- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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Are two Pac-12 teams the closest programs in the nation to winning their first national title?
That's what Athlon Sports asserted after it noted that "The last time a team won a national championship for the first time in program history was 1996 when Florida defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl."
Those two teams? Not too hard to guess: Oregon is No. 1 and Stanford is No. 2 on the list.
This is its take on Oregon:
A dormant program before Rich Brooks took Oregon to the Rose Bowl in 1994, Oregon has been knocking on the door for its first national title, losing 22-19 to Auburn in the BCS Championship Game in 2010. Auburn’s fortunate call on a run by Michael Dyer in the fourth quarter wasn’t the only time luck went against the Ducks. Oregon was ranked second in the AP and coaches’ polls after the 2001 regular season, but the BCS' computer average and strength of schedule components put No. 2 Nebraska into the Rose Bowl for the title against Miami. The 2007 team was ranked as high No. 2 in the BCS standings until quarterback Dennis Dixon suffered a torn ACL. Each coach since Brooks has kept Oregon in the national title conversation. That bodes well first year-coach Mark Helfrich, who has a title contender in 2013. Especially with minimal sanctions from the NCAA in the Willie Lyles case, the infrastructure is strong for Oregon to win its first title.
The thought of Stanford competing for a national championship would have been far-fetched before 2010. Even Ty Willingham’s Rose Bowl team in 1999 finished the regular season 8-3. Few programs have changed their spot in the college football world as dramatically as Stanford in the last five years. David Shaw signed a top-10 recruiting class in 2012 and followed that with a quality-not-quantity 12-man class in 2013. Jim Harbaugh and Shaw proved Stanford can compete for titles despite stringent academic standards.
Athlon had South Carolina No. 3, and it mentions California as a team of note (keep in mind these have to be teams that have never won a national title).
If you were projecting a likely 2013 national title game, it probably would be Alabama-Ohio State. Both are good teams that play favorable schedules that are conducive to going undefeated.
If you were to offer a next guess, it would be the winner of the Oregon-Stanford game on Nov. 7.