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Mailbag: “All the Fingers + Toes...and 0” Edition

Answering your questions about tiebreak scenarios, the Husky defensive coaching staff, and breakout players

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 21 Arizona State at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Odds Arizona plays in the PAC-12 title game over Oregon? -LockerStalker102

Why is the mailbag out later than usual? Because I was busy calculating every tiebreaker in all 2048 permutations of the remaining Pac-12 games to answer your questions about odds. That’s why. And yet this was the only question I got about it. I’m disappointed in all of you.

Did I get something on here wrong? Undoubtedly. But I think it’s close enough with what we know about the Pac-12 tiebreaker process. And unfortunately that isn’t everything because there are plenty of question marks that come up where the listed instructions aren’t totally sufficient.

In order to get the percentages I used ESPN’s FPI-based win expectancies for each of the remaining games. It isn’t my favorite system but it’s the most readily available tool that shows a percentage for every single remaining game. Let’s take a look at the results.

As you can see, there is a 4.03% chance that Arizona makes the Pac-12 title game. There’s also a 9.05% chance that Oregon State makes it and a 0.18% chance that Utah sneaks in. And most importantly for Washington there’s a 0.25% chance the Huskies still fall out of the running. Let’s go through each of these scenarios.

Arizona Makes the Pac-12 Championship Game

1. Arizona wins out, Oregon loses to OSU, Washington beats OSU, UCLA wins 1 more or Cal loses 1 more. (3.7% chance)

Arizona and Oregon tie for 2nd place here with 7 wins each. They didn’t play head-to-head and both have 2 losses against their common opponents. If UCLA beats USC this weekend then the Beavers finish with a better record than USC and Arizona advances by virtue of having the best win.

If USC wins then it goes to conference strength of schedule. Oregon’s other miss was UCLA and Arizona’s other miss was Cal. If UCLA finishes with a better record then it means Arizona had a tougher SOS and advances. But Cal and UCLA play each other in the finale and if Cal beats Stanford and then also beats UCLA they would finish tied at 4-5 in conference. That would move the tiebreaker to a computer-based metric and Oregon wins. So you’re rooting for UCLA and against Cal if you want Arizona to advance.

2. Arizona wins out, Oregon loses out. (0.28% chance)

This isn’t a likely scenario but it’s the most straight forward. Oregon loses to both Arizona State and Oregon State. Arizona beats Arizona State and Utah. The Wildcats finish with 7 conference wins while Oregon finishes with 6. Even if Oregon State beats UW, it doesn’t matter because Arizona already beat OSU head-to-head and so wins a 2-way tiebreaker with the beavers

3. Arizona wins out, Oregon State wins out, Washington loses out, Oregon beats ASU, USC/ASU have same conference record as Colorado/UCLA. (0.04% chance)

This is the one scenario that results in Washington finishing in 4th place. This results in a 4-way tie for 1st place at 7-2 between each of Arizona, OSU, Oregon, and UW. Since Oregon and Arizona haven’t played it means we can’t use head-to-head. There are only 3 common opponents between the four teams and Oregon and Arizona each went 3-0 which means we can’t advance a team. That moves us to strength of schedule. In a world where USC/ASU have the same conference record as Colorado/UCLA then no one wins at this level either and we continue down to use the computer-based metric. I’m assuming Oregon wins this one since they’re already ahead of UW in most and UW will have lost out in this scenario. So Oregon gets the #1 seed.

We then go to a 3-way tie for second place that Arizona ends up winning since they beat Washington State and both Oregon State and UW did not. The Huskies lose the tiebreaker with Oregon State by virtue of head-to-head to finish in 4th place but it’s Oregon vs. Arizona in the Pac-12 title game.

Oregon State Makes the Pac-12 Championship Game

1. OSU wins out, UW loses the Apple Cup, Arizona loses at least once. (0.53% chance).

This is how the Beavers end up winning the conference. It would be a 3-way tie for first along with Oregon and Washington at 7-2 and OSU would have just beaten both head-to-head so they advance. Washington gets the 2nd spot over Oregon by virtue of that head-to-head win.

