The Oregon Ducks have found themselves on the outside looking in, coming ever-so-close, but never quite getting that shot, at the National Championship for several years. At times, Oregon shot themselves in the foot, like last year when the Ducks dropped a game to a good Stanford team they really should have beaten. Other times, they’ve arguably been the victim of an AP voting system that has been unreasonably enamored with the SEC in recent years. Now, the NCAA is going to a playoff system that will give the number three and four teams a shot to prove what their fans so often suggest — that they could have won the championship if they’d only had the opportunity to play for it.
We’ll know fairly quickly whether the Oregon Ducks, who are rated fourth in the USA Todaypoll. Chances are we’ll know on September 6 whether the Oregon Ducks are going to make a legitimate run for a playoff appearance and a title shot. That’s the day fellow second tier up-and-comers the Michigan State Spartans visit Eugene, Oregon, in the first year of a home-and-home. Michigan State comes into the 2014 season ranked eighth in the USA Today poll. Next year, the Ducks travel to East Lansing.
Michigan State finished ranked number three last year, while the Ducks dropped to number nine after looking like a national championship contender for most of the season. Michigan State’s coach Mark Dantonio has made the bold statement that his Spartans would have won the championship had the NCAA employed the four team playoff system that begins this year.
The game is destined to be a classic clash between one of the best offenses in college football history and one of the stingiest defenses in recent years. Many are calling this the most important inter-conference game in college football this year. Scheduling one another in the second week of the season is a bold move for both schools, sure to launch one school into serious playoff contention while likely relegating the loser’s rankings to a middle-of-the-pack position that will be tough to overcome.
Oddsmakers are giving Oregon a wide 13-point margin ahead of the season. If Oregon covers that spread, the Ducks will be the first team to beat the Michigan State Spartans by two touchdowns or more since week three of the 2012 season, when Notre Dame — also the only team to beat the Spartans in 2013 — beat the Spartans 20 to 3 in East Lansing.
Of course, the season hasn’t even started yet, so all we can do is speculate. But if the Oregon Ducks get past the Michigan State Spartans — easily their toughest matchup of the season — look for them to roll over the PAC-12 and vie for a spot in the playoffs. Oregon’s potent offense should be able to go toe-to-toe with any of the higher ranking teams in a playoff, and Ducks fans have to like their chances if they can overcome the Spartan D on September 6.