EUGENE, Ore. Oregon can save itself a lot of idle bowl speculation by sweeping its final three games.
Best case? The Ducks play in the Bowl Championship Series title game.
Worst case? The Ducks go to the Rose Bowl, which used to be the goal of all Pac-10 teams until the BCS came along.
Those would be the only two scenarios for Oregon at 11-1.
"We know if we win out, we'll have a chance to go to a couple of pretty neat places," coach Mike Bellotti said after Oregon took command of the conference race with a decisive 35-23 victory over Arizona State on Saturday in Autzen Stadium.
Oregon climbed to No. 3 in the latest Bowl Championship Series standings and Associated Press Top 25 on Sunday.
Five weeks after a heartbreaking loss to California seemingly knocked Oregon out of the national title picture, the Ducks (8-1, 5-1 Pac-10) have given themselves new life by defeating two Top 10 teams in a row. Saturday's victory followed a 24-17 win over Southern California on Oct. 27.
Before the Ducks start booking hotels for the holidays, they want to make sure quarterback Dennis Dixon is healthy. Dixon left Saturday's game with what was described as a bruised thigh and a strained knee.
Bellotti said Sunday night that Dixon would probably undergo an MRI on Monday.
"It's a little sore today, but they think it's probably just a strain," Bellotti said.
Dixon is expected to return for the Ducks' next game at Arizona on Nov. 15, a Thursday night.
"There's nothing for us to worry about," said tailback Jonathan Stewart, who rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown against the Sun Devils. "We've just got to take care of ourselves."
Truth is, the Ducks may need help if they hope to draw a berth in their first BCS title game. They trail unbeaten Ohio State and once-beaten LSU in the latest BCS standings, and with three mediocre teams left on their schedule, the Ducks might not have enough schedule strength to leapfrog the Tigers.
The Ducks have looked worthy of a berth in the title game in the past two weeks, and it's not just because of their high-octane offense.
Against Arizona State, Oregon came up with two big turnovers in the final quarter. Oregon also sacked ASU's Rudy Carpenter nine times.
"I've been saying this all week, people put aside their defense because of all the stars they have offensively," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "They're an awfully good defensive team."
The Ducks dominated the Sun Devils for three quarters on Saturday before Dixon hurt his knee on a run early in the fourth quarter. Afterward, Dixon and Bellotti said the injury was minor, and that he could have returned if the Ducks needed him.
Oregon has plenty of other injury concerns heading into the stretch. Starting middle linebacker John Bacon will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, Bellotti said. The Ducks have already lost top receivers Bryan Paysinger and Cameron Colvin and backup running back Jeremiah Johnson for the season.
"Our depth has hit the bottom," Bellotti said.
The week off will give the beat-up Ducks time to reflect on what they've accomplished since Colvin fumbled at the goal line in the final minute of a 31-24 loss to then-No. 6 California on Sept. 29.
That turnover may end up costing Oregon a shot at the national title. But the loss galvanized the Ducks, who have won four straight to take command of the Pac-10 race.
The Ducks will assure themselves of a trip to Pasadena if they can avoid an upset against UCLA (5-4, 4-2), Arizona (4-6, 3-4) and Oregon State (5-4, 3-3).
For now, the Ducks say they're only going to think about beating the Wildcats in 11 days.
"When you start thinking about national championship and the Rose Bowl, you can get ahead of yourself," cornerback Walter Thurmond said. "We don't want to do that."