It’s not as though USC needed Oregon to beat UCLA to have any chance of winning the Pac-12. A victory by UCLA would not have closed the door by any means. There was certainly a roadmap for the Trojans regardless of the outcome of UCLA-Oregon on Saturday afternoon.
However, now that Oregon has defeated UCLA, the outlook for the Trojans is clearer and — on balance — better.
The value of Oregon beating UCLA for USC is that the Trojans do have more paths to the Pac-12 Championship Game. They had paths with a UCLA win, but they have more paths thanks to the Ducks’ victory.
Let’s map out some of the dynamics of the new Pac-12 race:
USC'S MOST DIRECT PATH
The simplest, most direct path for USC to the Pac-12 Championship Game is now this, after Oregon’s win over UCLA:
USC wins out
Utah loses once
USC winning out would include a win over UCLA. If the Trojans finish 8-1 in the Pac-12, Utah would need to win out to prevent USC from making the Pac-12 title game.
The Utes have road games at Washington State and Oregon. Utah must win both games to finish ahead of USC if the Trojans beat UCLA and win the rest of their Pac-12 games.
OREGON THE ALLY
If Oregon goes 9-0 in the Pac-12 regular season, it will mean the Ducks defeated Utah. USC going 8-1 and Oregon going 9-0 in the conference will put the Trojans against the Ducks in Las Vegas.
Oregon will be favored in each of its remaining games, but if the Ducks do stumble before the Utah game, that means the loser of Oregon-Utah would have two losses in Pac-12 play. An Oregon upset loss before the Utah game therefore helps USC.
That’s a scenario to watch for. Just don’t bet on it happening.
If USC can get out of Tucson with a win next weekend, the Trojans come home to Los Angeles for the full month of November. That’s right: They don’t leave L.A. in the final four games of the season. Win in Arizona, stay home for November. Defend Los Angeles. Make the Pac-12 title game.
If Utah beats Washington State and does not lose another game over the next three weeks, November 19 becomes Judgment Day in the Pac-12.
USC at UCLA
Utah at Oregon
The outcomes of those two games would determine the Pac-12 title game participants.
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