We knew this past Saturday was going to be a big day in the Pac-12, with the Arizona State-UCLA game having the potential to settle the South Division winner. That it did, with the Sun Devils’ 38-33 win clinching first place. But no one saw Oregon’s 42-16 loss to Arizona coming. The Ducks’ loss did the following…
*Handed the Pac-12 North title to Stanford
*Temporarily knocked Oregon completely out of the BCS bowl game picture
*Pushed everyone else in the conference down one notch on the bowl ladder in our Pac-12 bowl projections.
Other than that, it was no big deal. Oregon played an atrocious football game in every way possible. Arizona ran all over them, with Ka’Deem Carey producing 206 yards on the ground. B.J. Denker mostly worked the short passing game, but did with ruthless precision, completing 19/22 passes for 178 yards and no interceptions.
Oregon might have survived a loss and still at least gotten an at-large bid to a major bowl. But the scope of their loss knocked them down to 13th in the rankings. In a race for four at-large spots, the Ducks trail Clemson, Baylor and Auburn. The midmajor candidates–Fresno State and Northern Illinois–continued to keep on track to take up another spot. Not to mention that Oregon has Wisconsin sneaking up on the outside.
It’s still possible the Pac-12 could get a second bid to the BCS. If Oregon beats Oregon State, the Ducks would get to 10-2. Perhaps Clemson will lose to South Carolina, Baylor will lose to Texas or one of the midmajors will lose. But something that seemed assured–two teams from the Pac-12 in the major bowls–is now a circumstance that requires outside help.
Arizona State muscled up in the ground game to get its road win over UCLA. Marion Grice ran for 95 yards, quarterback Taylor Kelly produced 99 yards on 22 carries, the Sun Devils built up a 35-13 lead and then hung on for dear life as UCLA roared back before finally falling short.
The Pac-12 plays its championship game at a homefield site and right now that’s set to be Tempe, as Arizona State is 7-1 in the conference compared to 7-2. However, Stanford defeated Arizona State earlier in the year, so if ASU loses its season finale to Arizona, then the game shifts to Palo Alto. And we saw this past Saturday that no one should sleep on Arizona.
PAC-12 BOWL PROJECTIONS
BCS Automatic: Stanford (Rose, vs. Ohio State)
BCS At-Large: None
Alamo: Oregon (vs. Oklahoma)
Holiday: UCLA (vs. Kansas State)
Sun: Arizona State (vs. Virginia Tech)
Las Vegas: USC (vs. Boise State)
Fight Hunger: Arizona (vs. BYU)
New Mexico: Washington (vs. UNLV)
Oregon State and Washington State are also bowl-eligible, and available to fill spots in conferences where the number of bids exceed that of eligible teams. For the projections, note that I am dropping Arizona State on the presumption of a conference championship game loss, a circumstance that reduces a team’s attractiveness to bowls. This would make the Pac-12 Championship Game positively enormous for Todd Graham’s team–it’s either the Rose Bowl or something much further down the ladder.