Muddled midde: Who goes bowling?

October, 17, 2011
10/17/11
6:00
PM ET
Anybody can beat anybody. It ain't over until it's over. Blaa blaa.

Here's what we strongly suspect, based on what we've seen so far, about the Pac-12.
  • The top five teams are: Stanford, Oregon, Arizona State, Washington and USC. The Trojans are ineligible for the postseason, so that means the conference is certain to produce four bowl teams.
  • The bottom three teams are: Oregon State, Colorado and Arizona. It would be surprising if any of these three one-win teams earned bowl eligibility.
  • Then there are the "maybes" the teams that could go the other way: California, UCLA, Utah and Washington State. Each of these four are 3-3, meaning they need three wins to become bowl eligible.

The good news for the muddled middle of maybes is they play more games against the bottom tier and each other than the top tier. In other words, it seems like there's a decent chance the conference will end up with enough eligible teams for its seven bowl contracts, unless the conference gets two BCS bowl teams, which is a positive accomplishment anyway.

How do things stack up? We'll show you, but first the conclusion: Cal, UCLA, Utah and Washington State each have enough clearly winnable games to earn bowl eligibility. But because they see a lot of each other, it's difficult to imagine all four getting there, and that could be bad news for UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel, Washington State coach Paul Wulff and even California coach Jeff Tedford -- whoever gets left home.

By "winnable," we mean games in which it would shock no one if the team being evaluated won. You might think California is likely to beat Utah on Saturday, but you wouldn't be shocked if Utah won. It's a winnable game for both teams.

Some might quibble with rating games with Arizona State, Washington or USC as "unwinnable." But for our purposes here, we're doing so. Cal might win at Arizona State on Nov. 25, but none of you are racing to Vegas to lay money on the Bears as a straight-up winner. At least hopefully not.

And rivalry games are a different bird, so worthy of separate note.

As it is, Utah has the easiest path: six winnable games, including three with the bottom troika. Cal and UCLA both have four, meaning fans could have reasonable expectations for seven wins. The Bruins might have a slight edge because they have remaining games with Arizona and Colorado. Washington State has the toughest road, with three winnable games and just one with one of the bottom three. On the plus side, the season-finale against rival Washington -- not listed as "winnable" -- is at CenturyLink Field, so it's not a true home game for the Huskies, which should be good for the Cougars.

And, yes, every game is winnable, so don't get in a frazzle about that distinction, Bears, Bruins and Cougars.

Here's how we stacked it up.

California (3-3)
Utah, Oct. 22
at UCLA, Oct. 29
Washington State, Nov. 5
Oregon State, No. 12
at Stanford, Nov. 19
at Arizona State, Nov. 25
Winnable? 4, plus rivalry game

UCLA (3-3)
at Arizona, Oct. 20
California, Oct. 29
Arizona State, Nov. 5
at Utah, Nov. 12
Colorado, Nov. 19
at USC, Nov. 26
Winnable? 4, plus rivalry game

Utah (3-3)
at California, Oct. 22
Oregon State, Oct. 29
at Arizona, Nov. 5
UCLA, Nov. 12
at Washington State, Nov. 19
Colorado, Nov. 25
Winnable? 6


Washington State (3-3)
Oregon State, Oct. 22
at Oregon, Oct. 29
at California, Nov. 5
Arizona State, Nov. 12
Utah, Nov. 19
at Washington, Nov. 26
Winnable? 3, plus rivalry game

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PAC-12 SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12