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How unpredictable is the Pac-12 title race? Just look at the latest bowl projections

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Utah players run onto the field ahead of game against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Utah players run onto the field ahead of game against USC at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. After a bye week, the Utes take their show on the road to Pullman, Washington, where they will face Washington State on Thursday night.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Over the next two weeks, a complicated web of scenarios to fill the two spots in the Pac-12 championship game will be sorted out.

For now, though, five league teams — Utah, Oregon, USC, UCLA and Washington — all have one or two conference losses and could play in the game on Dec. 2.

Not only is it difficult to determine the game’s participants — KSL’s Josh Furlong and Twitter user Doug Scott have contextualized this race — but the latest bowl projections also illustrate just how unpredictable the league’s title race and subsequent postseason could be.

Could a Pac-12 team qualify for the College Football Playoff?

The latest CFP rankings came out Tuesday, and the only team with any serious hopes of snapping the Pac-12’s six-year playoff drought is USC, which is ranked No. 7.

The Trojans’ loss to Utah earlier this year is their only defeat, though they would have to surpass teams like TCU at No. 4, Tennessee at No. 5 and LSU at No. 6 to have a chance.

How many Pac-12 teams could qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl?

There are four other Pac-12 teams in the top 17 of the latest CFP rankings: Utah at No. 10, Oregon at No. 12, UCLA at No. 16 and Washington at No. 17.

The conference is guaranteed one NY6 spot with its tie-in to the Rose Bowl. The question will be if another school could qualify for either the playoff or an at-large bid in the New Year’s Six (this year, that would be in the Cotton Bowl).

In a roundup of the latest bowl projections from 10 different national experts (see below), four of the top five Pac-12 schools had at least one vote to make a New Year’s Six game, and two had USC making the playoff.

This all comes before a vital weekend for the conference: Oregon hosts Utah on Saturday, and USC visits UCLA.

Those two results will bring a good amount of clarity to the Pac-12 championship race heading into the final week.

What bowl destinations do national experts predict for the Pac-12’s top teams?

Earlier this week, Pac-12 insider John Canzano shared the bowl lineup for the Pac-12 this season, which included the selection position for each bowl tie-in.

The Deseret News has compiled a list of bowl projections from 10 national experts following Week 11 of the college football season, which helps illustrate how much posturing can happen in the final two weeks of the regular season. 

This includes bowl projections from ESPN (from both Kyle Bonagura and Mark Schlabach), Action Network, CBS Sports, USA Today, College Football News, Athlon Sports, 247 Sports, The Athletic and Sporting News.


Utah football bowl projections after Week 11
Publication Bowl projection
ESPN (Bonagura) Alamo Bowl, vs. Texas
ESPN (Schlabach) Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
Action Network Holiday Bowl, vs. Florida State
CBS Sports Holiday Bowl, vs. Wake Forest
USA Today Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Kentucky
College Football News Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Michigan State
Athlon Sports Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Mississippi State
247 Sports Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Arkansas
The Athletic Sun Bowl, vs. Wake Forest
Sporting News Cotton Bowl, vs. UCF

Remaining games: at Oregon (Saturday), at Colorado (Nov. 26).

The Utes (8-2, 6-1 Pac 12), who jumped three spots to No. 10 in the latest CFP rankings, currently have the best odds to win the Pac-12 conference title, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Despite this, no national expert currently projects Utah to return to the Rose Bowl.

Instead, only one expert has the defending Pac-12 champion Utes reaching a New Year’s Six game, and their most popular projection is the Las Vegas Bowl.

That could all change, though, with a win at Oregon. If the Utes beat the Ducks, their likelihood of playing in the Pac-12 championship game for the fourth time in five seasons is virtually ensured, especially considering Utah finishes the year at 1-win Colorado.


Oregon football bowl projections after Week 11
Publication Bowl projection
ESPN (Bonagura) Las Vegas Bowl, vs. South Carolina
ESPN (Schlabach) Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
Action Network Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
CBS Sports Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
USA Today Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
College Football News Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
Athlon Sports Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
247 Sports Alamo Bowl, vs. Texas
The Athletic Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Arkansas
Sporting News Sun Bowl, vs. Syracuse

Remaining games: vs. Utah (Saturday), at Oregon State (Nov. 26).

