Pac-12 bowl projections: CFP bid seems likely as UW, Oregon collide, but New Year’s Six berths await both

The 12-0 Huskies and 11-1 Ducks are well positioned for berths in the NY6 no matter what

Before we get into the latest Pac-12 bowl forecast, here are some helpful reminders about the postseason selection process:

— The College Football Playoff semifinals will be held in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, leaving the Pac-12 champion to compete in the Fiesta, Peach, or Cotton bowls unless it qualifies for the CFP.

This season, the Pac-12 is contractually bound to seven games: the New Year’s Six, Alamo, Las Vegas, Holiday, Sun, LA, and Independence bowls. If there are more qualified teams than available spots, the conference will try to secure invitations to other bowl games that have openings.

The Pac-12’s victories over Washington and Oregon last weekend did not secure a spot in the College Football Playoff. The conference may find itself on the outside of the four-team event once more.

However, the unbeaten Huskies and one-loss Ducks appear to have sealed the deal.

spots in the New Year’s Six — and the associated cash windfall —

regardless of the outcome of Friday night’s conference championship game in

Collisions in Las Vegas or elsewhere during championship weekend.

The CFP semifinals will be held this year in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl.

Orange, Cotton, Peach, and Fiesta round out the New Year’s palette.

Six are in the lineup.

Although the Orange has been reserved, the power conference has five at-large spots available in the other three games.

The amount of money available is substantial, as explained on the CFP’s website:

“For each team selected for a Playoff Semifinal, a conference will receive $6 million. There will be no further

distribution to conferences whose teams have qualified for the national championship

The championship game. Under the agreement, a conference will receive $4 million for each team that competes in a non-playoff bowl.”*

If the Pac-12 champion advances to the playoffs and the runner-up competes in the New Year’s Six, the conference will receive $10 million, which will be divided evenly among the 12 schools. (Participant expenses are covered separately.)

If the Pac-12 is denied entry to the CFP but receives two at-large bids, the haul drops to $8 million.

In any case, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars per campus that weren’t budgeted for when the competition year began.

They could all benefit from the money, some more than others.

Now for our final Pac-12 bowl projections…

College Football Playoff/Rose Bowl

Our pick: Oregon

Opponent: CFP No. 2 seed (likely Michigan)

Comment: As the Pac-12 champion, Washington would be a foregone conclusion in the playoffs. What about the Ducks, who have only one loss? To avoid a messy outcome, Georgia must defeat Alabama in the SEC championship. If Alabama wins, the selection committee may have to choose between 12-1 Oregon and 12-1 Georgia for the final playoff spot. The Ducks would have a conference championship, but Georgia is Georgia.

New Year’s Six/Fiesta Bowl

Our pick: Washington

Opponent: at-large team

Comment: We believe Oregon will win the conference title and earn a CFP berth, but the Huskies will not fall far enough in the committee rankings to be eliminated from the New Year’s Six. (In fact, the committee usually takes precautions to protect conference championship losers.) The Cotton and Peach Bowls would also be viable options. The Fiesta, however, makes the most sense, with Alabama or Penn State as potential opponents.

Alamo Bowl

Our pick: Arizona

Opponent: Big 12

Comment: The Wildcats could have joined their basketball team in Las Vegas on December 23, but instead chose to play their way out of the trip. (What audacity!) Assuming both Oregon and Washington play in the New Year’s Six games, Arizona is obligated to play at the Alamo due to Pac-12 selection policy: The Wildcats’ two-game advantage in the conference standings over the pack of teams with 5-4 records keeps them from dropping down the lineup.

Las Vegas Bowl

Our pick: Utah

Opponent: Big Ten

Comment: Executives at the Las Vegas Bowl have options. They could take any of the five teams in the middle of the standings with 5-4 or 4-5 conference records, according to the rules. In reality, the Utes are the best bet for selling tickets, filling hotel rooms, generating TV ratings, and delivering a competitive product against whoever the Big Ten throws at them.

Holiday Bowl

Our pick: USC

Opponent: ACC

Comment: This appeared to be an excellent location for Oregon State, which has never participated in the Holiday. However, bowl executives may be concerned that the departure of coach Jonathan Smith will sap enthusiasm from the OSU fanbase. After the November collapse, USC fans are not overjoyed about the postseason situation. However, enough people will travel from Orange County to justify the selection, and the Trojans are a good TV draw.

Sun Bowl

Our pick: Oregon State

Opponent: ACC

Comment: A few weeks ago, the Beavers were in contention for the conference title. They may be returning to El Paso for the first time since 2008. (Recall that 3-0 win over Pittsburgh? I didn’t believe so.) The depth chart at OSU, of course, is another issue. The Beavers may lose half of their roster to the transfer portal the following week.

LA Bowl

Our pick: UCLA

Opponent: Mountain West

Comment: Following their last-minute withdrawal from the Holiday two years ago and participation in the Sun last year, the Bruins are programa non grata for at least two bowl games. They could end up in the Los Angeles or Independence Bowls. Head-to-head results — the Bruins lost to Cal last weekend — are considered by bowl officials but are not always decisive.

Independence Bowl

Our pick: Cal

Opponent: Big 12

Comment: Based on their head-to-head win over UCLA and late-season momentum, the Bears should not be ruled out of the LA Bowl. However, if Shreveport is the landing spot, Cal will benefit from the recruiting exposure in the Southeast as the program moves into the ACC.

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