by Rob Moseley
It's the calm before the storm.
The Oregon football team isn't scheduled to practice this week. Coaches hit the road for recruiting Sunday, two days after the Ducks wrapped up a 10-2 regular season with a dramatic, 36-35 win in the Civil War.
The Ducks, who remained 12th in the polls Sunday morning, will focus on athletic treatment, weight workouts and academics as the university calendar hits dead week. The next practices are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, a weekend that also will feature a storm of results from around the nation that will affect Oregon's bowl destination.
As things currently stand, the most likely scenario has Oregon headed to face a Big 12 opponent — perhaps Oklahoma — in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30. The Alamo Bowl is projected to choose the Ducks over the loser of Saturday's Pac-12 title game between Stanford and Arizona State, either of which would suffer its third loss of the year.
But several results this past weekend — Wisconsin's loss to Penn State, Fresno State's loss to San Jose State, Clemson's loss to South Carolina — hurt the chances of teams joining Oregon on the Bowl Championship Series bubble. With six conference champions plus at-large Alabama considered locks for seven of the 10 BCS slots, the Ducks are thought to be in the mix for one of the final three spots with the likes of Northern Illinois, Clemson, Baylor and Michigan State.
A week after those hopes seemed all but dead following Oregon's disheartening defeat at Arizona, the Civil War win plus other results from around the country have rekindled the Ducks' chances of playing in a fifth straight BCS game.
"We'll see what unfolds," UO coach Mark Helfrich said Sunday morning. "It's so bizarre. … Again, it goes back to 'woulda, coulda, shoulda,' and even more, reinforcing handling your business, and why it's so important to have a great week every week."
Bowl projections released late Saturday by the self-proclaimed "BCS Guru," Samuel Chi of Bleacher Report, slotted Oregon into the Orange Bowl to face Alabama on Jan. 3. Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has the Ducks in the Alamo Bowl against the Sooners.
Looking forward to next week, Oregon's BCS chances would be greatly enhanced by a Bowling Green win in the MAC Championship game Friday, knocking Northern Illinois out of the BCS. Baylor faces Texas and Michigan State faces Ohio State on Saturday, two other games that could heavily impact the Ducks' bowl destination.
Oregon's first practice after the bowl matchup is officially set will be Friday, Dec. 13, at the conclusion of finals week.
With only two practices between now and then, on Saturday and Sunday, coaches today entered an intense two weeks of recruiting travel. An NCAA rule change lengthened the "dead period" around the holidays later this month, in which face-to-face contact with recruits is not allowed, intensifying the need to make major progress in the next two weeks.
Helfrich said that period will also provide coaches a chance to reflect on the regular season, in which the Ducks won 10 games for a sixth straight year — tying Alabama for the longest current streak in the nation — but stumbled at Stanford and Arizona.
"You're not pleased 100 percent," Helfrich said. "Are there things we did really well? Yeah. Are there a lot of things we could do better? Absolutely. We'll continue to chase it."