The curse of being No. 2 struck again Thursday night.
Oregon fans became believers that their Ducks could reach the BCS National Title game in New Orleans. However, the Duck's hopes got quacked when they first lost Heisman favorite quarterback Dennis Dixon, then the game at Arizona 34-24 in Tucson.
The Wildcats, who had previously lost to the likes of New Mexico and Stanford, ran roughshod over backup Brady Leaf and the Ducks. The younger brother of former Wazoo and NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf succumbed to the constant blitzing of Mike Stoops' Wildcat defense as Oregon's national title hopes burned off like a mirage in the Arizona desert.
Coming into Thursday's game, many debated if Oregon should have been No. 1 in the polls ahead of top-ranked LSU. Prior to Thursday's loss, the Ducks looked destined to play for it all armed with what likely would have been the Heisman Trophy winner Dixon.
But like so many No. 2 ranked teams have done this season, defeat tainted a season that could have been.
With Oregon now out of the national title picture, who are the teams remaining in the mix for the BCS top prize?
Obviously No. 1 LSU is sitting pretty heading into a week 11 date with struggling Ole Miss. The Tigers sport the nation's best defense (236 yards per game) and feature a surprisingly potent offense (19th nationally, 455 ypg). LSU also boasts arguably the nation's best defender in defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.
Dorsey, who has made the final cuts for both the Nagurski and Lombardi Awards, has become a darling of the national media. Some folks are beginning to talk up the Tiger senior as a Heisman darkhorse. No defensive player has ever won the coveted award, but with Dixon now fading from sight, Dorsey may be moving on up. With 53 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss already this season, Dorsey will get a shot to add to his résumé in going head to head with another Heisman hopeful. Darren McFadden and the Arkansas Razorbacks head to Baton Rouge the day after Thanksgiving for the regular season finale.
They were celebrating in Lawrence, Kansas late Thursday night as the surging Jayhawks appear ready to slide into that dreaded No. 2 slot. Kansas (10-0) gets ready to host Iowa State in hopes of setting up an epic showdown in the regular season finale against Missouri.
Speaking of the Tigers, No. 5-ranked Missouri is very much in the thick of the BCS race as well. At 9-1, Gary Pinkel's team will be shooting for a rematch with Oklahoma, this time in the Big XII Championship Game. The Sooners handed Mizzou its only defeat of the season six weeks ago. The Tigers get Kansas State this Saturday before heading to Lawrence to decide the Big XII North on Nov. 24.
Oklahoma seems to be on cruise control heading into the Big XII title game. But it isn't necessarily a cake walk to San Antonio. Bob Stoops and Co. still has to deal with Texas Tech and arch rival Oklahoma State en route to the conference championship game. An earlier loss to Colorado leaves no margin for error as they hope to return to New Orleans for another shot at the national championship.
And don't forget about West Virginia. After the Mountaineers loss to South Florida, Rich Rodriguez's team was thought to be out of the mix in the race to the national title. While it seems the championship game could likely be an SEC vs. Big XII matchup, West Virginia remains on standby should one of the top teams falter.
The Sooners would love to get another shot at the BCS title in the Big Easy. And it is shaping up to be a possible rematch of the 2003 title game between Oklahoma and the LSU Tigers. The No. 1 ranked Tigers must dispose of Ole Miss and Arkansas before traveling to Atlanta to face either Tennessee or Georgia for the SEC championship.
Oh and by the way, LSU has another obstacle to overcome besides the Rebels, Hawgs, Vols or Bulldogs. There is plenty of speculation in the air over the future of LSU coach Les Miles and his future in Baton Rouge.
Despite the outcome of "The Game" on Saturday, it seems apparent Michigan coach Lloyd Carr is heading toward retirement. Miles, a Michigan alum and Bo Schembechler disciple, hasn't minced words in expressing his devotion to the Big Blue.
Once thought as a long shot for the Michigan job, Miles' 31-5 record at LSU coupled with the undying loyalty to his alma mater makes him the most obvious choice for the job in Ann Arbor.
But here's the catch.
Should Miles and the Tigers win the next two weeks, then post a victory in Atlanta on Dec. 1, LSU will be on its way to the national championship game. If Carr announces his retirement in the days following "The Game," Michigan must begin looking for its next head coach. In the wake of the Wolverines' disappointing 2007 season, recruiting will be priority No. 1 and promptly securing a quality hire will be of utmost importance.
But if Miles and the Tigers are headed for New Orleans and a shot at the BCS National Title, could Miles even entertain the option of discussing the job in Ann Arbor? Championships are rare for any coach at any level, especially of the national variety. It is the gold standard to win a championship in the coaching ranks and Miles is on the cusp of entering that elite circle.
The question Miles must answer in the coming weeks is what is more important, winning a national championship or coaching his alma mater?
No one ever said life is fair.
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. Reach him at email@example.com.