In the dead of summer, during the initial planning phase for the Pac-12 Hotline, I had grand visions for chronicling the postseason:
The Hotline would provide a comprehensive bowl update, with scenarios for each team and each bowl every week.
It would be one-stop shopping for anyone interested in the ever-evolving postseason picture — a tour de force of permutations and predictions.
Then Week One arrived, I looked at the standings and the schedules … and those grand plans were put on hold.
It was too early. There were too many options. I couldn’t possibly provide insight on a team-by-team, week-to-week, bowl-by-bowl basis.
(Had I made projections after Week One, Oregon State may well have been included.)
So the Hotline bowl updates were delayed until the first signs of true clarity emerged.
It’s now October, six games down and six left (for most teams), and it’s time to begin casting a weekly eye to the postseason.
I am not quite sure how this column will unfold over coming weeks (either the format or the timing). I’d like to slot the bowl projections into a fixed window — Tuesday or Wednesday morning seems best — but that might not be possible.
The past few weeks have featured multiple instances of major news, first the basketball corruption scandal and then the Oregon State/Gary Andersen separation.
Expect the see the bowl projections in the middle of the week, but it will undoubtedly be a fluid situation.
That goes double for the projections themselves: They will be based entirely on the landscape at the time of writing.
A team could be headed to a mid-level bowl one week and removed from consideration the next week if a result changes the outlook significantly.
Also, here are the release dates for the selection committee rankings:
December 3 (Selection Day and Playoff Semifinal teams announced)
Sugar Bowl/semifinal: Washington
Comment: Huskies will lose once, somewhere, but not in the Apple Cup or the Pac-12 title game. At 12-1, and with help from the imploding Big 12, UW returns to the CFP. As the No. 4 seed, they’re paired with No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar.
Fiesta Bowl/New Year’s Six: Washington State
Comment: Can’t win the Apple Cup, can’t win the conference. But Cougars will have the resume for a ranking lofty enough to earn a trip to Phoenix as an at-large entry into the NY6, which brings millions to the Pac-12 coffers.
Alamo Bowl: USC
Comment: Best in the South but multiple losses doom the Trojans’ quest for a major bowl. The Alamo is thrilled, however: USC is a first-timer in San Antonio for Sam Darnold’s final college game.
Holiday Bowl: Stanford
Comment: Another happy Pac-12 postseason marriage: Stanford hasn’t participated in the Holiday — ever — and will produce a good enough season in the rugged North to be an attractive participant. Especially if the opponent is Michigan.
Foster Farms Bowl: UCLA
Comment: Not ideal, given that UCLA played in Santa Clara two years ago (the collapse vs. Nebraska). But the only other option under current projections, Utah, is untenable: The Utes were there in December.
Sun Bowl: Utah.
Comment: Not many desirable landing spots for the Utes in the mid-level bowls because of recent participation (Las Vegas in 2014-15 and Foster Farms in ’16). El Paso works for everyone.
Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona
Comment: Yep, I’ve got the Wildcats for six wins — as of this very moment, with little confidence in that projection — and their first trip to Vegas in a decade.
Cactus Bowl: Colorado
Comment: Not sure CU fans would be thrilled with this after winning the division a year ago, but the bowl might not have a choice. Pac-12 selection process calls for Sun, Las Vegas and Cactus to invite teams in order of finish; there’s no option for bypassing.
Not currently projected to qualify: Arizona State, Oregon State and Cal
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