Pac-12: conference race 091109

Best-case scenarios: Rooting interests over the next two weekends

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
2:16
PM ET
Oregon State's stakes are much bigger than Oregon's in the Civil War on Dec. 3 in Autzen Stadium.

How so? Aren't both teams playing for the Rose Bowl?

Well, yes. The winner is going to the Rose Bowl.

But, in the event of a loss, the Ducks and Beavers will have far different bowl fates.

If Oregon loses, it's going to the Holiday Bowl as the Pac-10's No. 2 team. End of story.

Of Oregon State loses, the most likely scenarios have the Beavers dropping all the way to the Las Vegas Bowl, which is the conference's No. 5 bowl.

Why?

Because there are no tiebreakers in bowl selection procedures. If, say, four teams finish at 6-3 in conference play, the Holiday Bowl can pick any of them it wishes. And it's going to pick the team it figures will: 1. Buy the most tickets; 2. Boost TV ratings.

So, if Oregon State gets passed over for the Holiday Bowl, why wouldn't it go to the Sun or Emerald Bowls?

Well, the the Beavers played in the Sun Bowl last year and the bowl game has the option of using a no-repeat clause. It probably would.

As for the Emerald Bowl, it wants a Bay Area team, either Stanford or California. And it has the option of picking either the conference's No. 4 team or No. 5 team. So it could not only take a Stanford team that lost to Oregon State, it could take a Cal team that: 1. Lost to the Beavers; 2. Finished a game behind the Beavers in the standings. It's the bowl's option.

That's how the Beavers could fall to the Las Vegas Bowl.

Here is an outline of rooting interests for the Pac-10's bowl-eligible teams.

Arizona

Goal: Holiday Bowl.
  • Beat Arizona State and USC. Finish 8-4, 6-3
  • Root against teams that will or could finish 6-3 in Pac-10 play to look bad -- i.e., Oregon State to lose badly to Oregon; Stanford to get upset by Notre Dame; California to fall to Washington.
  • If tied with Oregon State and/or Stanford, it's likely the Holiday Bowl would favor the Wildcats because of a head-to-head wins as well as geography.
California

Goal: Holiday Bowl.
  • Beat Washington on Dec. 5. Finish 9-3, 6-3.
  • Root against teams that will or could finish 6-3 in Pac-10 play to look bad -- i.e., Arizona to lose at least once (though the Bears probably would be selected ahead of the Wildcats) and USC to lose at least once. Stanford isn't an issue, even if it whips Notre Dame.
  • The Holiday Bowl likely would pick Cal over Oregon State -- even though the Beavers prevailed head-to-head -- but it would make the Bears situation better from a PR perspective if Oregon blows the Beavers out in the Civil War.
Oregon

Goal: Rose Bowl or bust.
  • Beat Oregon State on Dec. 3. Go to Rose Bowl.
  • Lose, go to Holiday Bowl.
Oregon State

Goal: Rose Bowl, of course, but, failing that, Holiday Bowl
  • Beat Oregon on Dec. 3. Go to Rose Bowl.
  • Or, lose a close game to Oregon, finish 8-4, 6-3.
  • Root against everyone else: USC needs to lose once. So does Arizona. California needs to lose to Washington. And it would help if Notre Dame upset Stanford.
  • In that scenario, Stanford and Oregon State would finish with 6-3 Pac-10 records but the Beavers would have a better overall record and a head-to-head win. That could tip the scales in the Beavers favor.
Stanford

Goal: Holiday Bowl.
  • Blow out Notre Dame with Toby Gerhart rushing for 200-plus yards and three touchdowns. Finish 8-4, 6-3. Get back into the national rankings.
  • Root against everyone else. USC needs to lose once. So does Arizona. California needs to lose to Washington. And it would help if Oregon blew out Oregon State.
  • In that scenario, Stanford and Oregon State would have identical records, though the Beavers would have a head-to-head win. The Holiday Bowl might take the Cardinal because of the shorter trip from the Bay Area, the presence of Heisman Trophy candidate Toby Gerhart bolstering national interest and the Beavers bad loss to end the season. It might help if Stanford promised that Tiger Woods would show up.
  • This might be the toughest scenario to call.
UCLA

Goal: A guaranteed bowl berth.
  • Beat USC. Finish 7-5, 4-5.
  • Root for Arizona to lose its final two games -- at Arizona State and at USC. In that scenario, both teams would be 4-5 in conference play. Arizona would have a head-to-head win, but the Bruins would have a better overall record 7-5 vs. 6-6, not to mention a four-game winning streak to end the season to compare to a four-game losing streak. All of that probably won't matter, though, because the Poinsettia Bowl would be thrilled to get the southern California tie-in with the Bruins.
USC

Goal: Holiday Bowl.
  • Beat UCLA and Arizona. Finish 9-3, 6-3.
  • Root for Oregon to beat Oregon State in the Civil War.
  • Know that, if those first two happen, it doesn't matter what anyone else does.
  • The Holiday Bowl is salivating over the prospect of getting USC. The bowl has never had either LA school, and USC would fill the stadium and boost TV ratings.

Breaking down the Pac-10 race

November, 16, 2009
11/16/09
10:08
AM ET
Four teams remain in the Rose Bowl hunt and none of them are USC.

Six teams already are bowl eligible. Only Washington and Washington State have been eliminated from bowl contention.

Five teams are ranked in this week's BCS standings -- most of any conference -- but none in the top 10.

So the Pac-10 has been about depth, not excellence, this year.

Or maybe it's just hard to appear excellent with all this depth?

You can read about the Rose Bowl tie-breaking procedure here, but here's a breakdown of where things stand.

Oregon

In a sentence: Alone atop the conference, the Ducks control their own destiny, but they also face two Rose Bowl contenders in their last two games.

Remaining schedule: at Arizona, Oregon State

Wants to avoid: Losing the Civil War -- that would be the killer, in more ways than one.

Verdict: Over the course of the entire season, the Ducks have looked like the best team in the conference, so we're projecting them earning the Rose Bowl berth.

Oregon State

In a sentence: Very quietly, the Beavers have positioned themselves to earn a Rose Bowl berth if they beat the rival Ducks.

Remaining schedule: at Washington State, at Oregon

Wants to avoid: A tie with Arizona, which beat the Beavers 37-32 on Sept. 26.

Verdict: Arizona's loss to California was big for Oregon State. If you believe the Wildcats won't win-out against Oregon, Arizona State and USC, then it's all about the Civil War with the Ducks.

Arizona

In a sentence: The loss at California gave away the Wildcats one-game cushion, but they still control their own destiny.

Remaining schedule: Oregon, at Arizona State, at USC.

Wants to avoid: Losing. The Wildcats already beat Stanford and Oregon State, so they will prevail in any tiebreaker with a two-loss team.

Verdict: The Wildcats figure to lose once during their tough final stretch.

Stanford

In a sentence: Stanford, which is playing as well as any team in the conference, needs some help, but it also needs to beat rival California.

Remaining schedule: California, Notre Dame

Wants to avoid: A tie with Arizona or Oregon State, which both beat the Cardinal.

Verdict: This is what Stanford needs: a win over Cal in the Big Game. Arizona beats Oregon. Oregon beats Oregon State. Arizona loses another game. That's completely plausible.

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