The Pac-12 looked like world beaters a few weeks ago, but this week two big boys took a fall: USC and Oregon State.
With a month left of regular season games still to be played, now is a good time to project the bowls for eligible Pac-12 teams.
Colorado (1-7) is not bowl-eligible due to already having played out of a 6-6 season.
One note: These projections are fluid based on recent contests. Next week could have a different bowl projection as more upsets happen not only in the Pac-12, but in other conferences as well.
Arizona State is currently 5-3 overall, but the Sun Devils have dropped two straight, and they still have three road trips at Oregon State, USC and Arizona on the horizon. They also host Washington State.
It looks like a 6-6 record for Arizona State and a Mountain West foe in the Land of Enchantment.
While it's too early to project the Sun Devils' opponent, Nevada looks like a possibility.
The UCLA Bruins played a beautiful game against Arizona State last Saturday, and their 6-2 record is impressive. Unfortunately, I have them finishing 7-5. (What do I know, right Bruin fans?)
It's hard to believe the Bruins may have to make a second consecutive trip back to the Bay Area, but the Pac-12 is very solid this year, and the Bruins—despite hosting Stanford, UCLA and Arizona—have a tough November slate.
Navy needs one more win before it is eligible for its tie-in to this bowl.
USC lost to Arizona last Saturday, and while the Trojans are sitting at 6-2 overall, they still have dates with Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA and Notre Dame. There are at least two losses in there, so we'll project the Trojans at 8-4.
If the Trojans manage to upset either Oregon or Notre Dame, then this becomes more complicated. I still don't think USC will represent the South because the Trojans already lost to Arizona, a team I am projecting to have a 9-3 overall record before the conference championship. The tie-breaker goes to Arizona.
A Mountain West opponent will face the Trojans, and it looks like Boise State will be the anointed one.
Stanford is 6-2, but the Cardinals probably won't get past Oregon and Oregon State, so an 8-4 record seems likely. In the end, an 8-4 record after losing so much talent to the NFL is a real positive sign for Stanford—David Shaw can coach.
The Sun Bowl also has the fourth selection of an ACC team, and right now, Duke or North Carolina looks probable.
This bowl is an interesting dilemma because the Pac-12 team that goes to this bowl will be determined by Arizona beating Washington, Arizona winning the Pac-12 South and then losing to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship.
We'll stick with that scenario for now, and hence, Washington will finish 8-4 and play Texas. Both teams travel well, and the folks at the Holiday Bowl would love this matchup. An 8-4 USC could upset the apple cart because who wouldn't want to see USC vs. Texas?
I have the Wildcats at 9-3 and winning the Pac-12 South, and here's why: Arizona has a fairly doable November schedule.
If the Wildcats beat UCLA, Colorado, Utah and Arizona State, they will play Oregon for the Pac-12 championship unless USC wins out, which doesn't look likely. If we assume Oregon wins out and Oregon State only drops its game against Oregon, then Oregon could be in the BCS Championship while a two-loss Oregon State goes to the Rose Bowl.
Arizona would likely play West Virginia.
The Beavers lost last Saturday to Washington, but they only have one road game left on their schedule, at Stanford. I've got Oregon State winning its four of five games, dropping only one against Oregon.
The problem for the Beavers is that we are assuming, if Oregon goes 13-0 by winning the Pac-12 Championship, the Ducks will go to the BCS Championship game. I'm not sold on this yet because the non-human polls have Oregon at No. 5.
Nevertheless, if Oregon goes to the Big Dance, then Oregon State will be going to the Rose Bowl and playing against either Nebraska or Wisconsin.
The Ducks are destined to play in the BCS Championship despite the BCS non-human polls not having a fondness for Oregon.
Notre Dame is ahead of Oregon in the non-human polls, but Oregon is ahead of Notre Dame in the human polls. What should be the deciding factor? How about Oregon having to play an extra game?
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, even the non-human polls will be impressed with that conference championship victory, and that 13th win should leapfrog the Ducks over Notre Dame.
So who will the Ducks play? While everyone assumes it will be Alabama, let's not assume anything. Maybe Alabama will have a bad day in the SEC Championship.
Maybe it's Notre Dame's or Kansas State's turn.