The Cougars lurched ahead of the Huskies in the AP top 25, but what about Jon Wilner's power rankings? Before we get into that, a breakdown of the mess of a race in the Pac-12 South and its tiebreaker scenarios.
It’s Week Nine, not even Halloween, and the Pac-12 South is a mess worthy of a conference with multiple messes.
The division has experienced so many losses, so much mediocre play, so many confounding performances that:
- Every team has multiple conference losses.
- Colorado, which won its first five games, and UCLA, which lost its first five, are tied. (The Bruins are a half-game out of first place, folks.)
- USC, which just got poleaxed by Utah and has been outscored in its five conference games, remains in solid shape for the division crown.
- One team — just one team! — is positioned to win the title without help: Utah, the only school that hasn’t won the South, is the only team that controls its own destiny.
Here’s a breakdown of each team’s path, followed by an explanation of the conference tiebreaker formula:
Utah (3-2): Win out, and celebrate.
The Utes are only 3-2 in conference play, but it’s the right three and two for division purposes: They’re 1-2 against the North and 2-0 against the South.
They own the head-to-head tiebreakers with Arizona and USC and haven’t played Colorado, UCLA or ASU.
Win those three, and they might not even need to beat Oregon (depending on USC’s results).
USC (3-2): Help required, but not much.
Awful as they looked in Salt Lake City, precarious as the quarterback situation appears — JT Daniels is in concussion protocol; Matt Fink has broken ribs — the Trojans are still in solid shape.
They have four conference games remaining and will be solid-to-heavy favorites in each (Arizona State, Oregon State, Cal and UCLA).
Win those, and a single Utah loss (anywhere) would hand the division to USC.
Colorado (2-2): Reality arrives.
The Buffaloes were the talk of the conference after their 5-0 start but got unmasked, to a certain degree, by a sharp uptick in schedule difficulty.
Now, CU must not only navigate a November that includes Washington State and Utah but also have the Trojans lose somewhere within their soft finishing stretch.
A multiple-team tie at 6-3 would likely be a precarious position for the Buffs.
UCLA (2-2): Fresno, schmesno.
From 0-5 to the heat of a division race, the Bruins are in this thing — at least for the moment. Their problem: The toughest schedule, by far, of the two-loss teams.
UCLA must face Utah (home/Friday), Arizona State (road), Oregon (road), USC (home) and Stanford (home).
We won’t even consider the possibility of the Bruins running the table, but what if they went 4-1? They would need help in the form of Colorado losing twice.
Arizona (2-3): More than a miracle required.
The loss at UCLA on Saturday night eliminated the Wildcats from contention in any scenario that doesn’t require an alternate reality.
Even if they were to win out — and that would require beating Oregon and Washington State, in addition to Colorado and ASU — the Wildcats would likely fare poorly in any 6-3 tiebreaker scenarios because of head-to-head losses and intra-division record.
Arizona State (1-3): They’ll always have MSU.
The Week Two upset of Michigan State could very well be the highlight of the season for the Sun Devils. Not only are they alone in last place, they also face the toughest finishing stretch for any team save UCLA.
With road games against USC, Oregon and Arizona, plus the Utes and the Bruins at home, ASU has inside position in the race for sixth place.
*** Tiebreaker formula
In the event of a two-team tie, head-to-head rules the day.
In the event of a three-team tie, which could only happen with 6-3 records, here’s the formula:
— Head-to-head results (best record in games between tied teams)
— Record in intra-divisional games
— Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on the record in all conference games), proceeding through the division
— Record in common conference games
— Highest ranking in SportSource Analytics poll entering the final weekend of the regular season
To the power ratings …