2. Arizona wins out, Oregon State wins out, Washington loses out, Oregon beats ASU, USC/ASU have worse conference record as Colorado/UCLA. (0.2% chance)

This is the same as scenario three under the Arizona section except that Oregon State wins the strength of schedule tiebreaker when USC and Arizona State do worse down the stretch. The Beavers get the top seed, Oregon gets second place, and the Huskies are left in the cold in third (with Arizona 4th).

3. Oregon State wins out, UW wins the Apple Cup, Oregon beats ASU. (8.31% chance).

In this scenario we get a 7-2 Oregon State either being tied with 7-2 Oregon or 7-2 Arizona joining the party. Either way, Oregon wins the head-to-head with Oregon by virtue of having just beat them and they also win a 3-way tiebreaker based on their win over Washington at the top of the standings. They get the 2nd place spot over Oregon.

Utah Makes the Pac-12 Championship Game

1. Complete Chaos (0.1% chance).

This is the Doctor Strange holds up one finger scenario. The Utes need to hope for absolute chaos around them that results in either a 4 or 5-way tie at 6-3 in the conference behind UW. That means they need all of the following:

-Utah wins out (beats Arizona and Colorado)

-Oregon State beats Oregon

-Arizona State beats Oregon

-USC beats UCLA or UCLA wins out

If all of these happen then there are so few common opponents that no one has an edge over anyone else. It all ends up coming down to conference strength of schedule and Utah wins that this year having missed Stanford and Washington State who are most likely to finish 10th and 12th in the standings. Not exactly likely.


So putting it all together with the goal of what happens to not result in a UW versus UO rematch. You need Oregon State to beat Oregon. It would make it a lot easier if somehow Arizona State beat Oregon (good luck). You either need Arizona to win out or Oregon State to win out and have UW win the Apple Cup. It would be nice if Stanford beat Cal or UCLA beat USC. There you go.

Why can’t the defense to make whatever halftime adjustments they’re making on the sidelines in the first quarter instead? -perpetua12

If it were that simple, I’d have quit my job and become a college football defensive coordinator because they make a lot more money than I do. Halftime adjustment as a concept are generally overrated. There’s just not all that much time to get to the locker room, analyze information, come up with a new strategy, communicate the new strategy, and get back on the field.

Sometimes, like against USC, it may have more to do with the game plan taking longer to kick in such as when Caleb Williams was clearly gassed by the 4th quarter from running around so much. Sometimes if you run the same route on a player 5 times, they’re going to recognize it the 6th time regardless of coaching.

NCAA Football: Washington at Southern California Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports

Do you think coaching changes will be made once the season is over on the defensive side given the performance on the field, and to boost recruiting? Thank you. -H2O

I don’t think so despite what fans want. If Coach DeBoer truly thinks that there’s a specific coach who is holding back the Huskies from competing for a national title then he would make the move. But I don’t think it has gotten to that point from our vantage point. If one of the coaches was obviously slacking in their duties and wasn’t able to answer questions adequately when pressed then that changes things.

That could still change though. Let’s say Washington loses in Corvallis, gets beaten in the Pac-12 title game by giving up 40+ points, and then also drops their bowl game behind a poor defensive effort. A 1-3 finish to the season would warrant a defensive change. Anything less than that and I think DeBoer holds steady for another year. Especially because he brought the entire defensive staff with him. He needs clear evidence a specific member of the coaching staff isn’t pulling their weight to let them go or know for a fact that UW could go get someone who is a clear upgrade.

What are the odds that Pac 12 has the final 3 Heisman candidates? Or does Jayden Daniels or Marvin Harrison Jr get one of the spots? -KPreston

Low. I don’t see Caleb Williams making it into the group of finalists at this point with only one game left to play. He’d need to have a game like Jayden Daniels just did against Florida to have a shot. And against UCLA’s pass rush? No chance.

