The Huskies would need help, but the Fiesta Bowl isn't out of the question.
So … now what for Washington?
The Huskies’ chances of a return to the College Football Playoff have been wiped out. That was the big-picture outcome from Friday night’s 30-22 loss at Stanford.
With two regular-season games remaining — vs. Utah on Saturday night and the Apple Cup on Nov. 25, both at home — the Huskies (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) have a range of postseason destinations out there.
Here are three of the various bowl-game possibilities for UW:
Scenario 1: Best case
The Fiesta Bowl is still in play.
At this moment, it’s not the most likely destination for the Huskies. It might even be far-fetched. But it’s out there, if everything falls in the Huskies’ favor the next three weeks.
To get to the Fiesta Bowl — one of the famed New Year’s Six bowl games— the Huskies would need to win the Pac-12 championship. To get an opportunity to do that in the Pac-12 championship game, the Huskies need help.
That means UW fans should be rooting, and rooting hard, for California (5-5, 2-5 Pac-12) to beat Stanford (7-3, 6-2) in the Cardinal’s Pac-12 regular-season finale Saturday night.
Because Stanford has the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage of UW, the only hope the Huskies have of getting to the Pac-12 title game is for the Cardinal to lose a third conference game. After that, the Huskies would obviously need to beat Utah and win the Apple Cup. They would then need to win the Pac-12 title game (against USC).
If Cal can pull off the upset in Stanford … and if the Huskies win their final two regular-season games … and if they beat USC in the title game … then, yes, the Fiesta is in play. The Huskies have never played in the Fiesta, and they would be very attractive as an 11-2 conference champion, pitted perhaps against a team like Ohio State or Penn State.
The chances of all those dominoes falling perfectly in place? Slim, sure, but not out of the question.
Scenario 2: Probable case
Stanford has opened as a 17.5-point favorite at home in the Big Game. California hasn’t defeated its Bay Area rival since 2009.
And considering how well Stanford played Friday night against UW, it’s difficult to imagine it getting upset at home.
Thus, if Stanford wins the Big Game, the Huskies would be eliminated from the Pac-12 title chase. (Washington State still remains in the driver’s seat in the North. The No. 15 Cougars, at 7-2 in conference play, have a bye this week before the Apple Cup. If they beat UW, the Cougars win the division.)
If the Huskies win their final two games (after, in this scenario, Stanford beats Cal), that would leave them with a 10-2 regular-season record and a fringe top-10 ranking. That is still a pretty attractive resume for the Alamo Bowl.
(Although the Fiesta isn’t contractually tied in with the Pac-12, the Pac-12 champ will almost certainly head to Arizona. And because the Rose Bowl is one of the CFP semifinals this year, the Alamo is officially the Pac-12’s No. 1 bowl this season.)
For reference, here are the Pac-12’s bowl ties this year:
- Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 (Dec. 28 in San Antonio)
- Holiday Bowl vs. Big Ten (Dec. 28 in San Diego)
- Foster Farms Bowl vs. Big Ten (Dec. 27 in Santa Clara)
- Sun Bowl vs. ACC (Dec. 29 in El Paso)
- Las Vegas Bowl vs. Mountain West (Dec. 16 in Vegas)
- Cactus Bowl vs. Big 12 (Dec. 26 in Phoenix)
If Stanford loses to USC in the Pac-12 title game, the Trojans would go to the Fiesta and the two-loss Huskies would likely be the more attractive choice for the Alamo Bowl over a four-loss Stanford. The Holiday Bowl — and San Diego — isn’t a bad consolation prize this time of year either.
Scenario 3: Chaos case
Won’t go too far down this road right now because there are too many moving parts.
But if the Huskies falter again — or if, gasp, they lose each of their next games — then they would likely be looking at anything from the Holiday Bowl to the Las Vegas Bowl.
Bottom line, the Alamo and Holiday would seem to be the most likely destinations for now, but it is mid-November in college football — and there’s bound to be much more chaos over the next few weeks.
Pac-12 teams who played the previous Saturday are now 0-4 on the road on a Friday night, as noted by Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News.
The Huskies were the latest to fall Friday at Stanford. Notably, USC lost in Pullman as a Friday-night road team coming off a Saturday road game, and two weeks later the same thing happened to Washington State — losing on the road at California after playing on the road the previous Saturday.
In other words, as Wilner has noted, the Pac-12 schedulers didn’t do its top contenders any favors in the CFP chase.