With just four weeks remaining in the 2013 college football season, the Pac-12 Conference championship and bowl game chase jumps into high gear.
Oregon and Stanford are out in front of the pack, as expected. Their Nov. 7 meeting has been atop the Pac-12 marquee since before the season, and it should indeed live up to billing.
While the Ducks and Cardinal have the inside track on the league title, the rest of the Pac-12 still has plenty for which to play.
Thursday’s Oregon-Stanford winner obviously takes command—both in the divisional race, as well as for home-field advantage in the conference championship game.
Oregon fell behind Florida State in the BCS rankings released Sunday, but a defeat of No. 5 Stanford likely propels the Ducks back to No. 2. Assuming Oregon wins out, it will almost assuredly be in the coveted second spot to stay.
Consecutive losses to Stanford and USC realistically removed Oregon State from divisional title contention, but the Beavers can still play spoiler to rival Oregon on Nov. 30 in the annual Civil War game.
The Beavers are not completely out of the equation, but the odds of ending an almost five-decade Rose Bowl drought are next to nil. Oregon State needs Stanford to lose twice and Oregon to somehow lose a game before a Beavers win in the Civil War. Not happening.
Three-loss Washington is completely eliminated from championship contention. The remaining milestone for the Huskies to pursue is eight wins, something head coach Steve Sarkisian has never achieved in his previous four seasons at the helm.
|Team||Week 11 Opponent||Week 12 Opponent||Week 13 Opponent||Week 14 Opponent|
|Cal||vs. USC||@ Colorado||@ Stanford||Bye|
|Oregon||@ Stanford||vs. Utah||@ Arizona||vs. Oregon State|
|Oregon State||Bye||@ Arizona State||vs. Washington||@ Oregon|
|Stanford||vs. Oregon||@ USC||vs. Cal||@ Notre Dame|
|Washington||vs. Colorado||@ UCLA||@ Oregon State||vs. Washington State|
|Washington State||Bye||@ Arizona||vs. Utah||@ Washington|
The South’s championship outlook is still incredibly muddled. Arizona, Arizona State, UCLA and USC all remain in contention, though only the Sun Devils and Bruins control their own destiny, as each lost to teams from the North.
UCLA hosts Arizona State Nov. 23 in a matchup that, if neither loses another game, will determine the division.
USC and Arizona not only need help, but also face formidable challenges in their remaining contests. The Trojans offset road games against divisional bottom-feeders Cal and Colorado with home dates against Stanford and UCLA.
Arizona begins a tough stretch against three teams ranked in the BCS standings over the next four games Saturday against UCLA. The Bruins are one of two teams the Wildcats host in this final month that won last season’s matchup by at least seven touchdowns. The other is Oregon.
Should Arizona shock the Pac-12 and run the table, it still needs another loss from USC. By virtue of the Trojans’ head-to-head win on Oct. 10, they hold the tiebreaker.
Conversely, USC can win out but needs an Arizona State loss to claim the South.
|Team||Week 11 Opponent||Week 12 Opponent||Week 13 Opponent||Week 14 Opponent|
|Arizona||vs. UCLA||vs. Washington State||vs. Oregon||@ Arizona State|
|Arizona State||@ Utah||vs. Oregon State||@ UCLA||vs. Arizona|
|Colorado||@ Washington||vs. Cal||vs. USC||@ Utah|
|UCLA||@ Arizona||vs. Washington||vs. Arizona State||@ USC|
|USC||@ Cal||vs. Stanford||@ Colorado||vs. UCLA|
|Utah||vs. Arizona State||@ Oregon||@ Washington State||vs. Colorado|
The Pac-12 has six guaranteed bowl tie-ins in addition to the conference’s automatic BCS bid. Each of the last three seasons, the league’s sent two teams to BCS bowls. A fourth straight dual-BCS bid season is likely, should Oregon and Stanford both reach double-digit wins.
That’s eight postseason tie-ins altogether, and six Pac-12 members have already reached the magic, six-win mark for bowl eligibility: Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford and UCLA. USC needs seven wins by virtue of playing 13 regular-season games. The Trojans are one win away and have a prime opportunity to get it Saturday at 1-8 Cal.
Washington is also one win short of bowl eligibility, but should sew up its bowl bid this week hosting struggling Colorado.
So that takes care of all the Pac-12 bowl bids, right? Not exactly.
Utah suffered two setbacks since its shocking upset of Stanford, which dropped the Utes to 4-4. Kyle Whittingham never missed a postseason prior to 2012, and don’t count on him doing so in back-to-back years.
Utah faces sub-.500 opponents Colorado and Washington State in the final month. The Utes’ pairing against the Cougars could be a bowl elimination game—Washington State is 4-5 and clinging to postseason life.
Oregon is in the driver's seat for the Pac-12's first championship game appearance since the Ducks qualified in the 2010 season. All signs point to the Ducks passing Florida State for the BCS No. 2 spot, as long as they win out.
Stanford is still in the mix at No. 5, though its path to Pasadena, Calif., is not a straight shot. Defeating Oregon would vault Stanford ahead of the Ducks, but Ohio State, Florida State and Alabama remain. Also, look for Baylor to gain ground should it remain undefeated against the meat of its schedule.
The Pac-12 champion is guaranteed no worse than a spot in the Rose Bowl. Though the South champion cannot compete for a national title, the history-rich Rose Bowl is a worthy goal.
Stanford appeared in its first Rose Bowl since 1999 last year, and won the Granddaddy of 'Em All for the first time since 1971. The Cardinal could get the opportunity to defend their crown by repeating last year’s road: Upset Oregon and win the Pac-12 championship.
An at-large berth is also a distinct possibility, should the Cardinal lose to Oregon but win their remaining games.
The highest-finishing Pac-12 team not invited to a BCS bowl heads to San Antonio for a showdown with the Big 12. While this could end up being Stanford, a more likely scenario is the South Division's champion heading to the Alamo Bowl.
Front-runners Arizona State and UCLA are the leading candidates for this berth. Look for the winner of their matchup to end up here.
In another Pac-12 versus Big 12 pairing, the Holiday Bowl has the next selection after the BCS and Alamo bowls. The UCLA-Arizona State loser is a possibility.
However, if it was UCLA, the Bruins would need to fend off Washington and USC. Either could snag a Holiday Bowl invitation with a win over UCLA in these final four weeks.
Oregon State is another Holiday Bowl contender. The Beavers can afford a loss to Oregon, but must defeat Washington and finish ahead of USC.
The jumbled mess that is the South could produce the Sun Bowl participant—barring USC. The Trojans likely made few friends in El Paso after their visit last season.
Any one of Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA or Washington is a realistic Sun Bowl selection.
The Pac-12 last beat its Mountain West counterparts in this Sin City matchup in 2008, when Arizona knocked off Brigham Young. The Mountain West typically sends its champion, but Fresno State qualifying for the BCS would mean second place awaits the Pac-12.
USC will be underdogs in two of its final four games, against Stanford and UCLA. Losing those while beating Cal and Colorado should net the Trojans a Las Vegas Bowl bid.
BYU already accepted its guaranteed spot to this San Francisco-based bowl. The Cougars await a team from the Pac-12.
Both Washington and Oregon State pose interesting possibilities. The Beavers went into Provo, Utah and won a season ago. A rematch is certainly intriguing.
Sarkisian played at BYU, which would give a hypothetical Cougars-Huskies matchup an extra angle. Expect the Washington-Oregon State loser to go here.
The last of the Pac-12’s guaranteed bowl bids kicks off the postseason. Last year, Arizona set the tone with an astounding comeback win over Nevada.
This year’s participant has a high bar to meet. It could very well be Arizona returning to Albuquerque to defend the terracotta pot, given as this game’s trophy. That’s because the South’s fourth-place finisher is probably headed to the Land of Enchantment.
Fourth-place from the North could also be in line for the New Mexico Bowl. If that’s Washington, the Huskies hold the tiebreaker over Arizona and would thus take the more prestigious bowl bid.
Every year, there are conferences unable to qualify enough teams to meet their contractual obligations. The Mountain West has four teams that look like solid bowl participants—Fresno State, Boise State, Utah State and San Jose State—and six bowl bids to fill. And that’s without Fresno State landing a BCS at-large invitation.
Should Utah or Washington State reach bowl eligibility, their hopes could hinge on an unfulfilled contract. Possibilities to follow are the Poinsettia, Famous Idaho Potato, Armed Forces and Independence Bowls.