I think that Daniels will end up getting onto the podium along with Penix and Nix. His stats at this point are just overwhelming. If it weren’t for the fact his defense is terrible and they played three top-15 teams, he’d be the clear favorite right now.

It wouldn’t totally shock me if Harrison Jr. makes the top-3 if he has 150+ yards and 2 TDs to beat Michigan and go undefeated. But even though we all know he’s a great NFL prospect, his numbers just aren’t that spectacular compared to other top receivers so it would be pretty ridiculous for him to go over Daniels in my opinion.

If Alphonzo Tuputala ever has the chance to score a touchdown will the referee need to pry the ball out of his massive grip with a crowbar? -PDXdaWgboy

Coach Inge said in his press conference that they’re reinforcing that in that situation they expect the player to hand the ball to the referee. So I don’t think it would require a crowbar but if Tuputala was in the same spot this game then you would definitely see him wait until the referee asks for the ball after Tuputala has incontrovertibly stepped far into the end zone already.

For the casual fan that doesn’t track depth charts, can you give me 3 or 4 of the most improved Husky players this year, or your favorite breakout player. -Oregondawg

Here are my picks so far for breakout or most improved Huskies on offense and defense. I went only with players that were on the team last year as opposed to portal additions.

Offense- Parker Brailsford C/RG. It was a surprise to just about everyone that Brailsford won the starting RG job over Julius Buelow in the preseason despite the coaching staff saying nice things about him since his arrival. He immediately justified that faith by playing at an above average level from day one. Then he shifted to center when Matteo Mele got hurt and has played at an all-conference level ever since. I’m guessing he won’t make the all-conference team because they rarely reward underclassmen (similar to Roger Rosengarten last year) but he will get on there at some point sooner than later.

Defense- Kamren Fabiculanan, S/Husky. Injuries have limited KamFab to only appearing in 8 games so far and 265 total defensive snaps but he has been a difference maker when he has gotten in the game. His 2 interceptions are tied for the team lead but on 200 fewer coverage snaps than the guys he is tied with (Powell and Hampton). PFF has charted him with an 8.7% missed tackle rate that is the 2nd lowest on the team for anyone with at least 250+ snaps played (Voi Tunuufi is first). With both Hampton and Asa Turner graduating after this year you should expect him to slot in as one of the starting safeties next season and feel good about it.

Looking at DeBoer, Lanning, and Riley: which one will be the first to leave/be fired and which will be the last? -Flying Spaghetti Monster

This is a very tough question as I think there are valid arguments to picking all of them first or last.

Lincoln Riley- He seems the least likely to leave for a different college job given USC’s resources and status in the sport. He’s also though the most likely to leave for an NFL head coaching gig given his personality and offensive credentials. Right this second Riley is the closest to being fired but he isn’t particularly close.

Dan Lanning- If Oregon hadn’t had their last two coaches leave then it probably wouldn’t feel as likely that Lanning is the next out to door. It would take a very steep collapse or be due to an off-field incident to imagine him being fired. Lanning was extremely insistent he doesn’t plan to leave Oregon voluntarily anytime soon and his contract buyout details support that statement. What happens though if Nick Saban chooses to retire after this year or next? That’s a job no one except Kirby Smart would turn down if offered and Lanning would be a legitimate candidate if Oregon remains a top-ten program in the Big Ten until it opens up.

Kalen DeBoer- The biggest argument for DeBoer being the next to leave is that Washington likely has the fewest resources available to match salary with a Texas A&M or Michigan that decide to go all-in on pursuing him. From a personality standpoint though DeBoer seems to be the most reliant on culture, development, and loyalty which makes it easy to imagine him staying in Seattle long-term. It also doesn’t hurt to have his daughter starting school at UW as a top softball player next year although the transfer portal exists in softball too.

I’ll go Riley, Lanning, DeBoer as the order and say that all of them leave voluntarily before getting fired; Riley to the NFL, Lanning to Alabama, and DeBoer retiring. Enjoy throwing this in my face when DeBoer takes over for Harbaugh this offseason at Michigan.