Pac-12 bowl projections: Oregon to the playoff, Washington State to Las Vegas, Arizona drops out

The Pac-12 holds a second spot in the New Year’s Six (courtesy of UW)

Before we get into the latest Pac-12 bowl forecast, here are a few 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 favor 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.

Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff

Oregon is undefeated (5-0). WSU, Cal, USC, and OSU are the four remaining home games. Washington, Utah, and Arizona State are the three remaining road games. Comment: In the second half, the Ducks will face six ranked opponents — five on the schedule plus the opponent in the conference championship — and cannot lose more than once. So, if it happens, Oregon’s first playoff berth in nine years will have been well deserved. Is it possible for the conference to send a second team to the CFP? Doubtful, but we’ll bring it up if the situation calls for it.

The New Year’s Six and the Fiesta Bowl

Washington is undefeated (5-0). Home games (four): Oregon, ASU, Utah, and Washington State. Three road games are scheduled: Stanford, USC, and Oklahoma State. Comment: With the in-state rivalry game at home and the presence of both USC and Utah, UW’s schedule is comparable to Oregon’s gauntlet. (If the Ducks win in Seattle on Oct. 14, the odds are heavily in their favor.) The status of Utah is crucial for both. If quarterback Cam Rising returns, the difficulty level rises significantly — especially for Oregon, who travels to Salt Lake City. No team, however, has a more difficult November schedule than the Huskies, who face USC, Utah, OSU, and WSU in quick succession.

The Alamo Bowl

USC is undefeated (5-0). Arizona, Utah, Washington, and UCLA all have four home games. Three road games: Notre Dame, Cal, and Oregon. Comment: USC’s visit to Arizona this week will be the last time it can win with less than its best effort. (Believe us when we say the final scheduled trip to Berkeley will be difficult.) The conference office purposefully gave the Trojans a home game before traveling to South Bend and extended them the same level of comfort after the trip. Given the disruption caused by the Notre Dame series, USC couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Bowling in Las Vegas

Washington State is undefeated (4-0). Arizona, Stanford, and Colorado all have three home games. UCLA, Oregon, ASU, Cal, and Washington are the five road games. Comment: The remaining schedule’s road-heavy nature (particularly trips to Seattle and Eugene) is the main issue for a team that has played as well as anyone in the conference and has two victories over ranked opponents (Wisconsin and Oregon State). If we assume a sweep of the home games — the Colorado game is on a Friday, giving the Cougars a huge advantage — WSU should win at least eight games for the first time since 2018.

Seasonal Bowl

Oregon State is undefeated (4-1). UCLA, Stanford, and Washington have three home games; California, Arizona, Colorado, and Oregon have four road games. Comment: The Beavers’ options remain viable, but with one loss on the record, they have slightly less margin for error than the teams listed above. However, they have already played Utah and WSU and will not face USC in the stretch run, making their schedule the most manageable of the contenders. Unless forced to, the Las Vegas Bowl will likely pass on OSU to avoid a back-to-back participant.

Sun Bowl

Utah is undefeated (4-1). Cal, Oregon, ASU, and Colorado all have four home games. Three road games are scheduled: USC, Washington, and Arizona. Comment: The Utes haven’t shown enough offense to be considered for the College Football Playoff or the New Year’s Six. This could change if Cam Rising comes back with little to no rust. However, there are three trap games on the schedule: Cal before USC, Arizona State between Oregon and Washington, and Arizona between Washington and Colorado. Bowl officials may be concerned that anything less than the New Year’s Six will be perceived as a letdown by Utah fans after back-to-back Rose Bowl appearances.

Los Angeles Bowl

Colorado is a 3-2 team. Stanford, Oregon State, and Arizona all have three home games. ASU, UCLA, WSU, and Utah are the four road games. Two things are equally true: Any bowl that can get the Buffaloes (based on the selection process) will do so without hesitation; CU will take every opponent’s best shot but lacks the roster, particularly on the line of scrimmage, to deal with being a weekly target. We anticipate a team with at least five conference losses, putting CU out of contention for top-tier bowls.

Extra-large bowl

UCLA has a 3-1 record. WSU, Colorado, ASU, and Cal have four home games; OSU, Stanford, Arizona, and USC have four road games. Comment: With three cupcake opponents and a bye so far, the Bruins have provided little evidence to project a likely postseason path. (On several occasions, we have forgotten they exist.) They will benefit, however, from a schedule based on the old division format, which includes dates with both Arizona schools while allowing UCLA to skip Oregon and Washington.


Arizona is a 3-2 team. OSU, UCLA, and Utah all have three home games. Four road games are scheduled: USC, WSU, Colorado, and ASU. Because of the rivalry game, Arizona’s path is slightly more difficult than it appears. Most teams predict a victory over ASU. The Territorial Cup, on the other hand, allows for anything to happen, which is not the case with the Wildcats. As a result, their options are limited and their path becomes more constrained. Bottom line: They will almost certainly need to win two of their three home games, and they may be underdogs in each.


Cal is a 3-2 team. OSU, USC, and WSU all have three home games. Utah, Oregon, Stanford, and UCLA are the four road games. Even if the Bears had defeated Auburn, their path would have been difficult. As it stands, the Berkeley bowl math appears to be trigonometry rather than long division. Cal is a 9.5-point underdog against the Beavers this week and will face comparable, if not greater, odds in every game except the Stanford matchup. In other words, the Bears must pull off at least two major upsets without a competent quarterback.


Stanford (1-4) is the team. UCLA, Washington, California, and Notre Dame all have four home games. Three road games are scheduled: Colorado, Washington State, and Oklahoma State. Comment: To the extent that it was ever truly open, the Cardinal’s postseason path ended with a loss to Sacramento State in Week 3. (At this time, only the role of spoiler is available.) As we mentioned earlier this week, Stanford does not play Arizona State, leaving the possibility, however remote, that two teams finish winless in league play for the first time in modern history.

Not eligible

Arizona State is a 1-4 team. Colorado, Washington State, Oregon, and Arizona all have four home games. Washington, Utah, and UCLA are the three road games. Comment: Does anyone look at the weekly effort put forth by Sun Devil players and coaches despite the bowl ban and quickly conclude that ASU executives aren’t worthy of the team? We certainly do.

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