This is an article that I've been meeting to write for two weeks now, but the turmoil in the Pac 12 over that span has made this effort arduous. The upset of Oregon by Arizona, USC taking out Stanford, WSU getting bowl eligible in part thanks to beating Arizona and OSU's late season plunge have all made forecasting the final positions in the Pac difficult (as if it were not difficult enough to begin with).
Here are my thoughts on what may happen as the Pac 12 goes into bowl season. Keep in mind that the Pac already has bowl arrangements with seven bowls, but is guaranteed to have nine teams bowl eligible. More than likely, this means that two teams are going to end up getting at-large bids, as there is always a shifting of bowl slots thanks to BCS appearances and conferences not getting enough teams eligible. I do expect that all nine of our teams will get invites, but I'm not even going to try to project the at-larges. I'll leave that to the pros. Also keep in mind that, while there are some restrictions, the bowl order does not necessarily have to match the projected finish of the combined Pac 12 divisions. The bowl order should be viewed more as a draft order with the bowl representatives getting their pick of remaining eligible teams (within a "slot") after those in front of them have had their picks.
So, with all of that in mind, here are my initial thoughts on where teams may slot summarized in table form:
|Pac 12 Representative
|Pac 12 #1 vs
Big 10 #1
|Pac 12 #2 vs
Big 12 #3
|Pac 12 #3 vs
Big 12 #5
|Pac 12 #4 vs
|Las Vegas Bowl
|Pac 12 #5 vs
|Fight Hunger Bowl
|Pac 12 #6 vs
|New Mexico Bowl
|Pac 12 #7 vs
Rose Bowl: Stanford
Earlier in the week, I was thinking that Arizona State was going to win the Pac 12 championship game and make their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1997. However, I've been hearing some grumblings and the fact that Todd Graham has closed his practices has me on alert that something is brewing down there. Thus, I'm shying away from ASU and going with Stanford to win the P12 Championship and represent in Pasadena. Right now, Ohio State looks like the obvious opponent.
Alamo Bowl: Arizona State
Arizona St. is not a lock in this position. Getting through the Territorial Cup successfully is critical if they want to go to San Antonio. Still, I like them to take out Arizona this weekend, even if they don't have enough to get through Stanford.
Holiday Bowl: Oregon
The organizers in San Diego will be thrilled to get Oregon to fall in their laps, though they may find that a less-than-enthused and slightly entitled fan base may not travel as well as you would expect Duck fans to normally travel. The prospect of a team like Texas Tech could make this an exciting second-tier bowl. However, a rematch with Kansas State may well lead to apathy on the part of the Ducks and the possibility of another upset.
Sun Bowl: USC
USC could certainly move up, but I would think that a return trip to the Sun Bowl is the landing spot for the Trojans. Ironic, since it was the horrible loss by an unenthusiastic Trojan team to Georgia Tech last season that led to the ultimate demise of Lane Kiffin. I would expect a different outcome this time around.
Las Vegas Bowl: UCLA
This is where things begin to get interesting. The Huskies are likely to end up tied with UCLA leaving the Las Vegas Bowl an opportunity to choose. I think they could well want to bring the Huskies back this year given the show that Bishop Sankey put on last year. However, it will be too tempting to bring in fresh blood - especially from a school that is in driving distance.
Fight Hunger Bowl: Washington
If UCLA beats USC, this is almost certainly going to be the landing spot for the Huskies. If USC beats UCLA, it could create some opportunity for UW to move up, but I expect not. Of course, the Huskies could derp this all away if they flub the Apple Cup. This bowl is interesting in that BYU has already accepted an invite, so a Huskies / Cougars rematch could create some interesting story lines for Steve Sarkisian given that it is his alma mater and that there is a revenge factor.
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona
This is a no-brainer for Arizona who provided a New Mexico Bowl for the ages in last year's wild, wild come back victory. If Arizona somehow beats ASU in the Territorial Cup ... well, let's not go there yet.
At Large Bids: Washington State; Oregon State
I expect that both of these teams will end up with at-large bids. The reason is that both of these teams have attractive enough resumes and a lot of intangibles to sell to a bowl. It is also the case that at least two bowls already have open slots thanks to the ineptitude of the Big 10. Those bowls are the Pinstripe Bowl and the Little Cesar's Bowl-Bowl. There is a pretty good chance the Heart of Dallas Bowl will also have room. So, with those factors in play, I would think the Pac 12 will have all of it's bowl eligible teams in the post-season.
There is a question as to whether or not the Huskies may end up seeking an at-large invite. This is absolutely possible - especially if the Dawgs lose the Apple Cup (then it is a near certainty). Assuming UW beats WSU, UW's victories over both the Beavs and the Cougs may buffer the Huskies from being overtaken. It is also possible Arizona could get passed over - but I have to think Arizona would be a strong preference for the New Mexico Bowl. Thus, both the Beavs and Cougs will likely be looking for a mate in an unoccupied bowl slot. There is some risk that one of these teams may get left out. If it were to happen, the Beavers and a presumed 5 game losing streak would likely be the odd-man out. The Cougs just have a better overall package to sell a prospective bowl right now.
So, that's where my head is at. What are you all thinking about in terms of Pac 12 and Washington bowl slots?