The Pac-12 hasn’t placed a team in the College Football Playoff in six years. The conference’s New Year’s Six drought is almost as lengthy.
Both streaks — or only one — could end this year.
The CFP remains a possibility, particularly for the Los Angeles schools.
So is missing the CFP again but sending a non-champion to the Cotton Bowl, which is part of the New Year’s Six and has two at-large slots available this season.
The other could go to a Pac-12 team that finishes with one or two losses but doesn’t win the conference title — yet another potential benefit to having a top-heavy conference.
Over the eight years of the New Year’s Six format, the Pac-12 has only produced two at-large teams: Arizona went to the Fiesta Bowl in 2014, and Washington followed three years later.
Because of the selection process, the Pac-12 could be better off having its second-highest-ranked team not advance to the conference title game.
If the playoff isn’t an option, then a loss in Las Vegas could eliminate that team from the New Year’s Six pool.
It’s one more piece to a fluid but fascinating stretch run.
To the bowl projections …
Team: Oregon (5-1/3-0)
Home games remaining (three): UCLA, Washington, Utah
Road games remaining (three): Cal, Colorado, Oregon State
Comment: The Hotline hasn’t been wrong about anything in two or three minutes, but it’s difficult to envision Oregon receiving a playoff invitation — even at 12-1 and carrying a Pac-12 title. The Georgia loss was simply too damaging.
Team: USC (6-1/4-1)
Home (three): Cal, Colorado, Notre Dame
Road (two): Arizona, UCLA
Comment: Our current projections call for USC to finish third in the Pac-12 race but return to the Cotton, where the Trojans lost to Ohio State in the 2017 season.
Team: UCLA (6-0/3-0)
Home (three): Stanford, Arizona, USC
Road (three): Oregon, Arizona State, Cal
Comment: No team has a wider range of landing spots than the Bruins, who could reach the playoff or slide to Las Vegas or El Paso, in part because the Holiday wants no part of them.
Team: Utah (5-2/3-1)
Home (two): Arizona, Stanford
Road (three): WSU, Oregon, Colorado
Comment: One more loss and the Utes are out of the New Year’s Six chase. And because they have played in the Alamo and Holiday bowls recently, they could slide to Las Vegas if a return to the Granddaddy isn’t their destiny.
Las Vegas Bowl
Team: Washington (5-2/2-2)
Home (two): Oregon State, Colorado
Road (three): Cal, Oregon, WSU
Comment: As long as the Huskies get to the high side of .500 in conference play, Las Vegas is an option, How about Mississippi State (and Mike Leach) as the opponent? That might generate some interest.
Team: Oregon State (5-2/2-2)
Home (three): Cal, Colorado, Oregon
Road (two): Washington, ASU
Comment: The Beavers are a postseason lock after the victory over WSU. It’s only a matter of how high they climb — and that could hinge on the outcome of the Nov. 4 duel in Husky Stadium.
Team: Washington State (4-3/1-3)
Home (three): Utah, ASU, Washington
Road (two): Stanford, Arizona
Comment: The Cougars need two wins to qualify and will be favored, or a slight underdog, in four games. We like their chances (although not as much as we did a few weeks ago).
Team: Arizona (3-4/1-3)
Home (three): USC, Washington State, ASU
Road (two): Utah, UCLA
Comment: While Arizona’s position here remains unchanged, its underlying odds have deteriorated substantially. Winning zero more games is just as likely as winning three more.
Team: Arizona State (2-4/1-2)
Home (two): UCLA, Oregon State
Road (four): Stanford, Colorado, WSU, Arizona
Comment: Increasing the victory total by 50 percent this week — from two to three — would improve ASU’s prospects for the postseason by an equivalent amount. Win at Stanford, and the math gets easier.
Team: Cal (3-3/1-2)
Home (four): Washington, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
Road (two): USC, Oregon State
Comment: The Hotline envisions a scenario in which Cal misses a bowl berth by one game and Colorado only wins one game. And we can’t be the only ones expecting that end-game.
Team: Colorado (1-5/1-2)
Home (three): ASU, Oregon, Utah
Road (three): Oregon State, USC, Washington
Comment: The floor for CU is now 1-11, but the ceiling is 2-10.
Team: Stanford (2-4/0-4)
Home (three): ASU, WSU, Brigham Young
Road (three): UCLA, Utah, Cal
Comment: We’re saying there’s a chance, but only because we’ve actually watched ASU, WSU, BYU and Cal play multiple times.
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