Updated Chances for Every Pac-12 Title Contender
The Pac-12 conference entered the 2013 season with both Oregon and Stanford being perceived as national title contenders, and the two remain overwhelming favorites to win the conference through the first month-and-a-half of play.
After the Ducks and Cardinal, UCLA, Arizona State and Oregon State all still have a shot to win the league. The Beavers have yet to lose in conference, and both the Bruins and Sun Devils lost only to Stanford.
After that, a number of talented teams should make things difficult for the top tier, but winning the conference is going to be difficult with several losses on their respective resumes.
With a clear pecking order established, let's take a look at the chances each team has of winning the Pac-12.
Because crazy things tend to happen every year in college football, we'd be foolish not to at least entertain the idea that non-favorites could sneak up and win the conference.
In this category, we have USC, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Cal and the Washington schools. Aside from the Trojans and Wildcats, these teams have virtually zero chance to win the conference. Washington and Utah are talented teams, but each has three losses to Pac-12 foes.
The reason that both USC and Arizona make the list is because despite better odds than the rest of these teams, neither is playing very good football.
There's a small chance they could knock off either UCLA or Arizona State, but the odds are too slim to merit an individual slide.
So what percent chance would you give one of these seven teams to not only make the Pac-12 title game, but win it as well?
Chances of Winning: Five percent
After Oregon State dropped its season opener against Eastern Washington, it seemed insane to think the Beavers could somehow win the Pac-12 conference.
But since then, Mike Riley's team has reeled off six straight wins and is putting up out-of-this-world numbers in the passing game. Quarterback Sean Mannion has nearly 3,000 yards passing and 29 touchdowns, while wide receiver Brandin Cooks has more than 1,100 yards receiving and 12 scores. Through seven games.
While the offense performed well against the Eagles, it was the defense that really dropped the ball. Mark Banker's guys have improved since the beginning of the season and are a major reason why this team still has a realistic chance to win the title.
Well, the Beavers don't have a loss in conference and have yet to play teams like Stanford, Oregon and Washington. It isn't likely they'll be able to get through the tough remaining slate unscathed, and the offense probably won't run like a well-oiled machine against better defenses.
However, Oregon State still controls its own destiny, which is something the previous teams cannot say.
Chances of Winning: Five percent
Arizona State is another team that controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South.
There's a very good chance the road trip to UCLA in late November will reveal the winner of the division, and thus, the Sun Devils still have a shot to win the league title.
But a lot of it will depend on what kind of effort Todd Graham gets from his team away from home. The Sun Devils currently have two losses on the season, both away from home, but have blasted USC and Washington in their own stadium.
If Taylor Kelly and the offense can get into a rhythm earlier in games and take the pressure off of the defense, this team can play with anybody. But because of their inability to hang tough on the road, the chances of winning the Pac-12 aren't very good.
Chances of Winning: Eight percent
Until last weekend, it seemed like the UCLA Bruins were poised to step up and join Stanford and Oregon as potential national title contenders.
Then Jim Mora's team went up against a Cardinal defense that held it to just 10 points, and the Bruins sank back down to the second tier in the Pac-12.
But the result doesn't change the fact that UCLA is a program on the rise with talent on both sides of the ball. Injuries in the backfield and along the offensive line have hurt, but Brett Hundley is an excellent young quarterback, and the defense, led by Anthony Barr, is one of the better units in the country.
On Saturday, they'll travel north to take on the Oregon Ducks. But even if UCLA drops their second straight game, they'll still control their own destiny by virtue of a home date with Arizona State.
This team may not be in the same category as Stanford or Oregon, but it is still the favorite in the South, and you never know what could happen if it reaches the conference championship game.
Chances of Winning: 10 percent
The winner of the Pac-12 conference may very well be the winner of the game between Stanford and Oregon.
The Cardinal have already beaten the top two teams in the South Division by a combined score of 66-38. A loss to Utah wasn't pretty, but ultimately, it has little effect on the team's chances of capturing the North Division.
What it comes down to, barring another surprising defeat, is a game against Oregon on Nov. 7. Right now, you have to like the Ducks in that matchup, although the Cardinal have certainly shown flashes of championship-level football.
If David Shaw's team does manage to slip past the Ducks and reach the conference championship game, it's hard to imagine them losing.
The Cardinal have a great shot to repeat as conference champions, but beating Oregon is a must.
Chances of Winning: 28 percent
The Ducks entered the 2013 season as one of the few teams expected to contend for a national title, and as we reach the latter stages of October, they're the only undefeated team remaining in the Pac-12.
What are the odds they win the league? 50-50? A virtual lock?
Not quite, because the toughest part of the schedule is up ahead, and teams like UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State will all want their shot at the team from Eugene.
If you had to pick the favorite at this point in the season, it's Mark Helfrich's team by a decent margin. But Oregon will almost certainly have to beat Stanford on the road to represent the North Division in the conference championship game.
Can the Cardinal slow down these Ducks for a second year in a row, or will Oregon break through and reach the national title for the second time in four years?
Chances of Winning: 44 percent
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