Pac-12 bowl projections: Oregon's loss cost the conference more than a playoff berth

Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

Utah's demolition of third-ranked Oregon did more than knock the Pac-12 out of the playoff race. It eliminated all hope of the conference sending a second team to the major New Year's bowls.

In addition to enhancing the Pac-12's reputation, a second New Year's Six participant would have generated millions of dollars in postseason revenue for the collective that was not included in campus budget projections.

Free cash, an enhanced profile, berths in multiple major bowls — and it was blasted to smithereens as the Utes trampled the two-time defending conference champions.

How might have the situation played out?

There were two paths to a windfall:

1 — Oregon in the College Football Playoff.

Had the Ducks won out, their berth in the semifinals would have resulted in a $6 million paycheck for the conference split equally among the schools.

(Oregon's travel expenses would have been covered separately by the CFP.)

Meanwhile, a second team — most likely Utah — would have filled the Pac-12's spot in the Rose Bowl opposite the Big Ten, as usual.

2 — Oregon in the New Year's Six.

If the Ducks had beaten Utah and polished off Oregon State this weekend, they would have been 11-1 entering the conference championship, with a top-four playoff ranking.

With a victory in the rematch, the Utes would have headed to the Rose Bowl for their first appearance ever in the Granddaddy. Meanwhile, Oregon would have been in play for the New Year's Six at-large berths.

Had it been a close loss, the Ducks probably would have remained in the top 10 of the final playoff rankings. (Other top-10 teams would have lost on championship weekend, as well, thereby limiting Oregon's fall.) As a top-10 team, the Ducks would have moved to the at-large pool and been slotted into the Fiesta Bowl by the selection committee.

A berth in the New Year's Six would have generated $4 million for the Pac-12, split equally among the schools. That's not quite playoff money, but every campus would have gladly accepted a $333,000 paycheck.

Instead, the Ducks were blown off the field as Utah did exactly what it was supposed to do: Compete at the highest level possible and see what Oregon could offer in return.

The answer: not much.

To the projections …

Rose Bowl

Team: Utah (8-3/7-1)

Home games (one): Colorado

Comment: Our forecast calls for the Utes to defeat the North winner (Oregon, Oregon State or Washington State) and advance to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history. If that's the case, don't discount the possibility that it could be Kyle Whittingham's final game.

Alamo Bowl

Team: Oregon (9-2/6-2)

Home games (one): Oregon State

Comment: Following up the scenarios laid out above: Oregon's loss over the weekend guarantees that the loser of the conference championship won't be ranked the top 10 on the final weekend, thus eliminating the Pac-12 from the at-large pool for New Year's Six bids.

Las Vegas Bowl

Team: UCLA (7-4/5-3)

Home games (one): Cal

Comment: With a victory this week, the eight-win, Chip Kelly-led, major-media-market Bruins would become the best option for an upgraded bowl game being staged in Allegiant Stadium for the first time and looking for the most attractive matchup against a Big Ten opponent.

Holiday Bowl

Team: Arizona State (7-4/5-3)

Home games (one): Arizona

Comment: Interesting call here for the Holiday, which would have its choice of ASU or Washington State. The Cougars participated in 2016 and 2017, while ASU's last appearance was 2013. Then again, we think there's a chance Herm Edwards steps down before the bowl, which would be suboptimal for pre-game buzz.

Sun Bowl

Team: Washington State (6-5/5-3)

Road games (one): Washington

Comment: WSU is one of several teams with a range of outcomes that will impact the postseason lineup. The Cougars still have a path to the Rose Bowl, for example, but they could also fall to the LA Bowl with a loss in the Apple Cup and certain results in other games. Our forecast calls for an Oregon win this week, which would block WSU from the championship game.

LA Bowl

Team: Oregon State (7-4/5-3)

Road games (one): Oregon

Comment: Another team still alive in the North and thus with a path to Pasadena. If the Beavers win Saturday, they probably won't fall below the Holiday, which would be delighted to welcome an eight-win team that promises an energized fan base and hasn't participated in the bowl. Ever.

ESPN Bowl (Gasparilla, First Responders, Armed Forces)

Team: Cal (4-6/3-4)

Home games (one): USC

Road games (one): UCLA

Comment: Cal is highly motivated this week, whereas the Bruins have their postseason secure: They're bowl-eligible but cannot win the South. If the Bears sweep the Bruins and Trojans, they're in — after a 1-5 start.


Team: Arizona (1-10/1-7)

Road games (one): Arizona State

Comment: Arizona's bowl game is Saturday at 1 p.m. in Sun Devil Stadium.


Team: Colorado (4-7/3-5)

Road games (one): Utah

Comment: Had the Buffaloes kept Texas A&M out of the end zone in the final minutes on Sept. 11 — with a backup quarterback, no less — they would have plenty to play for this weekend.


Team: Stanford (3-8/2-7)

Home games (one): Notre Dame

Comment: In addition to its seventh consecutive loss, the Cardinal is staring at the distinct possibility of a fourth consecutive blowout.


Team: USC (4-6/3-5)

Home games (one): Brigham Young

Road games (one): Cal

Comment: Leaderless, rudderless and (seemingly) hopeless. For the cratering Trojans, the odds of two more losses are far more likely than two wins.


Team: Washington (4-7/3-5)

Home games (one): Washington State

Comment: Leaderless, rudderless and (completely) hopeless. But at least the Huskies still have something to play for: They can spoil their rival's dreams.

Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to through a partnership with the Bay Area News Group.

Jon Wilner has been covering college sports for decades and is an AP Top 25 football and basketball voter as well as a Heisman Trophy voter. He was named Beat Writer of the Year in 2013 by the Football Writers Association of America for his coverage of the Pac-12, won first place for feature writing in 2016 in the Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest and is a five-time APSE honoree. You can follow him on Twitter @WilnerHotline or send an email at

Pac-12 Hotline: Subscribe to the Pac-12 Hotline Newsletter. Pac-12 Hotline is not endorsed or sponsored by the Pac-12 Conference, and the views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of the Conference.

Jon Wilner


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