We close out the power conference portion of the Bowl Projection Series with the other conference that makes an annual run for the Roses: The Pacific-10.
No longer is the Pac-10 “USC and everyone else.”
For the first time in seven seasons, the Trojans did not win or share the conference title; instead, Oregon’s victory over Oregon State in the Civil War earned the Ducks their first trip to Pasadena since 1995.
USC, in fact, isn't even in the pool of BCS-eligible teams. Their loss to Arizona dropped the Trojans to 8-4, their worst record since Pete Carroll's first season at the helm, and put them fifth in the conference.
But with the resurgence of Oregon State and Stanford, the emergence of Arizona and the always-steady California, the Pac-10 is still assured of sending a very good team to every bowl game they visit.
However, having seven bowl-eligible teams and only six usual tie-ins means it may take a miracle to get everyone somewhere.
Seven out of the Pac-10 have a chance to play in the postseason. They are:
Oregon (10-2, Conference Champion)
Oregon State (8-4)
The Pac-10 sends their teams to the following locations:
No. 1: BCS (Rose Bowl or BCS Championship Game)
No. 2: Holiday Bowl
No. 3: Sun Bowl
Nos. 4-5: Maaco Bowl Las Vegas, Emerald Bowl
No. 6: Poinsettia Bowl
There are a couple of big hiccups here.
At the Nos. 4-5 level, the Maaco and Emerald Bowls work together to create geographically favorable matchups—which means that Stanford or Cal is a lock for the latter.
The biggest contingency, however, is in how the bowls are selected. Pac-10 rules require all teams with seven or more wins to be selected before any 6-6 teams are considered.
That affects UCLA hugely. Because there's no chance the Pac-10 gets a second BCS bid (which would open up the Poinsettia), the Bruins will have to sweat out a bid to somewhere they’d rather not be.
Projected Bowl Selections:
No. 1: Rose Bowl—Oregon (Locked In)
No. 2: Holiday Bowl—USC
No. 3: Sun Bowl—Oregon State
No. 4: Emerald Bowl—Stanford
No. 5: Maaco Bowl—California
No. 6: Poinsettia Bowl—Arizona
No. 7: Little Caesars Pizza Bowl—UCLA
The Ducks are locked in to play the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.
Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess, as there are five 8-4 teams, three of which tied for second in the conference.
With the Holiday Bowl being in San Diego, they’ll almost likely take an eligible USC. The Trojans live just 90 miles up the road, and with a matchup against the No. 3 Big XII selection—which I project to be Nebraska—the game is sure to be a “big” one despite the records.
Oregon State, the last team that had a chance to unseat Oregon, will likely get chosen next to play Oklahoma in the Sun Bowl. The Beavers went to El Paso last year, and even though they won a 3-0 stinker, they’ll likely get the return call.
That leaves the Emerald and Maaco Bowls with an interesting decision, as both Stanford and Cal are available. It’s a crap shoot who takes who, but I think Stanford gets the Emerald nod with Cal going to Vegas.
Why? Oddly, because of the same reason Oregon State returns to the Sun, only in the opposite direction. The Emerald had Cal last year, so they’ll go in a different direction to avoid having too many of the same teams in the same bowls.
Likewise, the Las Vegas Bowl had Arizona last season, so the Bears head to Sin City. Based on the rules, that leaves the Wildcats to head to the Poinsettia Bowl by default. They’d rather have Cal and would love UCLA, but neither can happen so they take Mike Stoops’ resurgent bunch.
As for UCLA, they’re in a tough spot. Because they turned down the Humanitarian invite years ago, the lesser bowls might shy away. But that invite was declined because of the bowl’s wacky rules, not because they didn’t want to play there.
Left with a choice between UCLA and a pair of Sun Belt teams, the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will offer UCLA an invite…and the Bruins will accept, head to Detroit, and take on MAC Champion Central Michigan.