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Assessing The Pac-12 Bowl Picture

Where will the Beavers and Ducks be bowling?
Where will the Beavers and Ducks be bowling?
(Photo by Andy Wooldridge)

There are essentially 2 scenarios for the "upper" Pac-12 Bowl berths, depending on whether Stanford can make it a 2 game winning streak over UCLA when the Cardinal rematch with the Bruins Friday night in Palo Alto in the Conference Championship game, which will send the winner to the Rose Bowl. But besides those 2 teams, only Oregon St. is likely to be significantly impacted, as Oregon's win, making them 11-1 for the year, should ensure they get one of the 4 "at large" BCS berths, 2 of which which will go to Notre Dame, in the National Championship Game, whomever the second place team from the SEC is.

With their loss to visiting South Carolina, Clemson should have deleted themselves from the picture, making even the possible interloping of a BCS buster unlikely to shut Oregon out of either of the remaining slots. Watch for Ducks flying south to Glendale for another bowl of Tostitos, against Kansas St. if the Wildcats can tame Texas next week.

The big question then becomes who will be most attractive to the Alamo Bowl, the UCLA if they lose again to Stanford, or Oregon St., with the side issue we will likely never know, what side conversations and horse trading might go on between the Alamo and Holiday bowl executives.

If Stanford loses the Pac-12 title game to UCLA, because they have 2 more wins in the conference regular season than Oregon St., the Alamo Bowl can't skip over the Cardinal to take the Beavers by conference rules.

This, of course, assumes Oregon St. makes short work of Nicholls St., an FCS team that hasn't beaten even an FCS opponent either this year or last.

USC's loss to Notre Dame that leaves them with 5 losses for the season likely eliminates them from consideration for either bowl, making them a very attractive option for the Sun Bowl.

Stanford doesn't travel well, making them a serious concern for local restaurant and hotel traffic, and while Oregon St. does travel very well as a percentage of their fan base, its still a small fan base, limiting its effectiveness.

The wild card is how well UCLA will travel if they are in play, and not Stanford, for the Alamo bowl. The Bruins will travel well for the neighborhood game in San Diego, but in their cars, and they might catch 1 meal in town. There will be nearly no hotel and extended restaurant bump from the Bruins, whereas the Beavers will have people in time for several days whether it is in San Antonio or San Diego.

If UCLA upsets Stanford for the Rose Bowl berth, the Cardinal could still be ranked ahead of Oregon St., and they would go to Texas, which would suit the Holiday Bowl committee, who have shown a strong interest before in the Beavers, as well as indicating they would like to bring Oregon St. to San Diego this season if they have the opportunity.

If its the Cardinal in Pasadena, don't be surprised if the Holiday Bowl practically begs the Alamo Bowl to take the Bruins, though the Beavers should have an equal number of wins, and the head to head win. The larger LA tv market that UCLA commands could make more of a difference than on-field results.

The good news for Oregon St. fans is that a season where a New Mexico Bowl bid seemed like it would be a good get when summer camp started is going to result in their best bowl trip since following the 2000 season, and with both possibilities places the Beavers have never been before. It might be a good idea to save some money for plane tickets to San Antonio instead of a San Diego vacation though.

Oklahoma St., Texas, and even a rematch with TCU all seem likely candidates for the Beavers in the week between Christmas and New Years. (My preference: the Horned Frogs in the Holiday Bowl, with payback in play.)

Losing after having held large 4th quarter leads to their in state rivals likely took both Arizona and Washington out of consideration for any of the conference's higher bowl bids.

Arizona St. would seem likely to make a return trip to the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl, though their having been there last year is a kink in that plan. It makes far more sense for Washington to go to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco, and one of the Arizona schools to Las Vegas, with the other going to the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque, giving all 3 schools' fans the most manageable travel iteneraries possible.

But the no repeat policy could send Washington to Las Vegas, despite the fact that they lost badly to the 'Cats, and Arizona St. to San Francisco. There is no doubt the Las Vegas Bowl committee was pulling hard for Arizona to claim the Territorial Cup.