The Pac-12’s top four teams have elevated themselves above the rest of the conference this season. Before the 2022 campaign began, it was widely felt that USC, Utah and Oregon were a cut above the rest, and that UCLA was probably the fourth-place team in the conference. UCLA has risen above expectations to join the Trojans, Utes and Ducks in a super-strong top four. These four teams — the two Los Angeles schools, Utah, and Oregon — are a combined 15-0 against the fifth-place through 12th-place teams in the conference.
Parity, which usually defines a Pac-12 Conference football season, is nowhere to be found. Oregon has a realistic shot at going 9-0 in the conference, which has not happened since 2010, when the Pac-12 hadn’t even existed yet. The league was still the Pac-10 when Chip Kelly guided Oregon to a perfect record and led the Ducks to the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn.
You probably want to know how the top four teams in the Pac-12 stack up against each other in terms of their current bowl projections, and you probably want to know where USC fits in the mix.
Rose Bowl Team: Oregon (7-1/5-0)
Home games remaining (two): Washington, Utah Road games remaining (two): Colorado, Oregon State
No team has run the table in conference play since Oregon in 2010. These Ducks will be solid-to-heavy favorites in every game, at least until the conference championship.
Cotton Bowl Team: USC (7-1/5-1)
Home (three): Cal, Colorado, Notre Dame Road (one): UCLA Comment: It’s a two-game season for a shot at the title. Why two? Well, the Trojans must beat UCLA — we’re counting Cal and Colorado as victories — and they probably need Utah to lose again.
Alamo Bowl Team: Utah (6-2/4-1)
Home (two): Arizona, Stanford Road (two): Oregon, Colorado Comment: Our latest projections call for Utah to lose once (at Oregon) and for UCLA to lose twice (ASU and USC), which opens a path for the Utes into the Alamo. If the teams have the same number of losses, the Bruins might be invited because of their head-to-head win.
Holiday Bowl Team: UCLA (7-1/4-1) Home (two): Arizona, USC Road (two): Arizona State, Cal
News from the future: Immediately after announcing UCLA’s participation, bowl officials reveal they have renamed the game the Awkward Dance Bowl.