Prognosticating where college football teams will play in postseason bowls prior to having even worked a single practice in fall, is at best, an educated guess. But the college football preview by Phil Steele on who will go to what bowl game, is at the very least, interesting (source - Phil Steele). Let's take a look at the Pac-12 bowl contests and note; he has the University of Southern California Trojans winning the conference.
Washington Huskies: New Mexico Bowl - Certainly head coach Steve Sarkisian's Huskies will be heard from in 2012 as a team on the rise. Quarterback Keith Price will lead a solid offense and the defense should be improved from last year. This bowl, in my estimation, is rather low as Washington has the ability to knock off big time teams … and will.
Utah Utes: Las Vegas Bowl - If indeed the Utes end up in Vegas, luck will not have been on their side in 2012. This team is capable of double digit wins this coming season and the schedule is on Utah's side. Again, like Washington, this projection by Steele is low.
UCLA Bruins: Holiday Bowl - If this projection is right, new head coach Jim Mora might be coach-of-the-year. The talent is there for a decent season but I see the Bruins as a year away. If UCLA makes a bowl game, it will be more than likely one of the games mentioned above.
California Golden Bears: Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl - The Bears have a respectable team that might have a winning record in 2012 and this bowl is as likely as any plus it's just across the bay from Berkeley.
Stanford Cardinal: Alamo Bowl - There are questions about just how good the Cardinal will be without their superstar quarterback Andrew Luck, now that he plays for the NFL Indianapolis Colts. There aren't many superstars but there is talent at Stanford and their depth is second to none. The Cardinal will contend for the North Division title but this is probably where they'll eventually land.
Oregon State Beavers: Sun Bowl - The sun certainly will be shining in Corvallis, if Oregon State makes it to El Paso and this high in the bowl projections. Any bowl would be a success for the Beavs - and head coach Mike Riley (who's on the hot seat) will have dodged a bullet. But I don't think so.
USC Trojans: Rose Bowl - The prohibitive favorite this year will at the very least be in a BCS bowl like the Rose. This is a comfortable choice for them but I think USC has their sights set higher - as in the championship game in Miami January 7.
Oregon Ducks: Orange Bowl - This looks about right for Oregon. The Ducks will undoubtedly make noise in 2012 and the sky's the limit as to where they will end up.
Phil Steele's choices are a bit off the mark. Generally, I agree with his placement of Cal, Stanford, USC and Oregon. He's has Washington and Utah too low though and is too generous with UCLA and Oregon State.
I would replace Oregon State with the Washington State Cougars if you want a surprise team doing better than expected. The Arizona schools are wildcards this year so one of them might be a surprise too ... and could replace UCLA as a Pac-12 bowl team.
Sources - Pac-12 Conference