Baylor could build a title case
Plus, while Oregon's case looks good, Stanford could rise too
For two of college football's most dominant teams this season, Thursday presents an opportunity to show that they can keep up their incredible level of performance against their toughest opponents to date. With Baylor hosting Oklahoma and Oregon looking to avenge last season's loss to Stanford (9 p.m. ET, ESPN), both the Bears and Ducks are hoping to strengthen their résumés in the final year of the BCS.
Entering Thursday's action, Oregon ranks seventh in ESPN's new Championship Drive Ratings (measures which teams are most deserving of competing for the national title based on what they've done to date, relative to their schedule), while Baylor is 14th. Both teams are a few spots lower than they are in the BCS standings because, quite simply, they haven't played difficult schedules. They each get credit for dominating most games (in terms of average win probability), but it's still deemed that it's harder to achieve what other teams have versus their schedules than what these two have versus their slate of opponents to date.
On the other hand, Oregon and Baylor rank first and third, respectively, in ESPN's new Football Power Index (a predictive measure of team strength that estimates how powerful a team is likely to be going forward) -- a few spots higher than each team is in the BCS. Both have been seemingly unstoppable on offense and also have top-10 defenses. They should be really strong going forward, likely to beat pretty much anyone else on a neutral field.
While looking at where these teams stand now is fun and useful, what really matters is where they will stand relative to everyone else at the end of the season. When you break down the numbers, both will be among the most deserving teams of playing for a national title if they win out. Oregon will be able to challenge Alabama, and Baylor could push Florida State. (And don't rule out Stanford if it can beat the Ducks on Thursday night; more on that later.)
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Trevor Knight and the Sooners rise to No. 1 in the Playoff Forecast.