In the first Pac-12 Hotline bowl projections of the season, nine teams qualify to go bowling — with UW and WSU leading the pack.
No. 5 Washington Huskies (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
College Football Playoff: Sugar Bowl
The Huskies will lose once, somewhere, but not in the Apple Cup or the Pac-12 title game. At 12-1, and with help from the imploding Big 12, UW returns to the CFP. As the No. 4 seed, they’re again paired with No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar.
No. 8 Washington State Cougars (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12)
New Year’s Six: Fiesta Bowl
Can’t win the Apple Cup, can’t win the conference. But Cougars will have the resume for a ranking lofty enough to earn a trip to Phoenix as an at-large entry into the NY6, which brings millions to the Pac-12 coffers.
No. 13 USC Trojans (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12)
They’re the best in the South, but multiple losses doom the Trojans’ quest for a major bowl. The Alamo is thrilled, however: USC is a first-timer in San Antonio for Sam Darnold’s final college game.
No. 23 Stanford Cardinal (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12)
Another happy Pac-12 postseason marriage: Stanford hasn’t participated in the Holiday — ever — and will produce a good enough season in the rugged North to be an attractive participant. Especially if the opponent is Michigan.
UCLA Bruins (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12)
Foster Farms Bowl
Not ideal, given that UCLA played in Santa Clara two years ago (the collapse vs. Nebraska). But the only other option under current projections, Utah, is untenable: The Utes were there in December.
Utah Utes (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12)
There aren’t many desirable landing spots for the Utes in the mid-level bowls because of recent participation (Las Vegas in 2014-15 and Foster Farms in ’16). El Paso works for everyone.
Arizona Wildcats (3-2, 1-1 Pac-12)
Las Vegas Bowl
Yep, I’ve got the Wildcats for six wins — as of this very moment, with little confidence in that projection — and their first trip to Vegas in a decade.
Oregon Ducks (4-2, 1-1 Pac-12)
Much depends on Justin Herbert’s return, but there aren’t many wins available either way. Remember: Starting with the Sun, bowls must invite teams in order of placement in the standings.
Colorado Buffaloes (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12)
Not sure CU fans would be thrilled with this after winning the division a year ago. But back-to-back bowls would remain a major accomplishment after all the barren seasons.
Not projected to qualify: Arizona State, Oregon State, Cal