At 8-1 with a 6-0 conference record, the path forward for the Oregon Ducks was pretty simple. If they won out, not only would they likely get into the College Football Playoff, but they’d be a shoo-in for the Pac-12 Championship Game as well.
At 8-2 with a 6-1 conference record, things get a bit more complicated.
Oregon’s loss to Washington on Saturday not only sent the Ducks’ playoff hopes up in flames, but it opened up the race for the conference title once again. Here are the current Pac-12 standings for teams that are still eligible to make it to Las Vegas:
USC (9-1, 7-1)
Oregon (8-2, 6-1)
Utah (8-2, 6-1)
UCLA (8-2, 5-2)
Washington (8-2, 5-2)
Obviously, the three teams with only one conference loss have the best chance of getting in. However, two of those teams — Oregon and Utah — play each other next week, so one will be given a second Pac-12 loss and be virtually eliminated from the running.
You also have USC and UCLA facing off next week down in Los Angeles, which could completely eliminate the Bruins, or further complicate things with a USC loss.
Suffice it to say, there’s a ton that can happen over the next couple of weeks. We tried to break down the different scenarios for you:
If Oregon wins out...
They’re in. Simple as that. If the Ducks can finish their season with a one-loss Pac-12 record, then they are guaranteed to have at least a share of the top spot in the conference rankings and would be guaranteed a spot in Las Vegas at the start of December. That starts with a win over Utah this coming week and finishes with a win over Oregon State to end the regular season. It’s going to be tough, but it’s very doable.
If USC beats UCLA...
Then the Trojans are in. USC only has one conference game remaining, so a win over UCLA this coming weekend would give them a 8-1 conference record and a guaranteed spot in the Pac-12 Championship, regardless of what they do against No. 20 Notre Dame in the final week of the season.
UCLA is eliminated if...
They lose one more game this season. Their loss to Arizona on Saturday night was massively detrimental to the Bruins’ chances, because it gave them two conference losses. They’re now in a position where they don’t control their own path going forward, and need a lot of help. That help will start with both a win over USC next week for the Bruins, as well as a Utah win over Oregon.
Utah is eliminated via tiebreaker if...
They lose to Oregon. In this scenario, let’s assume that the Ducks beat Utah next week, and lose to Oregon State. This would still give them a 7-2 conference record. Coincidentally, if Utah loses to Oregon and beats Colorado, they would also have a 7-2 conference record, but would not hold the tiebreaker over Oregon.
Of course, if UCLA wins out and finishes at 7-2, they will also hold a tiebreaker over Utah. The Utes would get into the title game if they beat both Oregon and Colorado, though, finishing with a 8-1 record.
If UO, UW, and UCLA all win out...
Things get a bit crazy. This scenario of Oregon beating Utah/Oregon State, UCLA beating USC/Cal, and Washington beating Colorado/Washington State, would give us the following records:
Utah (7-2, assuming a win over Colorado)
In this scenario, Oregon gets in automatically. I believe it would then be UCLA who gets into the Pac-12 title game, since they would have wins over USC, Utah, and Washington.
A 5-way tie
There is a very real chance that things end in a 5-way tie at the top in the Pac-12 standings. Here is what would need to happen in order for that to be the case:
— UCLA beats USC and Cal
— Washington beats Colorado and WSU
— Oregon beats Utah and loses to OSU
— Utah loses to Oregon and beats Colorado
That would leave those five teams at the top with 7-2 records with tiebreakers to decide who gets to Las Vegas. I’m not going to sit here and go through all of the math to figure out who would get the nod. Instead, I will cross my fingers and hope that doesn’t come to fruition.