The conference would have to place a non-champion in the top six or eight of the final CFP rankings. With only one team, USC, projected for the top 10 this week.
Well, now. This is different.
Let’s ignore the landscape this week — there is no longer a reasonable path into the College Football Playoff for the Pac-12 — and instead take a gander at the non-semifinal portion of the New Year’s Six.
For the Pac-12 champion, it’s all about the Fiesta, Cotton or Peach bowls; each has two at-large slots available.
(The Orange Bowl is locked up with the ACC, Big Ten, Notre Dame and SEC.)
Once it has picked and seeded the semifinalists, the selection committee will create the NY6 pairings using the following considerations:
- Geography (i.e., travel for fans and players’ families)
- Rematch avoidance (of regular-season games)
- Location avoidance (i.e. same bowl two years in a row)
All of which is a way of saying this: The Pac-12 champion most likely will play in the Fiesta Bowl — most likely against a Big Ten or Big 12 opponent — but it’s not a lock.
Could the conference send a second team into the NY6? That depends on the CFP rankings.
The conference would have to place a non-champion in the top six or eight of the final CFP rankings. With only one team, USC, projected for the top 10 this week — the updated rankings will be released this afternoon — the math is tricky:
The Trojans would have to hold their ground while losing to the lower-ranked North participant in the Pac-12 title game.
Hard to fathom.
Fiesta Bowl/New Year’s Six: USC
Expecting the Trojans to beat UCLA, relax for a week, then roll to their first conference title in has-it-really-been-nine-years? The Fiesta awaits.
Huskies don’t win the North but do finish 10-2 and are the most attractive available team by record, ranking, TV audience and projected hotel bookings.
Washington State also available but played in San Diego last year (don’t ask). The Cardinal, however, has never been to the Holiday and brings a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Foster Farms: Arizona
Projecting one more loss for the Wildcats, which means they would be in play for the Holiday but not ideal. The Foster Farms, aware of the significant Arizona alumni base in the Bay Area, jumps on the Tate train.
Sun Bowl: Washington State
Not a good situation: The three-loss Cougars slide all the way to the No. 5 spot in the lineup and return to El Paso for the second time in three years. But the Sun would be obligated to take WSU because of conference record.
Las Vegas: Arizona State
Switch from original version: Under scenario in which ASU and Oregon are both bowl-eligible, Sun Devils would have to go to Vegas based on having a better conference record.
Justin Herbert returns and leads the Ducks to back-to-back wins. At 7-5, they’re more desirable for Cactus than 6-6 UCLA.
Somewhere, a bowl with a vacancy is celebrating Josh Rosen and the Los Angeles TV market.
As of this writing, I’ve got Colorado beating Utah in the finale to collect win No. 6. By tomorrow, I might lean Utes.
Not currently projected to be eligible: Utah and Cal
Not eligible: Oregon State