Calling this season insanity for the Pac-12 would be an understatement. The conference has managed to blow itself up and beat themselves up so that no one can separate themselves from the rest of the pack, outside of Wazzu. Yet, the inevitable close of the season is upon us, which means every week we inch closer towards clinching scenarios, regardless of how poorly everyone has played.
The North is simple. If Wazzu wins out, they’re champions. If they lose once more, that will open the door for Washington to take the North. Oregon still has an outside shot, but the Cougars and the Huskies are the clear favorites for the North.
The South is *slightly* more complicated. How complicated? Well, every team in the South is sitting somewhere between a 4-3 and a 2-4 conference record. This means, with just 3 weeks left, that EVERY team in the South could win that side of the conference and punch a ticket to Santa Clara. Yes, even UCLA could appear in the Pac-12 Championship. Things are so bonkers in the South, there could even be an unprecedented 6-way-tie to end the season. What does that look like? I’m glad you asked.
For all 6 South teams to tie with the same conference record, here’s what would have to happen:
Utah loses to Oregon and Colorado
USC loses to Cal and UCLA
Arizona loses to ASU and Washington State
ASU beats Arizona, but loses to Oregon and UCLA
UCLA beats ASU and USC, but loses to Stanford
Colorado beats Utah and Cal but loses to Washington State
That brainbuster of a scenario would put all 6 South teams at a 4-5 record, causing a 6-way tie for the South (you have NO idea how long it took me to sort that out). In this hellish scenario, analytics and strength-of-schedule would have to sort out the winner in the South.
But now, back to the land of realism.
Utah looked like the hands-down favorite before sputtering out and losing to Arizona State and losing starting QB Tyler Huntley for the season. It certainly didn’t help that Utes RB Zack Moss went down with an injury during Wednesday’s practice and will have to undergo season-ending surgery. This puts the Utes season in serious doubt without their 2 stars offensive players to finish the year.
Colorado and UCLA look to be 2 of the weaker teams in the South side of the conference, and additional losses seem all but assured. UCLA faces a tough challenge as they still have to play Stanford, USC, and Arizona State; all of which are realistic losses. Colorado is in a better position to make a run thanks in large part to their early season success, but Cal and especially Wazzu will be difficult for the Buffs to take down. Even the injured Utes will be a steep battle for Colorado, so Colorado and UCLA will have the toughest challenge to the South.
Arizona will have a difficult challenge to take down the Cougars, and the territorial cup versus the Sun Devils will never be easy. This rivalry matchup could realistically dictate the South. However, Khalil Tate has looked like his old self rcently, and that makes the Wildcats dangerous. Kevin Sumlin has found a way to bring the Wildcat offense back to life, and that could spark a run for Arizona.
Arizona State will be the wild card of the bunch. They have looked untouchable at times, while other games they leave you scratching your head. The matchup versus the Ducks is easily the hardest game left for ASU, but UCLA and and Arizona can’t be overlooked, neither. Still, Manny Wilkins, Eno Benjamin, and N’Keal Harry could be the most dangerous offensive trio in possibly the entire Pac-12.
USC has very winnable games against UCLA and Cal before a non-conference game against Notre Dame. Of all the Pac-12 teams, the Trojans have the most straightforward path to the South. Win those 2, and the rest is history barring an undefeated tiebreaker run from ASU or the Utes pulling off some upset wins.
It’s impossible to predict how the season will wrap up due to the volatility of the Pac-12 till this point in the season. As pointed out, any scenario is realistically possible. USC looks poised to be the favorite, but Arizona State and Arizona have a fighting chance. But, all this could change depending how the backup players on the injured Utes squad play over the coming weeks. Seriously, it just hurts my head thinking of the different scenarios on this side of the Pac-12. It’s anyone’s game at this point.
What do you all think? Who will win the South? Any preference who takes the North? Sound off below!