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Pac-12 South scenarios: ASU in driver's seat, but UCLA, USC and Arizona loom

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With only four regular season weeks left, the Pac-12 South race is still up for grabs.

Ralph Freso

The Pac-12 North is all but wrapped up. The Oregon Ducks can clinch their spot in Santa Clara by beating one of their final three opponents, two of which include Colorado and Oregon State. Obviously Oregon has bigger goals, but barring the miracle of all miracles, they should be headed to Santa Clara.

The Pac-12 South? It's muddled a bit.

With three weeks left, it's probably a bit too early to project. But here are the tiebreaking procedures for each of these schools.

  1. Head-to-head (best record in games among the tied teams).
  2. Record in games played within the division.
  3. Record against the next highest placed team in the division (based on record in all Conference games, both divisional and cross-divisional), proceeding through the division.
  4. Record in common Conference games.

Arizona St. Sun Devils (7-1, 5-1 in conference)

Final games: Notre Dame, at Oregon State, Washington State, at Arizona

It's as simple as this for Arizona State. If they win out, they're in. If they lose once, they have to hope that UCLA doesn't win out, as UCLA does own the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The team they would not want to lose to is Arizona, as they would lose any head-to-head tiebreakers between them and the Bruins if the three schools ended up in a three-way tie or a two-way tie of sorts. But Arizona State has to feel pretty confident that they will be the favorites to win the crown until the final week of the season.

USC Trojans (6-3, 5-2 in conference)

Final games: Cal (Thu.), at UCLA, Notre Dame

USC's fate in this race is totally tied to Arizona State's. Although they currently sit second in the conference, their chances of winning the South are rather dim. To win the Pac-12 outright, the Trojans would have to win out and hope ASU loses twice in their conference games, and that means a loss to Washington State or Oregon State plus Arizona.

So this means the Trojans would have to win by tiebreaker, which is still quite possible.

  • USC must win out and eliminate UCLA from contention and tiebreakers so that they finish away in 4th.
  • Arizona must win out and force a three-way tie by beating Arizona State and it would come down to who had the best record against the 4th place team, UCLA. USC would be the only one with the win, so they'd go to the Pac-12 title game.

UCLA Bruins (7-2, 4-2 in conference)

Final games: at Washington, USC, Stanford

UCLA's scenario is simple. They must win out and hope Arizona State loses once (probably to Arizona, and UCLA won't care about tiebreakers at that point since they've beaten both teams). UCLA holds tiebreakers over Arizona and Arizona State, and with Utah likely to lose at least one more game left, the Bruins don't have to worry about any head-to-head matchups in those cases.

It should go without saying that a loss to USC will eliminate them from all but the most remote scenarios of winning the South.

Arizona Wildcats (6-2, 3-2 in conference)

Final games: Colorado, Washington, at Utah, Arizona State

Arizona is in a tough spot. Although they have the most impressive in-conference win against Oregon, they are currently losing the tiebreakers against teams right next to them in USC and UCLA.

Utah Utes (6-2, 3-2 in conference)

Final games: Oregon, at Stanford, Arizona, at Colorado

If you believe Utah can survive their next three weeks undefeated (a gauntlet that includes home to Oregon, at Stanford, home to Arizona), then more power to you. If they do do that, they have a great shot.

Now, the good thing for Utah is that if they beat Arizona and Colorado, they will be 4-1 in the South and probably own most of the divisional tiebreakers if it comes to that. Since Arizona State wins the head-to-head with Utah, what would be ideal for the Utes is if they finish in a three or four-way tie for the top spot in the division.

So if Arizona State can't lose twice,complicated tiebreakers with Arizona, UCLA, USC and ASU appear to be the answer. A 4 or 5-way tiebreaker of some sort would be the best way for the Utes to get back into the fold.