- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 16, 2011

Well after Louisiana State completed its latest demolition, Alabama had departed another SEC West town with an emphatic victory and Oklahoma State dispatched Texas with ease, another message was delivered in the wee hours of the morning.

Don’t omit Oregon from any national title conversation. Not after it handled then-No. 18 Arizona State 41-27.

On a weekend when the list of unbeatens was narrowed to 10 (adios, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Michigan), a one-loss team from the West continued its recovery despite losing a star for the second straight week.

As tempting as it is to dismiss a team with a setback (the Ducks fell to Louisiana State in Dallas to open the season), there’s enough of a history of one-loss (or even two-loss) outfits slipping into the BCS title game. All it takes is a little chaos.

And despite two relatively tame weeks, plenty of variables will change in the coming weeks.

Alabama-Louisiana State on Nov. 5 looms as this year’s game of the century. Oklahoma-Oklahoma State on Dec. 3 could be a play-in game for a spot in the national championship. Both Sooner State schools still must face 6-0 Kansas State. Meanwhile, Boise State, Clemson and Wisconsin are perfect as well.

Oregon, though, is of immense intrigue. The Ducks have the pedigree after losing in last year’s championship. They possess the potent offense, scoring at least 41 points in five straight games. And they have a defining game still to come, a Nov. 12 date at 6-0 Stanford.

Win out (including the Pac-12 title game, which could be a rematch with Arizona State), and Oregon might be as well-positioned as any one-loss team outside the SEC to snag a title game berth. For now, the Ducks just need some health. Tailback LaMichael James missed Saturday’s game with a dislocated elbow, and quarterback Darron Thomas departed with a left leg injury early in the second half.

“I’m going to be all right, just to let everybody know,” Thomas told reporters in Eugene, Ore., after the game.

If that’s the case for both him and James in the season’s second half, the Ducks probably will be all right as well.

Weekend Risers

Virginia: For the second straight season, the Cavaliers knocked off a ranked team - this time previously unbeaten Georgia Tech. Next stop: Bowl eligibility? It’s realistic for Mike London’s 4-2 team, which faces N.C. State, Maryland and Duke within the next month. Snag two, and the postseason awaits.

Vanderbilt’s spunkiness: Commodores coach James Franklin channeled his inner Tom Petty, engaging in a shouting match with Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham after the Bulldogs’ 33-28 victory. Afterward, Franklin didn’t back down, telling reporters he believed some inappropriate things were said during an emotional game while adding, “We’re not going to sit back and take it from anyone.”

Weekend decliners

Illinois: The Illini absorbed their first blemish of the season, falling 17-7 at home to beleaguered Ohio State. The Buckeyes completed only one pass all day, but a pair of Illinois turnovers set up Ohio State’s two touchdowns.

Neil Callaway: The UAB coach presides over one of only three winless teams in major college football. One (New Mexico) fired coach Mike Locksley last month. Another (Florida Atlantic) knows Howard Schnellenberger is retiring at season’s end. With a 15-39 mark and no bowl appearances in five seasons, Callaway might soon be out of time at the Conference USA school.

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