wins, the two play six days later at Stanford for the Rose Bowl trip while Oregon sits.

Alamo — Logically, either the Bruins or Cardinal end up here. But Oregon State travels far better and could be the dark horse choice.

Holiday — It seems likely it's UCLA, Stanford or OSU, none of which have played in the San Diego game. The Holiday probably would love a healthy Matt Barkley (it's never had USC, either) but it can't jump a 5-4 USC team over a 7-2 squad.

Sun — The odd team out of the Alamo-Holiday mix figures in here, as does USC, whose stock is plummeting severely. So does the winner of the Arizona-Arizona State game.

Las Vegas — This has looked like Washington's spot, but the Huskies might have to be picked over USC or the loser of the UCLA-OSU-Stanford rock-paper-scissors competition.

Kraft Fight Hunger — Anybody's guess, and the equation also includes Washington.

New Mexico — Figures to be either Arizona or Arizona State.

Clearly, there's a lot to play out, and the issue of whether the league gets one or two BCS teams holds the key.

What we learned

Stanford ruined a potentially good BCS title game. The Cardinal's great defensive effort against Oregon very likely denies the Ducks' turbocharged offense a spot in the championship game. What looms now is Notre Dame against the SEC winner, Alabama or Georgia. Anybody west of the 'Bama-Mississippi line excited about that?

It didn't take Jim Mora long. The 50-0 USC victory over UCLA last year seemed to say that there was a wide gulf between the two teams, but one game can be illusory. So it was, and the Bruins' victory Saturday under Mora in his first year at UCLA signals a possible power shift and a big recruiting boost in the rich SoCal area.

"I was high on life," said Bruins safety Tevin McDonald, explaining to reporters why he was shouting to the heavens in Pasadena after the game. "That's the happiest I've ever been in my life."

Cal didn't exactly stump for Jeff Tedford's job. The Golden Bears were schooled 62-14 by Oregon State, committing six personal fouls (of a penalty total of 15) in the first half.

Chip Kelly showed some cracks last week. The Oregonian reported that the Oregon coach "was on a mission" trying to determine the source of leaks seeping to the newspaper regarding injury information and intelligence such as De'Anthony Thomas getting snaps at cornerback.

A source told the paper Kelly made "a loose threat" to the team about consequences if he discovered where the leaks were coming from.

Utah has plenty of time for self-evaluation. Kyle Whittingham's program is just 6-11 in the Pac-12 in two seasons, and bowl-ineligible for the first time since 2002. Quarterback has been an issue the past two years, but it's also worth asking how the Utes' formidable defensive front allowed Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey to rush for 204 yards (and Arizona 320) Saturday in Utah's 34-24 defeat.

This is a mushy Apple Cup. If it's possible, the Huskies (7-4) have been at once overachieving and unsatisfying. The Cougars (2-9) have been mostly a bus wreck. The rivalry has seen better setups.

This week

The big day is Saturday, with Oregon at OSU, Stanford at UCLA and Notre Dame at USC.

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com


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