Pac-12 bowl picks: Washington heads to the CFP, Oregon awaits New Year’s Six bid as everything falls into place

The Huskies return to the CFP for the first time since 2016

The Pac-12 championship game provided spectacular theater Friday night in Las Vegas, as Washington blew a big lead, then rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Oregon 34-31 and clinch a perfect regular season.

The rest of the conference weekend should be relatively free of drama.

We know the Huskies are going to the College Football Playoff as a 13-0 conference champion with four wins over CFP top-25 teams and eight wins over bowl-eligible teams.

The only question is whether UW retains its No. 3 seed when the pairings are announced on Sunday morning, or if it falls to fourth.

Best guess: The Huskies are ranked third and will face No. 2 Michigan in the Rose Bowl, which will host a semifinal.

In either case, Washington will end the Pac-12’s six-year playoff drought in the final year of the conference’s existence.

Oregon will not fall far from fifth place in the CFP rankings. The selection committee is usually hesitant to punish teams for losing championship games, especially narrow losses to higher-ranked opponents.

If the Ducks finish in the top 10, they will play in the New Year’s Six lineup of games, with possible destinations including the Fiesta, Cotton, and Peach Bowls.

The CFP spot is worth $6 million to the conference, while the New Year’s Six spot is worth $4 million. As part of the Pac-12 revenue-sharing agreement, the combined windfall will be divided equally among the 12 schools.

In total, eight Pac-12 teams are bowl-eligible, the most in six years.

The other six teams, like Washington and Oregon, appear to have well-defined landing spots.

Let us proceed in the order of selection.

The Alamo Bowl

Arizona is the team.

The Alamo picks first after the CFP and the New Year’s Six, and no decision is required. Arizona, which finished alone in third place, will travel to San Antonio with a two-game lead in the conference standings over the group of teams tied for fourth. (Had the record difference been only one game, the Alamo could have chosen its participant.)

The Las Vegas Bowl

Utah’s team

Comment: Utah, USC, Oregon State, UCLA, and Cal are all within one game of each other in the standings (5-4 or 4-5). The Trojans will undoubtedly be considered by Las Vegas Bowl officials due to their brand power. But, after a winless November, how motivated are USC fans to buy tickets? Utah fans, on the other hand, will travel anywhere to support their team. Add a better record than USC (8-4 vs. 7-5) and a more inspired season finale, and the Utes appear to be the best fit for Las Vegas.

Bowl for the Holidays

The USC team

Comment: Holiday officials appeared to be ready to invite Oregon State last week but are undoubtedly reconsidering after the Beavers lost head coach Jonathan Smith to Michigan State and quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei to the transfer portal. When you combine the departures with back-to-back losses at the end of the season, the Beavers aren’t exactly a hot commodity. Meanwhile, a better option is just up the road. We anticipate that USC will be invited to the Holiday Bowl.

The Sun Bowl

Oregon State University

Comment: The Sun is in fifth place in the lineup and does not have an option. Unlike the Alamo, Las Vegas, and Holiday Bowls, El Paso event organizers must choose their participants based on conference record. That includes Oregon State, which finished the league season 5-4, one game better than Cal and UCLA.

Los Angeles Bowl

UCLA is the team.

Only the Bruins and Bears remain at this point. UCLA has a better overall record (7-5 vs. 6-6), but Cal won the season series at the end and finished with a three-game winning streak. However, neither fan base is likely to snap up tickets. This is an intriguing decision, but we believe the LA Bowl will select the LA team and invite UCLA.

The Independence Day Bowl

Cal’s team

Comment: This sends the Bears to Shreveport, which benefits the program in one way: it gives them quality recruiting exposure in the southeast quadrant as they prepare for life in the ACC.

** Programming note: The CFP matchups will be revealed on ESPN on Sunday at 9 a.m. The New Year’s Six pairings will be made public at approximately 11:30 a.m. The remaining bowls then begin their selections. All eight Pac-12 games should be completed by early afternoon.

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