With the season winding down and only two to three regular season games remaining for each team in the Pac-12, preseason expectations have been thrown out of the window and every game now means about 10 times more than it seemed like it would going in. Taking a look at each Pac-12 team's remaining schedule, here it what they need to do to fulfill realistic goals to finish the season as well as possible.
Wins: Washington, at Utah, Arizona State
Final record: 10-2 (7-2)
It is lofty, but not unrealistic to think that the Wildcats could win their final three games and have a legit shot at winning the South. Beating a struggling and battered Washington at home should be a good start, but it gets much tougher from there. Grinding out a win against a tough Utah team on the road, but the Utes will be at the end of a hellacious run of tough games that could leave them vulnerable against a perpetually-attacking offense. If the Wildcats can do this, it would set up a massive finale with Arizona State in Tucson against a very good, but beatable Sun Devil team whose Playoff and Pac-12 Championship Game hopes they would love to spoil.
Wins: at Oregon State, Washington State, at Arizona
Final record: 11-1 (8-1)
The Sun Devils have a nice warm up for Arizona with the two worst teams in the North on their schedule, but they cannot afford to overlook either of them. If they can avoid upsets in either of those match-ups it will set up an epic game in Tucson that they are going to have to pull out to lock up the South and keep their Playoff hopes alive.
Final record: 6-6 (3-6)
I am very, very tempted to say that Cal should be expected to beat Stanford in Berkeley, but I just don't know if that is a fair expectation right now. To me, just getting to a bowl is a big and attainable goal that would be a huge success for Sonny Dykes after Cal's horrifying 2013 season and injury problems in 2014. I think their best shot at getting that win will be in the closer at home against BYU that gets them back to a bowl game as an at-large selection.
Losses: at Oregon
Final record: 3-9 (1-8)
The Buffs have two very tough games that I generally would not expect them to win, but they have to get a Pac-12 win this season to solidify the improvement they have shown all year. They sure as hell should not be expected to get a win at Autzen, so their only real shot is to upset Utah in Boulder, which though very difficult, is not impossible. The Buffs have a solid offense that can outscore Utah and the Utes will be coming off a nasty run of tough games that could wear them out coming in.
Wins: Colorado, at Oregon State
Final record: 11-1 (8-1)
The Ducks pretty much could not have asked for an easier road to finish the regular season. It will be a major shock if the Ducks don't win these two games.
Wins: at Washington
Losses: Arizona State, Oregon
Final record: 5-7 (2-7)
The Beavers have a very, very tough draw to close the season and made it nearly impossible for themselves to get to a bowl by dropping the game at home against Washington State last Saturday. The Beavers now need to win a road game at Washington and then upset one of the Pac-12's two best teams (or beat both of them) in Corvallis to get a to a bowl game. I would hope that getting to bowl eligibility is a realistic goal for the Beavers, but I just don't think it is fair to expect them to beat Arizona State or Oregon so I would just say getting a win at Washington is their best hope to get some kind of salvage out of the end of the season.
Wins: Utah, at Cal, at UCLA
Final record: 8-4 (6-3)
It might seem lofty to expect Stanford to run the table, but remember that this is a program that won the conference the past two seasons and is still loaded with talent. I am not saying they can do it, but it isn't unreasonable. They should be able to beat a Utah team that is a lot like them, but with less talent at home and overpower their improving rival across the Bay. The tough one will be winning in Pasadena against a UCLA team that is finally firing on all cylinders. If they can do that, a disastrous season turns into just a mildly disappointing one going into a solid bowl game like the San Francisco Bowl.
Wins: USC, Stanford
Final record: 10-2 (7-2)
The Bruins are finally looking like the team everyone expected them to be and they get two huge games at home to finish the season. Both games are major challenges, but I think the Bruins will be favored to win both and then if they can pull them both off, have to hope that Arizona State gets upset so they can win the South.
Wins: at UCLA, Notre Dame
Final Record: 9-3 (7-2)
Expecting wins at UCLA and at home against Notre Dame to end the season is lofty, but this is USC damn't. Going across town to play an inconsistent Bruin team will be a challenge, but still very winnable. The finale against Notre Dame in The Coliseum looks a lot more winnable after watching Arizona State bash the Irish.
Wins: at Stanford, Arizona, Colorado
Final record: 9-3 (6-3)
The Utes are hurting right now after playing the Pac-12's two best teams but more winnable games are on the horizon. That doesn't mean that their remaining schedule is not difficult though, each game should be a battle, but a battle that they can win. If they can do that, they probably still won't win the South, but should still go to a pretty good bowl game.
Wins: Oregon State, at Washington State
Losses: at Arizona
Final record: 8-5 (4-5)
It has been a rough first season for Chris Petersen, but he has a chance to get the Huskies record to a fairly decent one if Washington can win the games down that the stretch that they should. The Huskies can definitely get a win over a struggling Beaver team in Seattle and will likely be favored in the Apple Cup even though it is in Pullman. If the Huskies can get those two wins, they can deal with a loss in a tough game at Arizona and still get to a bowl game with a chance to get nine wins for the second year in-a-row.
Losses: at Arizona State
Final record: 4-8 (3-6)
Getting back to a bowl is out of the question, but they still have a chance to finish the season on a positive note, winning two out of their final three, against Northwest rivals with Washington coming to Pullman for the Apple Cup. Forget about upsetting Arizona State in Tempe, it is now a one-game season for the Cougars as they try to take care of the Huskies and get to four wins.