Pac-12 bowl projections: Utah's headed to the Rose Bowl, but it could turn murky from there

Utah Utes players celebrate after they beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Utah Utes players celebrate after they beat the Oregon Ducks in the Pac-12 championship game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

LAS VEGAS — Utah's second bludgeoning of Oregon in three weeks finalized the conference hierarchy but not the Pac-12's bowl picture.

If anything, the situation has become a tad murkier, partly because of what happened on the field at Allegiant Stadium — a 38-10 victory for the Utes — and partly because of the situation that could transpire off the field.

We know Utah is headed to the Rose Bowl for the first time in school history and likely will face Ohio State.

But the Alamo Bowl's situation might be more complicated.

Because of Pac-12 selection policy, the Alamo has its choice of Oregon, Washington State, Arizona State and UCLA.

The Ducks were the presumptive pick for San Antonio if they lost the conference championship — they would own the best record (10-3) and would be the highest-ranked team of the four options.

In fact, they likely will be the only ranked member of the quartet when the selection committee's final top-25 is revealed Sunday morning.

But the double-whammy of a blowout loss to Utah and media reports that Miami is pursuing Ducks coach Mario Cristobal make us hesitant to lock Oregon into the Alamo.

It's not known if Cristobal would accept the job at his alma mater, or when he plans to make a decision.

But we know this: Bowls are loath to invite teams with interim head coaches. The turnover at the top tends to deflate interest and makes the marketing piece more difficult for bowl officials.

If Cristobal bolts for Miami prior to lunchtime Sunday, when the pairings are finalized, the Alamo could opt for the stability one of the other teams provides.

In our opinion, UCLA would be the first choice because of its media market. But Arizona State would certainly be an option for the Alamo.

The Bruins played there in 2015. The Sun Devils have never participated.

That said, our current lean is Oregon to the Alamo. We only raise the potential so that Hotline readers are prepared for all scenarios on Sunday.

Next up is the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Bruins would some appeal, but ASU won the head-to-head matchup and likely would travel well to the game, which is a five-hour drive from Tempe.

It's half-day drive for UCLA fans, too. But many of the fans most likely to buy bowl tickets have already been to Las Vegas for the basketball game against Gonzaga (Nov. 23) and could be returning to Las Vegas for the basketball game against North Carolina (Dec. 18).

What's more, the Las Vegas Bowl is the same day (Dec. 30) as the basketball showdown against Arizona at Pauley Pavilion.

For those reasons, we believe Las Vegas officials will select ASU.

From there, it's easy: The parameters of the selection process would send Washington State (6-3) to the Sun Bowl and Oregon State (5-4) to the LA Bowl.

There's clarity at the very top and at the bottom of the lineup, but some intrigue in the middle.

Our projections, as of Friday night:

Rose: Utah (vs. Big Ten)
Alamo: Oregon (vs. Big 12)
Las Vegas: Arizona State (vs. Big Ten)
Holiday: UCLA (vs. ACC)
Sun: Washington State (vs. ACC)
LA: Oregon State (vs. Mountain West)


Jon Wilner's Pac-12 Hotline is brought to KSL.com 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 jwilner@bayareanewsgroup.com.

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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