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the Gekko Files: Bowl projections for every PAC 12 team

Everything you need to know about who is going and how they get selected.

Washington v Stanford Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The penultimate accomplishment for just about every NCAA football team is to get to a bowl game at the end of their season. The achievement of that milestone is a reward of sorts for having a successful season and affords both the opportunity to send seniors off with one last hurrah while allowing coaches the opportunity to add 15 developmental practices to the schedule.

(By the way, why shouldn’t non-bowl teams also be afforded those practices if they so wish? It seems drastically imbalanced to not allow for that.)

There are 40 bowl games (not counting the national championship) booked for the 2017-2018 season. That means that 80 slots need to be divvied up and allocated to deserving (or not-so-deserving) teams.

Attempting to understand, much less explain, that process would be so painful that it would make enduring a Real Housewives of New York marathon seem like a walk in Central Park.

Let’s not go there.

Instead, let’s shrink our world a little bit and talk just about the PAC 12.

Contracted PAC 12 bowl games

The Conference of Champions currently has seven bowl contracts including the Rose Bowl. Having a contract means that there is an agreement between the bowl game and the conference to provide a team for their annual game under certain conditions. I’ve included the list of those agreements and the date/network for that game as scheduled for this season.

PAC 12 Bowl Agreements and Schedule

Bowl Opponent Date TV
Bowl Opponent Date TV
Rose Bowl Big Ten #1 Jan 1 ESPN
Alamo Bowl Big 12 #2 Dec 28 ESPN
Holiday Bowl Big Ten Tier 1 Dec 28 FS1
Foster Farms Bowl Big Ten Tier 2 Dec 27 FOX
Sun Bowl ACC Tier 1 Dec 29 CBS
Las Vegas Bowl MWC #1 Dec 16 ABC
Cactus Bowl Big 12 Tier 2 Dec 26 ESPN

The agreements that the PAC keeps with these bowls are the backbone for PAC 12 postseason bowl selections. Generally speaking, the annual PAC 12 champion earns a Rose Bowl berth. The bowls listed under the Rose Bowl then get to select teams, in order, to participate in their bowls.

There are a couple of important things to note about this process.

First, the bowls generally are required to select either a) the best team by division record available, or b) a team within one loss in the loss-column of the best team by division record. If there is a tie between two teams, the bowl game whose choice it is may choose either one of those teams or any team within one loss of that team.

Second, divisions do not matter. The only thing that these bowls are constrained by is overall division record of each team.

Finally, the presence of the College Football Playoff and the New Year’s Six can alter the process noted above. So, let’s talk about that.

The Rose Bowl twist

The Rose Bowl is part of the rotation for the College Football Playoff. Every third year, the Rose Bowl (along with its “cohort”, the Sugar Bowl) deviates from its PAC 12 / B1G pairing and hosts one of the College Football Playoff matchups. 2018 will be the second time the Rose Bowl has hosted one such game (the first being Oregon vs Florida State in 2015).

In those years that the Rose Bowl participates in the Playoff, the PAC 12 champion is guaranteed an appearance in one of other available “New Year’s Six” bowl games, assuming that the team in question is not selected as a playoff participant.

Because the Sugar Bowl is always paired with the Rose Bowl in the CFP, the possibilities available to a PAC team in this scenario include:

  • Orange Bowl
  • Fiesta Bowl
  • Cotton Bowl
  • Peach Bowl

The College Football Playoff selection committee has the responsibility for selecting and assigning the PAC 12 champion, as well as possibly another PAC 12 team if it is so ranked, to one or more of those games.

In the event that a PAC 12 champion is selected for the CFP in a year that the Rose Bowl is not hosting a playoff game, then the Rose Bowl can select from an at-large pool of teams. The first time that this happened was last season when UW was selected for the CFP. The Rose Bowl selected USC as an at-large team.

My complete and utter swag at a Bowl Game projection

Hopefully my explanation above was simple enough. I’m guessing, however, that it was not.

Not to worry. I’ve taken the time to digest all of these moving parts for you in order to calculate a guess as to how the PAC 12 bowl slottings might turn out. In addition, I’ve done a little (not a lot) of projecting in order to get a sense of who might show up as opponents in those games.

Here is where I’m at with my current bowl projections:

Gekko’s Bowl Projections - week 11

Bowl Team Opponent
Bowl Team Opponent
Rose Bowl Washington (3 seed) Clemson (2 seed)
Cotton Bowl USC TCU
Alamo Bowl WSU Oklahoma St
Holiday Bowl Arizona Michigan St
Foster Farms Bowl Stanford Iowa
Sun Bowl ASU Boston College
Las Vegas Bowl Utah Fresno State
Cactus Bowl Oregon West Virginia

As of right now, I project the PAC to have eight bowl eligible teams (minimum number of wins is 6). The two teams that are close but I don’t think will make it are Cal and Colorado. I do think that Oregon, Utah, and and ASU will finish the season bowl eligible.

You will see in my projection that I’m forecasting UW to go to the playoff. If you are shocked by that forecast, please proceed to this link where you can review my in-depth analysis and scenario breakdown. I would expect that this game would be assigned to the Rose Bowl and thus restore balance and order to the universe.

Beyond that, you can see how I project the rest of the bowl games to work out. I do believe that USC will end up ranking high enough to warrant an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six game where I see them taking on a 2-loss Big 12 champ in TCU at the Cotton Bowl (a virtual home game for TCU).

Since many of you do not believe that UW is going to go to the playoffs, you might be wondering what the bowl list might look like if they get bounced. It’s a good question, and one that is easy to project. I’d simply put UW in that Cotton Bowl slot and push just about every team down one slot.

Oregon would fall out of the Cactus bowl in that scenario and end up as an at-large candidate in a bowl that doesn’t have a qualified contractual candidate (there will be a handful of those possibilities).

Along those lines, I’d also note that Cal is a prime candidate to get an exemption as a bowl qualified team should there not be enough eligible teams to fill out the 80 available slots. Their wins over Ole Miss (SEC) and North Carolina (ACC) plus five total wins overall make them most likely the first team on the list for such an exemption should it come to that (and it will likely come to that).

So, there you have have ... Gekko’s full set of PAC 12 bowl game predictions. What do you think? Am I in the ballpark? Leave your comments and your own predictions below.