The race for NY6 slots should make for compelling theatre
The start of Pac-12 conference play marks the debut of the Hotline’s bowl projections, with several reminders as we look ahead to December:
— The College Football Playoff semifinals will be held in the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl, leaving the Pac-12 champion to play in another New Year’s Six game (likely the Fiesta or Cotton) 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 Sun, Los Angeles, and Independence bowls must choose teams based on their conference record.
— To be bowl-eligible, Pac-12 teams must finish with at least six wins. Several years ago, the conference voted to prohibit 5-7 teams from participating even if there are spots available.
Every Tuesday, the bowl projections will be published in this space.
Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff
Washington’s team Comment: Before the first play of the season, the Hotline predicted the Huskies would win the Pac-12 and advance to the College Football Playoff. We are still confident in that prediction three weeks later. We feel even better knowing that Stanford and Arizona State are on the schedule, but not Colorado.
Fiesta Bowl/New Year’s Six
The USC team Comment: Given the Pac-12’s early trajectory, it would take a stunning turn toward parity for the conference to send only one team to the New Year’s Six. We like the Trojans’ chances of earning an at-large bid (for the second year in a row), but they must beat Notre Dame to keep that option open.
The Alamo Bowl
Oregon is the team. Comment: The playoff selection committee is typically hesitant to punish conference championship game losers. However, the Pac-12 does not usually have a slew of teams vying for a spot in the top 12. It feels like this is the year to defy conventions.
Bowling in Las Vegas
Utah’s team Comment: We have serious doubts about Utah’s ability to stay in the conference race. However, until there is clear evidence of regression, the Utes deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt. They would face a Big Ten opponent in Sin City.
Oregon State University Over the years, the Ohio State football team has competed in 11 different bowl games. The Beavers have never experienced the Holiday. This appears to be a great match for everyone involved.
Colorado is a team. Comment: The Buffaloes only need three wins in nine league games to qualify for the postseason and face Arizona State and Stanford, so we consider them a lock. It’s debatable whether they’re good enough to compete in a top-tier bowl.
Los Angeles Bowl
UCLA is the team. Comment: The lack of a difficult non-conference schedule (again) leaves the Bruins as the greatest unknown heading into conference play (again). Please excuse the Hotline’s lack of faith (yet again).
Independence Day Football Game
Washington State University The Pac-12 had planned to send a team to Shreveport for the 2020 season, but the pandemic had other plans. Until the collapse, it was supposed to send a team back to the Independence the following season. As a result, this will be the only year. Cougs, enjoy the hospitality.
Arizona is the team. Comment: It’s early for must-win games, but if the Wildcats (2-1) lose this weekend at Stanford, the bowl math simply does not work. They will be underdogs in at least six of the final eight games.
Cal’s team With Stanford and Arizona State on the schedule, the Bears (2-1) have a slim chance of picking up four more victories. Aside from the Cardinal and Sun Devils, the best bets are home games against WSU and OSU.
Stanford University On the plus side, Stanford (1-2) is unlikely to finish with five wins and thus won’t be haunted by a single defeat — hello, Sacramento State! — that kept it out of the postseason.
Arizona State University Comment: The Sun Devils announced a self-imposed postseason ban in late August as a result of recruiting violations committed during former coach Herm Edwards’ tenure. ASU’s administration was an epic failure of leadership in every way.