2015 Pac-12 Football Championship Game: Stanford, Utah, UCLA control their destinies
Because it’s never too early to start thinking about which teams will be meeting up in Santa Clara on Dec. 5, let’s see how the division races are shaping up and what each team needs to do to get to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game (here are the standings for your viewing pleasure).
Wellllll now, that was close. The Cardinal escaped the Palouse with a 30-28 victory after Erik Powell, who was 5-for-5 on field goal attempts in the first 59 minutes of the game, hooked one wide right from 43 yards out on the last play of the game. As such, the Cardinal (7-1, 6-0 Pac-12 North) is still the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 and still controls its own destiny for a spot in Santa Clara. The only difference now after beating Wazzu is that Stanford doesn’t have to be perfect – it is two up in the loss column on every team in the Pac-12 North. In fact, if Stanford beats Colorado and Oregon loses to Cal, the Cardinal can clinch the North on Nov. 7, because that would ensure that the only team that could equal Stanford in the conference standings would be Washington State, which Stanford just earned the tiebreaker over. Survive and advance, yo.
That one hurts for the Pullman faithful. As a result of the loss, Washington State needs Stanford to lose at least two more conference games to get itself into a tiebreaker scenario with the Card and would need Oregon to finish with the same record as Stanford and Washington State to have a chance at getting the tiebreaker (the scenarios are too many to draw out here, just know that Wazzu does not own the head-to-head with Stanford). The better scenario for the Cougs would be to win out and see the Cardinal lose all three of its remaining conference games. Washington State owns the tiebreaker with Oregon via its win in Eugene over the Ducks.
The defending Pac-12 champs are still in the fold after an escape of their own in Tempe, winning the most thrilling game of the season so far by beating Arizona State 61-55 in triple overtime (though Stanford-Wazzu might have something to say about that). In order to play on Dec. 5 for the second straight year, the Ducks need to win out (which would include beating Stanford) and have the Cardinal lose one more game outside of the Nov. 14 showdown. To make things less muddy, another Washington State loss would help since the Ducks lost to the Cougs earlier this season.
If you’re looking for some silver lining around this three-game losing skid, Cal fan, it’s that none of the Golden Bears’ losses have come against Pac-12 North teams, meaning Cal would hold individual tiebreakers over every Pac-12 North team if it wins out. Of course, that means Stanford losing its remaining three conference games and the Ducks and Cougs dropping at least one more as well. First things first though – the Golden Bears can keep their very slim Santa Clara hopes alive by beating Oregon in Eugene next weekend.
Sorry, Husky supporter, but Washington can’t make it to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game this year. Yes, the Dawgs can finish 6-3 in conference and find itself in ties with Stanford and/or Cal, Wazzu and Oregon, but the Dawgs have lost to the Card, Bears and Ducks already, meaning the Huskies would lose out on any three- or more-team tiebreaker. Even if Washington beat its in-state rival and Stanford, WSU and UW were the only teams to finish 6-3, Stanford is 2-0 against the Washington schools and would get the tiebreaker. That’s a long way of saying “set your sights on a bowl game.” But hey, that was a fun 49-3 win over the ‘Cats Saturday night.
At 0-5 in league play, Oregon State is eliminated from Pac-12 title contention.
It’s simple for the Utes – win and in. Following a 27-12 win over Oregon State Saturday night in the first "The Drive Bowl", Utah is the only one-loss team in the Pac-12 South (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12). So if the Utes go 4-0 from here on out, they’ll be in their first Pac-12 Football Championship Game.
It’s also simple for the Bruins – win and in. Despite having two conference losses, UCLA (6-2, 3-2) controls its own destiny because it still has first-place Utah on its schedule. And, since Utah is only one game ahead and the teams meet in Salt Lake City in three weeks, “all” the Bruins have to do is defeat the Utes in front of the MUSS, along with taking down crosstown rival USC, a dangerous Washington State team and Oregon State. Making things more difficult is that UCLA has to play three of its final four games away from the Rose Bowl, so a 10-2, 7-2 mark won’t come without its serious battle tests.
The Trojans (5-3, 3-2) are very much in the thick of the Pac-12 race following their 27-21 win at California, which backed up a thumping of then-No. 3 Utah. However, Clay Helton and Co. need some help in the form of a Utah loss. Should Utah lose one of its final four games – at Washington, at Arizona, home against UCLA, home against Colorado – then USC heads to the Pac-12 Football Championship Game as long as it wins out (that would include beating Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and UCLA).
With three conference losses, the preseason-darling Sun Devils (4-4, 2-3) are on the very far outside looking in. Even if Utah loses lose twice and the Bruins and Trojans each lose once (and ASU wins out), the Sun Devils would still be in serious tiebreaker trouble. If that happens, then head-to-head results among all tied teams come into play (they’d all be 6-3 in Pac-12 action) – Arizona State is 1-2 against those three teams, meaning that it would be very unlikely that a scenario would work in the Sun Devils’ favor. ASU’s “best bet” is for Utah to lose thrice, USC lose twice and UCLA lose once. That way, Arizona State would find itself in a two-way tie for first with UCLA, a team it holds the tiebreaker over. Still, that’s a lot that has to go right.
It’s going to take a minor miracle for the Wildcats to repeat as Pac-12 South champs. The best the Wildcats can do in league play is 5-4 after a humbling loss on Montlake Saturday night. That means beating USC, Utah and Arizona State. The good news is that, if that happens, the ‘Cats have tiebreakers over all those three teams. The bad news is that Utah would need to drop two other games and USC would need to lose once more, while UCLA would have to lose three of its final four (ASU’s fourth loss would be taken care of in the UA-ASU game in this scenario). It is mathematically possible – there are enough games left between North and South schools for this to happen (which the South schools would need to lose, of course) – but like the anti-gambling PSA for the NCAA says, don’t bet on it.
Well Colorado fans, better luck next year, almost certainly. Pretty much everything that applies to Arizona applies to Colorado. It’s not mathematically impossible, just extremely close to impossible.