Pac-12 bowl projections: Oregon to the CFP, Colorado to the Independence as the math gets tough for Arizona, Cal

The Wildcats and Bears needed several upsets down the stretch

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.

— The Pac-12 is contractually bound to seven bowl games: the Alamo, Las Vegas, Holiday, Sun, LA, and Independence bowls.

— The Alamo, Las Vegas, and Holiday bowls can choose one team over another as long as the conference record difference is no more than one game. The teams in the second-tier bowls (Sun, LA, and Independence) must be chosen in the order of their conference record.

Every Tuesday, the bowl projections will be published in this space.

College Football Playoff/Rose Bowl

Oregon is undefeated (5-0). WSU, Cal, USC, and Oregon are the four remaining home games. State Washington, Utah, and Arizona State are the three remaining road games. Comment: The Pac-12 season is entering a critical period, with 12 conference games featuring teams ranked in the AP top-25 poll. The bowl projections will follow the results, beginning at the top. However, given their upcoming schedule, the Ducks will be difficult to dethrone if they win in Seattle.

New Year’s Six/Fiesta Bowl

Washington is undefeated (5-0). Home games (four): Oregon, Arizona State, Utah, and Washington State. Three road games are scheduled: Stanford, USC, and Oregon State. Comment: With seven ranked teams in the middle of the season, the Pac-12 has never been in a better position to secure an at-large berth in the New Year’s Six. These slots are worth $4 million to the conference (divided equally) and allow each eligible team to move up one rung in the postseason lineup.

Alamo Bowl

USC is undefeated (6-0). Utah, Washington, and UCLA all have three home games. Three road games: Notre Dame, Cal, and Oregon. The Trojans’ pillowy soft early-season schedule gives way to a punishing final six games. If you think the trip to Berkeley will be easy, consider that the Bears just scored 42 points against Oregon State, which has a better defense than USC.

Las Vegas Bowl

Oregon State (5-1) is the winning team. UCLA, Stanford, and Washington all have three home games this season. Three road games are scheduled: Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon. Comment: We don’t expect the Beavers to carry a 9-1 record into their heinous back-to-backs against Washington and Oregon at the end of the season. But it’s also not an impossible scenario. And this week (UCLA) is crucial.

Holiday Bowl

Utah is undefeated (4-1). Cal, Oregon, Arizona State, and Colorado all have four home games. Three road games are scheduled: USC, Washington, and Arizona. Comment: One of the many advantages of playing in the 2022 and 2023 Rose Bowls (albeit at the bottom of the list) is that the Utes are not in danger of repeating in any of the other Pac-12 games.

Sun Bowl

Washington State University (4-1) Arizona, Stanford, and Colorado all have three home games. Four road games are scheduled: Oregon, Arizona State, California, and Washington. The good news is that the Cougars have a good chance of becoming bowl-eligible for the eighth consecutive season (excluding 2020). The bad news is that a trip to El Paso or Los Angeles would be extremely disappointing for WSU supporters after such a hot start.

LA Bowl

UCLA is undefeated (4-1). Colorado, Arizona State, and Cal have three home games; Oregon State, Stanford, Arizona, and USC have four road games. Comment: The Bruins are one win away from joining the conversation for a top-tier bowl assignment (this weekend in Corvallis). We must see them triumph on the road.

Independence Bowl

Colorado has a 4-2 record. Stanford, Oregon State, and Arizona all have three home games. Three road games are scheduled: UCLA, Washington State, and Utah. Comment: What appears to be a low-key Friday night game against Stanford this week is actually crucial to the Buffs’ bowl chances. In four of their final five games, they will be underdogs.


Arizona (3-3) is the winning team. Oregon State, UCLA, and Utah all have three home games. WSU, Colorado, and Arizona State are the three road games. Do you see three winners? We don’t see three victories. We see an ascending program, a talented freshman quarterback, a better-than-expected defense, and a Territorial Cup victory. But we don’t see three victories.


California (3-3) USC and WSU have two home games. Utah, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA are the four road games. Comment: Either two minor upsets (WSU and UCLA) or one minor and one major upset (USC, Utah, Oregon) and a win over Stanford are required to advance to the postseason. This is not going to happen.


Stanford (1-4) is the team. UCLA, Washington, California, and Notre Dame all have four home games. Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon State are the three road games. Comment: There will be plenty of opportunities to be the spoiler beginning Friday in Boulder.


Arizona State is a 1-5 team. WSU, Oregon, and Arizona all have three home games. Washington, Utah, and UCLA are the three road games. Comment: It’s been 49 weeks since ASU’s last victory over an FBS opponent (Colorado), and it could be another 49 before ASU wins again.

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