Pac-12 bowl projections: Oregon to the CFP, USC climbs to the Alamo and Cal sneaks in

A one-loss Pac-12 champ (Oregon or Washington) could need help securing a playoff berth

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

— 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 if it does not qualify for the CFP.

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

The Pac-12’s final two weeks of conference play are riddled with unknowns, but one thing is certain: Washington would qualify for the College Football Playoff as an undefeated conference champion.

With a record of 13-0 and victories over at least five ranked opponents, the Huskies would not be overlooked in favor of a one-loss champion from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC.

But what if they falter and the last team standing in the Pac-12’s final season, whether it’s Washington or Oregon, suffers just one loss?

In that case, the conference may require assistance in breaking its six-year playoff drought.

What scenario would pave the way for the Pac-12’s one-loss champion?

What other league outcomes would most benefit Washington or Oregon?

The conference, in our opinion, requires:

— Georgia to win the SEC championship over Alabama. If Alabama wins, Georgia will be a one-loss threat to stop the Pac-12 champion.

— Texas losing in the regular season or the Big 12 championship game. If the Longhorns finish with a one-loss record (including a win at Alabama), they may be given priority over the Pac-12 champion.

— Ohio State to defeat Michigan and win the Big Ten championship. If the Wolverines win the conference, Ohio State, as a one-loss division runner-up, becomes a playoff contender with a win at Notre Dame and its immense brand value.

Other scenarios for a one-loss Pac-12 champion could become problematic, but those are at the top of the list as playoff selection day, Dec. 3, approaches.

In terms of projections…

College Football Playoff/Sugar Bowl

Team: Oregon (9-1)

Home game remaining: Oregon State

Road game remaining: Arizona State

Comment: The Ducks’ resume was boosted last week when Texas Tech, the team they defeated in Week 2, defeated No. 16 Kansas. If the Red Raiders (4-6) defeat Texas in their final game, the benefits to either Oregon or Washington would be significant.

New Year’s Six/Fiesta Bowl

Team: Washington (10-0)

Home game: Washington State

Road game: Oregon State

Comment: The Huskies’ regular season is essentially over — we don’t see them losing to Washington State in the Apple Cup. However, defeating the Beavers in Corvallis will be as difficult as defeating the Ducks in Seattle. In other words, flip a coin.

Alamo Bowl

Team: USC (7-4)

Home game: UCLA

Road game: none

Comment: Given the choice, the Alamo would gladly invite the eight-win Trojans, who have never played in the game before. Furthermore, the prospect of Lincoln Riley facing his former team, Oklahoma, or another old Big 12 foe is a matchup the bowl simply cannot pass up. However, the Trojans must defeat UCLA.

Las Vegas Bowl

Team: Arizona (7-3)

Home game: Utah

Road game: Arizona State

Comment: The Hotline is currently projecting the Wildcats to win out and finish 9-3, with head-to-head victories over other Las Vegas Bowl candidates (Utah and Oregon State). Also, as we noted last week, the Arizona basketball team plays in Las Vegas the day of the bowl game. This pairing of school and bowl makes loads of sense.

Holiday Bowl

Team: Oregon State (8-2)

Home game: Washington

Road game: Oregon

Comment: The list of teams that would satisfy Holiday executives is seemingly three deep: USC, Arizona and Oregon State. (We don’t view Oregon or Washington as possibilities.) Of that trio, the Beavers would be the only option available under our scenario.

Sun Bowl

Team: Utah (7-3)

Home game: Colorado

Road game: Arizona

Comment: The ceiling remains high for the Utes — but only if they win out. Otherwise, the late-season stumbles and fears among bowl officials that disappointed fans won’t travel (after back-to-back trips to the Rose Bowl) could prompt a plunge down the bowl lineup.

LA Bowl

Team: UCLA (6-4)

Home game: Cal

Road game: USC

Comment: At this point, we should mention the Pac-12 selection policy. The Alamo, Las Vegas and Holidays Bowls can invite Team Y over Team X as long as there is no more than a one-game difference in conference record. Starting with the Sun Bowl, teams are slotted based on conference record.

At-large bowl

Team: Cal (4-6)

Home games: none

Road games: Stanford, UCLA

Comment: Given the emergence of an effective offense in Berkeley and the Cardinal and Bruins’ recent struggles, the Hotline currently projects Cal to win out and secure a bowl berth. The Bears would fill a vacancy in a game not affiliated with the Pac-12 as an at-large team.


Team: Colorado (4-6)

Home games: none

Road games: Washington State, Utah

Comment: From 3-1 and the talk of college football at the end of September to 4-8 or 5-7 at the end of November would constitute one of the all-time fades. It would also reflect reality. The Buffaloes have a sub-.500 roster.


Team: Stanford (3-7)

Home games: Cal, Notre Dame

Road games: none

Comment: Who figured the last football game ever broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks (Nov. 25) would be Stanford’s finale against Notre Dame? Apparently, ESPN and Fox were not interested in the 3-7 hosts against the 7-3 visitors.


Team: Washington State (4-6)

Home game: Colorado

Road game: Washington

Comment: If the Cougars finish one game short of a bowl berth, the missed opportunity will be easy to spot: Their 10-7 loss to Stanford earlier this month was, more than any other game, the one that got away.


Team: Arizona State (3-7)

Home games: Oregon, Arizona

Road games: none

Comment: The announced resignation of unpopular athletic director Ray Anderson, the architect of the Herm Edwards fiasco, was critical to Kenny Dillingham’s long climb to relevance. It aids in giving the program a fresh start.

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