Conference play means separation, and the PAC 12 gave us that this weekend. A few surprising results and some changing tides have led to an increase in projected bowl-eligible teams, but there’s only so many wins to go around. Nine or ten bowl teams means a lot of 6, 7, and 8 win records and very few if any stand-out squads. Fans no doubt hope for their team to be the one that breaks loose.
UCLA and Colorado both lost games to the North, and Utah defeated Arizona, a game they weren’t favored in. These results are the key driver behind Utah emerging as the number one challenger to USC in the division. Utah’s present 21.3% chance to win at USC represents the most likely loss on the Trojan’s South division slate, but the most likely result is USC triumphant and Utah behind them by a fairly wide margin.
Oregon, Stanford, and Cal are now locked together in a record race, but it’s worth noting that one of Stanford’s losses is out of conference, while the Ducks and the Bears have both lost in conference games. While an out of conference loss is more damaging to the “Back The PAC” ideal, it also means that Stanford is the team best positioned to challenge Washington. The Huskies, however, are utterly dominant at this point. They have a coin flip against Stanford and at least a 79% chance to win every other game.
There are nine teams with more than a 50% chance of being bowl eligible. Cal is still right where they are last week, a 48% chance to win 6 or more. We’re giving them the benefit of the doubt here based on the manner in which they lost to USC- a flukey string of turnovers unlikely to happen again. Cal is going to shock somebody powerful this season.
Another non-conference win brought the PAC’s out of conference record to 27-7, which is a lot of extra wins to spread around the conference and get teams bowl eligible. Since we’re getting into the part where these teams play each other, however, they are going to start falling out of contention. Right now teams are getting credit for half a win here, twenty percent of a win there… but eventually they’ll play those games, and they can’t both get the W.
GAME OF THE WEEK
#5 USC Trojans at #16 Washington State Cougars
Friday, September 29 at 7:30 Pacific/8:30 Mountain
It took four weeks to get there, but we’ve finally got a kick-ass tilt between two heavyweights, with a ton of interesting storylines and unanswered analytical questions. This should be a great one, and everyone should plan on watching every minute.
Also Watch: California at Oregon