It seems almost all but official that the Pac-12’s Playoff hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of Washington at this point. I would guess no other Pac-12 will be in striking distance of the top four when they announce the first rankings tonight and that will likely be the end of it.
But I also don’t think that is written in stone. I have seen far too many crazy Novembers in college football and there is a nice little pack of three Pac-12 teams I think have long, longshot chances of getting in the conversation.
So...starting with the least-likely to make the Playoffs, here is a breakdown of the three Pac-12 teams I think could miraculously make it in.
Washington State 6-2 (5-0)
Games left: Arizona, Cal, at Colorado, Washington State
Why they can’t, even if they win out: That FCS loss might be a deal breaker even if it was the Cougars’ only loss. I have a hard time seeing the committee picking a two-loss team who lost to an FCS opponent and a Mountain West opponent into the Playoff.
Why they might if they win out: Those loses were all the way back early-September and the Cougars would be undefeated in-conference, including a conference championship game. It would be pretty crazy for a team who has an undefeated run through a power five conference game to not make the Playoffs. Also, their final three wins would be at Colorado, Washington and USC, Utah or Colorado again in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
What can help them: In conference, the Cougars want Colorado and Washington to win every game before they play them, and they want Utah to win out and meet them in the Pac-12 Championship Game so they play the highest-rated team possible. It would probably be nice if Boise State won out as well.
Utah 7-2 (4-2)
Games left: at Arizona State, Oregon, at Colorado
Why they can’t, even if they win out: The Utes would finish with two conference losses, both in October, with one of them against an average-at-best Cal team. Plus, the Utes’ best win would likely come against Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game which would be a little diluted since they lost to Washington in Salt Lake City earlier in the year.
Why they might if they win out: The Utes would kind of balance out one of their losses a bit if they can beat an undefeated Washington team in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
What can help them: The Utes want Colorado win every game leading up to their game and Washington to win out and get to the Pac-12 Championship Game undefeated. It would also be nice for them if Cal wins out except for against Washington, so they look stronger and if BYU wins out to make that win better.
Colorado 6-2 (4-1)
Games left: UCLA, at Arizona, Washington State, Utah
Why they can’t, even if they win out: On top of already having two losses, the Buffs will also be fighting brand image. I have a feeling the Buffs are still taken very lightly nationally. They could also lack a signature win if they don’t get an undefeated Washington team in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Why they might if they can win out: The Buffs would have one loss, by four points, at USC in early-October (so well in the rear-view mirror) and one at Michigan in a competitive game where Sefo Liufau got knocked out in the game. On the win side, they could close with wins over Washington State, Utah, and an undefeated Washington in the Pac-12 Championship Game. They would also have only one conference loss.
What can help them: They want Washington State and Utah to win out until they face them and then they want Washington to win until they get to the Pac-12 Championship Game. They also want USC to win out except for against Washington, to make that loss look better and to have Michigan win out.