Stanford, Oregon might need BCS boost from Pac-12
Stanford coach David Shaw and Oregon coach Chip Kelly don't spend a ton of time watching other games in the Pac-12 Conference other than those involving their next opponent. They don't worry about what the outcomes mean to their team, either.
This year, they're probably better off.
The biggest roadblock to a berth in the BCS championship game for No. 6 Stanford (3-0) and No. 9 Oregon (3-1) - besides each other - might be the lack of power in the Pac-12 Conference. With the rest of the league off to a stumbling start, the two programs will likely need some help from the competition to boost their remaining schedules, which are looking awfully average outside of that Nov. 12 matchup at Stanford Stadium.
''I think any time when teams start to look down the road saying, `Hey, if this happens and this happens and this happens,' then what you do is you set yourself up for failure,'' Kelly said Tuesday during the league's weekly teleconference.
The Ducks certainly seem to be in better position now than they were a few weeks ago.
The only blemish on the schedule came against LSU (4-0), which has vaulted into the top spot in the AP poll with victories at West Virginia and Mississippi State since beating Oregon 40-27 at Cowboys Stadium. That still might not be enough for the Ducks - or even a perfect Stanford team - to march down Bourbon Street in New Orleans and into the Superdome for the BCS title game even if they can avoid another loss.
At least not the way the league is shaping up.
Arizona State (3-1) is the only other ranked team in the Pac-12, checking in at No. 25, and they don't figure to rise too high this season. Both Stanford and Oregon have a date with Southern California later this season, although the Trojans are hardly the national title contender they had been for the last decade.
Already, the conference is down to only two teams with a realistic shot at a national title.
''Every conference gets top-heavy to a certain degree,'' Shaw said. ''I also think the middle of our conference, you better not take a week off because they'll beat you and beat you soundly.''
That hasn't been the case so far.
The Pac-12 became nothing more than a pushover in non-conference play: Oregon State was upset at home by Sacramento State, a Football Championship Subdivision school from the Big Sky Conference. UCLA got beat at home by Texas. And Colorado lost at Hawaii and Ohio State.
''The one thing I'll say about our conference is we'll go out and play big-time teams and not necessarily play them at home,'' Colorado coach Jon Embree said. ''I guess our conference can go the other way and not play a challenging non-conference schedule and see what happens at the end of the year.
''I think it may be one of those years where maybe we didn't do as well as the other conferences,'' Embree added. ''But I think you have to look at it at the end.''
The good news for the league is that it has time to recover.
The calendar hasn't even flipped to October, and it's still possible for others to jump up in the rankings and challenge Stanford and Oregon at the top. The Cardinal also have a home date against Notre Dame and Oregon has to play the Sun Devils at home, so while there are fewer marquee matchups left compared to programs in the SEC and Big 12, the league still has a chance to rebrand its image.
Not everybody believes in early season rankings, either.
''If you're good from top to bottom, usually that means you're going to beat each other up a little bit and you may not have as many ranked teams because you are beating each other up,'' said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, whose program moved from the Mountain West to the expanded Pac-12 conference this season. ''It's all we can handle, I'll tell you that.''
Stanford is still the team with the best shot to make a run.
Not only are the Cardinal the only undefeated team left in the league, they also have Heisman Trophy favorite Andrew Luck, who gives the team more exposure than it would normally get playing so late on the West Coast. Luck insists he doesn't spend time wondering about computer rankings or strength of schedule, although he has been adamant this season about claiming the Pac-12 title and even a national championship.
While the rest of the league isn't helping Stanford's cause, Luck believes everything will be just fine - if they can win out.
''I'm sure if business is handled,'' Luck said, ''we'll be in the situation that we'd like to be.''
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP