And just like that, the Pac-10 sits just one Cal football win away from a four-way tie for second place.
Oregon's 37-33 Rose Bowl-clinching win Thursday night against Civil War rival Oregon State ensured a three-way tie between the Beavers, Stanford, and the winner of USC-Arizona.
A Bears win Saturday in Pullman against 4-7 Washington would leave the Pac-10 with four teams at 6-3 in conference play, and one very daunting decision for the Holiday Bowl selection committee.
Currently, the Pac-10 runner-up serves as the Holiday Bowl's anchor team to oppose the third selection from the Big 12. In the event of a tie, the bowl has the right to choose which team will play.
According to the Oakland Tribune , a source close to the Holiday Bowl is saying both Cal and Stanford are already out of the running—regardless of what the Bears might do Saturday against the Huskies.
Again citing the same Holiday Bowl insider, the Tribune goes on to say the bowl will take the Arizona-USC winner—the Trojans because of their national draw and proximity and the Wildcats because "Tucson is close enough to San Diego that fans can realistically drive to the game."
Tucson is a six-and-a-half hour drive from Qualcomm Stadium. Both Stanford and Berkeley are apparently an "unrealistic" hour further.
Geography lesson aside, the Bears should be Holiday Bowl bound.
Why? First, they're the hottest of the four teams. With a victory Saturday they'll have six W's in their last seven games, including back-to-back season-defining wins against the then-No. 17 Wildcats and then-No. 17 Cardinals. Their lone blemish came Nov. 7 to Oregon State (31-14) in a game marred by the loss of Cal's Heisman-contending tailback Jahvid Best to an end zone concussion.
Arizona, meanwhile, dropped back-to-back games to the Bears and Ducks in the middle of November and squeaked out a three-point win at Arizona State last week—frankly, a win for the 'Cats at the Coliseum Saturday seems unlikely.
The Trojans have been on a sudden and steady decline since their 47-20 blowout loss to Oregon on Halloween night in Eugene. USC won by just five in an ugly game in Tempe Nov. 7 (14-9), before suffering a 55-21 humiliation at home against Stanford Nov. 14. Last week, the Men of Troy needed two fourth-quarter scores to put away the 6-6 Bruins, the second of which nearly ended in a benches-clearing brawl.
On paper, the Cal football team should have a flight booked for San Diego on Dec. 29.
But, it seems, the Holiday Bowl is more concerned with dollars and ratings than the conference's true No. 2.