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A detailed breakdown of why the 3-team Pac-12 championship game tiebreaker worked out in Utah’s favor

Utah will face USC in the Pac-12 championship game. Here’s the math on how the Utes won the three-team tiebreaker over Oregon and Washington.

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Utah Utes players celebrate after they beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game.

Utah Utes players celebrate after they beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

With help from three other teams, Utah is headed back to the Pac-12 championship game for the second consecutive year.

The Utes will be playing USC in Las Vegas for the Pac-12 title.

Utah’s win at Colorado, Washington’s win at Washington State and Oregon State’s win vs. Oregon put Utah, Oregon and Washington in a three-way tie for second place in the Pac-12 with a 7-2 conference record.

UCLA’s win at Cal helped the Utes with the tiebreaker.

This is the first year that the the two best teams in the conference play for the Pac-12 title. Previously, it was the North division champion vs. the South division champion in the Pac-12 championship game.

After the games concluded on Saturday night, here is what the Pac-12 standings looked like.

Pac-12 standings
Team Conference Record
USC 8-1
Utah 7-2
Oregon 7-2
Washington 7-2
Oregon State 6-3
UCLA 6-3
Washington State 4-5
Arizona 3-6
Arizona State 2-7
Cal 2-7
Stanford 1-8
Colorado 1-8

Here’s how the three-team tiebreaker worked out to send the Utes to Las Vegas for the Pac-12 championship game.


Pac-12 Multiple-Team Tiebreaker Rule

In the event of a tie between more than two teams, the following procedures will be used. After one team has an advantage and is seeded, all remaining teams in the multiple-team tie-breaker will repeat the multiple-team tie-breaking procedure. If at any point the multiple-team tie is reduced to two teams, the two-team tie-breaking procedure will be applied.

1. Head-to-head (best cumulative win percentage in games among the tied teams). If not every tied team has played each other, go to step 2.

Utah and Washington did not play each other. Move to Step 2.


2. Win percentage against all common conference opponents (must be common among all teams involved in the tie)

Utah, Washington, Oregon common opponents:

Oregon State (Utah W, Oregon L, Washington W)

UCLA (Utah L, Oregon W, Washington L)

WSU (Utah W, Oregon W, Washington W)

Arizona (Utah W, Oregon W, Washington W)

Stanford (Utah W, Oregon W, Washington W)

Colorado (Utah W, Oregon W, Washington W)

Record against common opponents:

Utah: 5-1. Oregon: 5-1. Washington: 5-1. Move to Step 3.


3. Record against the next highest placed common opponent in the standings (based on record in all games played within the conference), proceeding through the standings.

a. When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s win percentage against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to that group’s own tie-breaking procedure) rather than the performance against individual tied teams.

UCLA and Oregon State both have a 6-3 conference record, making them the highest-ranked common opponents among Utah, Oregon and Washington and invoking section 3(a).

Utah 1-1 vs. OSU and UCLA, Oregon 1-1 vs. OSU and UCLA, Washington 1-1 vs. OSU and UCLA. Move to Step 4.


4. Combined win percentage in conference games of conference opponents (ie, strength of conference schedule)

Utah has the advantage in conference strength of schedule.

Utah: ASU (2-7), OSU (6-3), UCLA (6-3), USC (8-1), WSU (4-5), Arizona (3-6), Stanford (1-8), Oregon (7-2), Colorado (1-8) = 38 wins, 43 losses (0.469135802469136 combined win percentage)

Oregon: WSU (4-5), Stanford (1-8), Arizona (3-6), UCLA (6-3), Cal (2-7), Colorado (1-8), Washington (7-2), Utah (7-2), OSU (6-3) = 37 wins, 44 losses (0.45679012345679 combined win percentage)

Washington: Stanford (1-8), UCLA (6-3), ASU (2-7), Arizona (3-6), Cal (2-7), OSU (6-3), Oregon (7-2), Colorado (1-8), WSU (4-5) = 32 wins, 49 losses (0.395061728395062 combined win percentage)


Utah wins the tiebreaker on Step 4 and plays in the Pac-12 championship game vs. USC.