PASADENA CA - NOVEMBER 06: Anthony Barr #2 of the UCLA Bruins is tackled by Suaesi Tuimaunei #28 of the Oregon State Beavers during the first quarter at the Rose Bowl on November 6 2010 in Pasadena California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Bowl projections in July? Never feels too early.
Phil Steele, the most thorough college football previewer out there, projects that eight teams in the Pac-12 will win six games or more and earn bowl bids, which would suit the Pac-12 just fine in their first year. Much of it runs conventional.
Here come two more BCS bids for the conference. USC wins the Pac-12 championship game and earns a bid to the Rose Bowl Game to play Big Ten champion Wisconsin.
Oregon ends up as the second best Pac-12 team and gets the second at-large bid to play in the Orange Bowl against South Florida, the Big East champions.
Stanford takes the Pac-12 #2 bid as the top non-BCS invite, and thus will head to the Alamo Bowl to play West Virginia.
Up next is UCLA taking the third bid to the Holiday Bowl to play Kansas State. No doubt the Bruins have the talent available to succeed. Will the coaching match the talent? UCLA has been projected this high before but have yet to really show anything for it. A lot will depend on what Jim Mora can bring that really can make UCLA match USC on the football field.
Then you have Oregon State getting the fourth bid to the Sun Bowl to take on NC State and whoa hold on a minute Oregon State?
The schedule doesn't look too forgiving for the Beavers. Oregon, Wisconsin, Cal, Utah, Arizona State, Washington State at home. UCLA, Arizona, Washington, BYU, Stanford on the road. OSU is coming off a hideous 3-9 season with only win against a team with a winning record. Now they'll be asked to beat anywhere from seven to eight teams to try and earn that fourth seed.
That's a lot that Steele is asking out of Oregon State. Perhaps he's thinking the middle of the conference will eat each other up and OSU can slip in there.
After that you have Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl taking on Boise State, Cal in the Fight Hunger Bowl facing Navy, and then Washington leading the rear in the New Mexico Bowl to face Air Force. Washington being this low is surprising, but the Huskies do have a rough, rough schedule (five of their last seven games on the road, and a deadly trio to start conference play, and did I mention LSU?).
You're starting to see things delineate though between the best of the conference and the rest. USC, Oregon and Stanford stand above the rest, with a clear hodge-podge in the middle. Who knows where anyone belongs.