Why Oregon will beat UCLA on Thursday

The No. 1 team in the AP Poll has lost each of the last two weeks, as Alabama lost at South Carolina and Ohio State fell at Wisconsin. This week the Oregon Ducks will play their first-ever game as AP No. 1, but don’t expect the Ducks’ stay at No. 1 to be short-lived. Since No. 1 USC lost at unranked Oregon State in September 2008, AP No. 1 is 16-0 against unranked opponents with an average victory margin of 29.9 points per game. Twelve of those 16 games have been decided by at least 20 points and only two have been decided by single digits.

However, for those hopeful of an upset or close game, each of the games decided by single digits were home conference games, just like the Ducks' game Thursday with UCLA (ESPN, 9 ET). One was Alabama’s 12-10 survival against Tennessee on this very weekend last year. The other was Florida’s 23-20 win over Arkansas one week earlier.

Teams to become bowl eligible
This week with win

And in each instance, the winning team lost their No. 1 ranking because of the small margin of victory. But those two games are the exception, not the rule.

In the last ten games against unranked conference opponents, AP No. 1 is 10-0 with an average victory margin of 19.0 PPG and six wins by at least 20 points.

Looking a little further down the rankings, we find several teams that can become bowl-eligible this week, but are not exactly perennial visitors to the bowl-eligibility list. The chart on the right looks at four teams who don’t have prolific bowl histories, but can become eligible with a win this weekend.

Baylor hasn't been to a bowl game since 1994, tied for the longest current drought among BCS AQ schools with Duke. The Temple Owls played in a bowl game last season, but has never been to consecutive bowl games. Mississippi State is looking for just its second bowl appearance in the last 10 seasons. And UTEP, whose last bowl appearance was in 2005, has not won a bowl game since 1967.