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Monday, November 9, 2009
Breaking down the Pac-10 race

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Every Monday until the end of the season we're going to break down the conference race -- where things stand and what's ahead.

For reference, here's some light reading we like to call "The Rose Bowl Tiebreaker."

Here's a scenario: Oregon State beats Oregon, Stanford beats USC and Oregon beats Arizona. But Oregon State, Oregon, Stanford and Arizona win all the rest of their games and all finish 7-2 in conference play -- a four-way tie for first.

First, you look at their records against each other. Oregon State and Arizona would be 2-1. Oregon and Stanford would be 1-2. Oregon State and Arizona advance.

And Arizona, having won head-to-head with Oregon State, goes to the Rose Bowl.

Whew.

Oregon (7-2, 5-1)

What's ahead: Arizona State, at Arizona, Oregon State

What's at stake: If Oregon wins out, it goes to the Rose Bowl. If it loses a game, it still could, but it would have to prevail in a tiebreaker.

Arizona (6-2, 4-1)

What's ahead: at California, Oregon, at Arizona State, at USC

What's at stake: It's a tough four-game run -- three on the road, two against top-13 teams -- but the Wildcats, like Oregon, control their own fate. Win out, and the program goes to its first Rose Bowl. Of course, the wheels also could come off and they could end up in a low-rung bowl.

Stanford (6-3, 5-2)

What's ahead: at USC, California, Notre Dame

What's at stake: If Stanford beats USC and California, which isn't ridiculous to imagine, it could end up in the Rose Bowl. It needs Arizona to lose twice and Oregon State and Oregon to lose once. There are some other scenarios, but I didn't get my degree from Stanford.

USC (7-2, 4-2)

What's ahead: Stanford, UCLA, Arizona

What's at stake: Be careful when betting against the Trojans. After six road games, they finish with three straight in the Coliseum, where they've won 47 of their past 48 games. If the Trojans win out, and Oregon slips, there are tiebreakers USC could win. Still, the Ducks do have a one-game cushion over the Trojans.

Oregon State (6-3, 4-2)

What's ahead: Washington, at Washington State, at Oregon

What's at stake: The win at Cal was huge. The Beavers also are in the Rose Bowl hunt if they win out, though it's complicated -- Beavers fans need to root against USC and Arizona.

California (6-3, 3-3)

What's ahead: Arizona, at Stanford, at Washington

What's at stake: Nothing terrible about a nine-win regular season. But 6-6 is also a possibility. Wide range of bowl scenarios for the mercurial Bears.

Arizona State (4-5, 2-4)

What's ahead: at Oregon, at UCLA, Arizona

What's at stake: The Sun Devils need two wins to become bowl eligible. If they get them, they also will play a major spoiler role, which should be motivation, particularly in the season-finale at home vs. the hated Wildcats.

Washington (3-6, 2-4)

What's ahead: at Oregon State, Washington State, California

What's at stake: If the Huskies win their final three games, they will be bowl eligible. That's a huge long shot. Of course, so was beating USC. In the big picture of Steve Sarkisian's first season, the only must-win is the visit from Washington State. A 4-8 finish isn't sexy, but it's a lot better than 2008's 0-12.

UCLA (4-5, 1-5)

What's ahead: at Washington State, Arizona State, at USC

What's at stake: The Bruins need to win two of three to become bowl eligible, which seems entirely possible.

Washington State (1-8, 0-6)

What's ahead: UCLA, Oregon State, at Washington

What's at stake: The Cougars are the only conference team out of bowl contention. It's hard to imagine them winning any of these final three games, but stranger things have happened. Even a single conference victory would provide something positive to spin forward into the offseason.