The No. 12 Ducks (8-2, 6-1 Pac-12) lost their grip on the lead in the conference standings after falling at home to Washington last week dropped them from College Football Playoff consideration. 

Even so, the Ducks still are projected to make one of the Pac-12’s highest-profile bowls by most publications. Four projections have them playing in the Rose Bowl, while three more predict they will play in the Alamo Bowl.


USC football bowl projections after Week 11
Publication Bowl projection
ESPN (Bonagura) Rose Bowl, vs. Ohio State
ESPN (Schlabach) CFP semifinal (Peach Bowl), vs. Georgia
Action Network Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Florida
CBS Sports Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
USA Today Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
College Football News Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
Athlon Sports Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
247 Sports CFP semifinal (Peach Bowl), vs. Georgia
The Athletic Rose Bowl, vs. Ohio State
Sporting News Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan

Remaining games: at UCLA (Saturday), vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 26).

The No. 7 Trojans (9-1, 8-1 Pac-12) will clinch a spot in the Pac-12 championship game if they beat the Bruins this weekend.

USC also represents the conference’s lone remaining hope to potentially reach the College Football Playoff — and two publications currently have the Trojans making the playoff. At No. 7 in the CFP rankings, USC needs a strong finish to get in position to break the Pac-12’s playoff drought.

The most popular postseason projection for USC, though, is the Rose Bowl — five of the projections used for this roundup have the Trojans headed to the “Granddaddy of Them All.”


UCLA football bowl projections after Week 11
Publication Bowl projection
ESPN (Bonagura) Sun Bowl, vs. Louisville
ESPN (Schlabach) Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Mississippi State
Action Network Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State
CBS Sports Las Vegas Bowl, vs. South Carolina
USA Today Holiday Bowl, vs. Notre Dame
College Football News Holiday Bowl, vs. Notre Dame
Athlon Sports Sun Bowl, vs. Wake Forest
247 Sports Holiday Bowl, vs. Wake Forest
The Athletic Holiday Bowl, vs. Notre Dame
Sporting News Holiday Bowl, vs. Wake Forest

Remaining games: vs. USC (Saturday), at California (Nov. 25).

The No. 16 Bruins (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) had their postseason aspirations take a big hit with their home loss to Arizona last week, putting more pressure on them for their home game this weekend against USC.

The Bruins’ current bowl projections reflect how devastating that loss was, as no national expert has UCLA making an appearance in a New Year’s Six bowl.

UCLA’s most projected destination now is the Holiday Bowl, with Notre Dame a popular opponent.


Washington football bowl projections after Week 11
Publication Bowl projection
ESPN (Bonagura) Holiday Bowl, vs. NC State
ESPN (Schlabach) Holiday Bowl, vs. Notre Dame
Action Network Sun Bowl, vs. Wake Forest
CBS Sports Cotton Bowl, vs. UCF
USA Today LA Bowl, vs. Fresno State
College Football News LA Bowl, vs. Boise State
Athlon Sports Las Vegas Bowl, vs. Florida State
247 Sports Rose Bowl, vs. Michigan
The Athletic Alamo Bowl, vs. Texas
Sporting News Alamo Bowl, vs. Oklahoma State

Remaining games: vs. Colorado (Saturday), at Washington State (Nov. 26).

The No. 17 Huskies (8-2, 5-2 Pac-12) kept their Pac-12 title hopes alive with an impressive road win last week at Oregon.

While Washington has the slimmest hopes of earning a spot in the Pac-12 championship game of the five teams — Twitter user Doug Scott lays out the mind-numbing amount of scenarios there are in determining the title game’s two participants — the Huskies are still technically in the race and have arguably the easiest remaining schedule.

The Huskies also have the widest range of predictions for their bowl destination: 247 Sports has them in the Rose Bowl and CBS Sports also making a New Year’s Six bowl, while two other publications — USA Today and College Football News — peg them in the LA Bowl.