As part of TheSportsNotebook’s Pac-12 bowl projections, we’ll also project the conference championship game. One thing to note is that this is the one conference that does not play its title game on a neutral site. The team with the best record hosts the game, and that almost certainly means the Oregon/Stanford winner in the Pac-12 North will be at home against the survivor of a good four-team race in the Pac-12 South.
We can also realistically assume that both the Ducks and Cardinal are going to make BCS bowl games. Whether either one–namely Oregon–ends up playing for a national title on January 6 (Editor’s Note–in previous posts, I have erred in noting January 7 as the date of the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena), is one question, but until either team loses a game outside their Thursday night head-to-head battle (9 PM ET, ESPN), we may as well just assume that this conference will snare one of the four at-large bids to the major bowls, and that the team will be the runner-up in the North.
The BCS at-large spot is a bigger deal in this league than it would be in a conference like the Big Ten or SEC, because unlike those leagues, the Pac-12 does not have a coalition of January 1 bowls lined up to take its other teams. It’s a steep drop from the BCS to the next highest-bid, which is the Alamo Bowl.
Within the Pac-12’s six contract bowls outside the BCS, there’s a another divide. The Alamo, Holiday and Sun offer the chances to play what should be pretty good teams from the Big 12 or ACC, giving a team the opportunity to end its season with a notable win.
The fourth bowl is the Las Vegas, which might offer the chance to play the Mountain West champ, although at the present, that’s Fresno State, and the Bulldogs are dreaming of busting the BCS. If they succeed (and I don’t think they will), this bowl declines in attractiveness to the Pac-12 participant. The Fight Hunger and New Mexico Bowl offer mediocre opposition.
Here’s TheSportsNotebook’s Pac-12 bowl projections as we come out of Week 10 and sit just a few days prior to the big Oregon-Stanford battle…
Pac-12 Championship Game: Arizona State at Oregon
BCS Automatic: Oregon (Rose Bowl)
BCS At-Large: Stanford (Sugar Bowl)
Alamo: UCLA (Oklahoma State)
Holiday: Arizona State (Kansas State)
Sun: Arizona (Duke)…the football rematch of the 2001 NCAA basketball final if it works out this way.
Las Vegas: USC (Fresno State)
Fight Hunger: Washington (BYU)
New Mexico: Oregon State (Utah State)
Utah is currently 4-4, and needs two wins against a schedule that includes home games with Arizona State and Colorado, and road trips to Oregon and Washington State. The Utes can get the Colorado win, and their bowl hopes likely rest on whether they win at Washington State.
And speaking of Washington State, they are 4-5 and need two of three, with their other games being at Arizona and at Washington. It’s going to be tough for either the Utes or Cougars to make it, and given that they both likely need the head-to-head game, getting both in is going to be impossible.
Under the current scenario, I would not see a bowl-eligible Utah or Washington State moving ahead of any other teams in the pecking order, but there are always open spots elsewhere, as other leagues fail to get enough eligible teams to meet their minimums. Another note is that in the unlikely event that the league does not get a BCS at-large spot, everyone has to move down one rung.