Breaking down the Pac-12's jumbled bowl scenarios
It’s officially bowling season in college football. Well, more like bowl projection season.
As of Dec. 2, all bowl eligibile teams will know what bowl they will be playing in.
The Pac-12 will send eight of its teams to bowls, by virtue of the minimum requirement of six wins. Utah just missed the cut at 5-7, while bottom dwellers Washington State (3-9), California (3-9) and Colorado (1-11) fell short of postseason play as expected.
The Pac-12 conference is contracted to six different bowls and the Pac-12 standings generally indicate where teams will go based off the conference tie-ins, although it’s not necessarily always cut and dry. With two teams assured of BCS bowl berths in Oregon and the winner of the Pac-12 championship game (Stanford or UCLA), the rest of the Pac-12 moves up in the bowl selection pecking order.
Here’s what the tie-ins are, based off the standings, without taking into consideration bowl berths — and, keep in mind, the bowl selection committees are free to invite whoever they want.
- No. 1 Pac-12 team (Stanford/UCLA)- BCS automatic berth, usually the Rose Bowl
- No. 2 (Oregon)- Alamo
- No. 3 (Stanford/Oregon State)- Holiday
- No. 4 (UCLA/Oregon State)- Sun
- No. 5 (USC)- MAACO Las Vegas
- No. 6 (ASU)- Kraft Fight Hunger
- No. 7 (Washington)- New Mexico
Arizona is ranked eighth in the Pac-12 with a 4-5 conference record, but with two teams playing in BCS bowls, each Pac-12 team essentially moves up a slot.
It’s confusing, and a bit messy, but here’s our view of how the bowls might look come Dec. 2.
Dec. 29, San Antonio, Texas
If Stanford (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) loses to UCLA (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday, the Cardinal will likely be the choice here. But if UCLA loses, anticipate Oregon State (8-3, 6-3 Pac-12) swooping in, as the Bruins would be coming off two straight losses, making them less attractive to the committee.
Dec. 27 in San Diego, Calif.
If OSU doesn’t go to the Alamo bowl, it is the easy selection here. If not OSU, it would likely be UCLA, especially because fans are much more likely to travel to San Diego than to San Antonio, which bowl selection committees do take into account.
Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas
This is where the four teams in the middle of the pack — Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and USC — will be up for selection. A bowl isn’t restricted by the standings; it can take any team within one game of the best remaining record, so the Wildcats hypothetically could go here. But at 4-5 in the conference they probably won’t. The Trojans (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) might have epically failed to live up to their preseason expectations, but they still are a huge draw nationwide. Expect them here, or at worst, in the Las Vegas Bowl.
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl
Arizona likely would have gone here had it defeated ASU on Friday. The Sun Devils (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) were destroyed by Boise State in this bowl last year, and wouldn’t be a very attractive selection if the Broncos are invited again, so expect Washington (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) here.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Dec. 29 in San Francisco
This one’s easy: ASU. When choosing between the Wildcats and the Sun Devils, Arizona State’s Territorial Cup win gives it an easy advantage. ASU would face Navy, who has already accepted a bid here.
New Mexico Bowl
Dec. 15 in Albuquerque
Expect Arizona to land here. It’s not exactly the most ideal scenario — it’s the earliest bowl game, giving head coach Rich Rodriguez less practice time — but a bowl is a bowl, especially after missing out on postseason play last year. Plus, the basketball team takes higher priority than football in Tucson and the Wildcats are taking on Florida that night. The game would be an early one, at 11 a.m.