Sporterberg on CFB: Hug a Duck, Bears!

Oregon wide receiver Juwan Johnson can't hold on to the ball as Arizona State defensive back Connor Soelle (18) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday in Tempe, Ariz. Associated Press

By Matthew Soderberg | Sports Writer

Thank you, Oregon.

Seriously, Baylor fans, if you know a Duck, let them know their football team could be the best thing to ever happen to Waco. No. 6 Oregon fell to unranked — but pretty good — Arizona State, thus unleashing a wave of hope for the Baylor faithful.

The door has reopened for Baylor to make the College Football Playoff. The dominating thought through this week was that only an undefeated Baylor, or a one-loss Oklahoma, would make it from the Big 12. But a two-loss Pac-12 champion could quell those beliefs.

Say Clemson, Ohio State and LSU win out. That means No. 4 Georgia, No. 10 Minnesota, and No. 13 Michigan all lose. If Baylor finishes off the season with only one loss, that knocks off No. 9 Oklahoma as well. With No. 8 Penn State and Oregon each losing in Week 13, that leaves only No. 5 Alabama, No. 7 Utah and No. 11 Florida sitting in front of the Bears.

Just as a hypothetical, let’s pretend Oregon beats Utah in the Pac-12 championship game. That’s two-loss Oregon versus one-loss Baylor versus one-loss (and one fewer win) Alabama for the final spot in the playoff.

As an optimist, I’d love to believe the committee would throw Baylor in over either of those two teams. But, as a realist and “distinguished” journalist, I have a hard time seeing it. So, if I’m not a convincing enough source, how about FiveThirtyEight, who gives Baylor a 61% chance to make it into the playoff given the said scenario. That goes up to 70% if Alabama loses to Auburn on Saturday.

I’m not saying this will happen. In fact, that same website gives those five teams a combined 2.8% chance to win out. Maybe it’s all a pipe dream, but maybe it’s one that can give us college kids hope as we approach finals season and one that can give hope to all the adults dreadfully approaching having their kids home for a few weeks.

Enough about the Bears, there’s other football happening around the country during the upcoming rivalry week. (P.S. Who knew Baylor and Kansas were rivals?)

No. 19 Cincinnati and No. 18 Memphis practically play for the Circle Five spot in the New Years Six bowls. The unranked Aggies travel to No. 1 LSU so the Tigers may enact revenge after last year’s 7OT thriller. Oklahoma travels to No. 21 Oklahoma State for Bedlam in Stillwater, even though that game has little consequence other than bragging rights.

Even with all those seemingly important matchups, the big-time games happen in the Big Ten this week. No. 12 Wisconsin is favored for whatever reason on the road against a better No. 10 Minnesota. Please, please put all your money on the Golden Gophers and don’t blame me if that goes poorly.

The other is an 11 a.m. matchup between hated rivals No. 2 Ohio State and No. 13 Michigan. John Harbaugh and the Big Blue haven’t beaten the Buckeyes in his entire tenure. It would turn the college football world upside down if they managed to do it this time around, as Ohio State boasts the highest-scoring offense and best defense in the country.

However, it’s rivalry weekend, so mayhem is bound to ensue. So sit back with some turkey and family and have a blast as the college football world could, but probably won’t, be turned upside down.