Pac-10 Report: League May Not Be Able to Fill Its Bowl Commitments
With USC out of the bowl picture because of NCAA sanctions and Oregon squarely in the national championship conversation, it is increasingly unlikely that the Pac-10 can fill its six bowl slots.
Here's a look at the nine Pac-10 teams with postseason possibilities. Only Washington State at 1-7 is out of the picture. But by the end of the weekend, the bowl positions of a handful of teams will become more clear.
Oregon: The Ducks (7-0, 4-0) are No. 1 in the country in all the polls that aren't created by a computer and in a strong position to earn a spot in the national championship game if they can win out. If the Ducks make it to the title game, it has implications for the rest of the conference's postseason prospects.
Still on the schedule: USC (A), Washington (H), Cal (A), Arizona (H), Oregon State (A).
Stanford (6-1, 3-1): The Cardinal are bowl eligible. So that's done, and they could still go to the Rose Bowl, but only if Oregon stumbles twice down the stretch. If Oregon wins out and earns a trip to Glendale for the title game, and Boise and TCU stay strong, the Rose Bowl will be obligated to take an non-automatic qualifier. Stanford has a relatively friendly schedule the rest of the way, having already played USC and Oregon.
Still on the schedule: Washington (A), Arizona (H), Arizona State (A), Cal (A), Oregon State (H).
Arizona (6-1, 3-1): The Wildcats are in the same spot as Stanford at this point, bowl eligible after only seven games and needing to pile up wins to improve their positioning. But man, this is a tough stretch run for Arizona, particularly if starting quarterback Nick Foles -- who returned to practice Monday - isn't 100 percent down the stretch.
Still on the schedule: UCLA (A), Stanford (A), USC (H), Oregon (A), Arizona State (H).
Oregon State (3-3, 2-1): The Beavers still need three wins in their final six games to nail down a bowl spot. That makes this week's home game against Cal -- which has not been nearly as good on the road as it has at home -- a big one for Mike Riley's team. Because it's a tough stretch run for the Beavers.
Still on the schedule: Cal (H), UCLA (A), Washington State (H), USC (H), Stanford (A), Oregon (H).
USC (5-2, 2-2): No bowl game. But a big spoiler role.
Still on the schedule: Oregon (H), Arizona State (H), Arizona (A), Oregon State (A), Notre Dame (H), UCLA (A).
Cal (4-3, 2-2): Cal needs two more wins, but the Bears better figure out how to win on the road, because the remaining home schedule looks tough.
Still on the schedule: Oregon State (A), Washington State (A), Oregon (H), Stanford (H), Washington (H).
Washington (3-4, 2-2).: Needs three wins in final five games. The Huskies have alternated wins and losses all season and still have three road games on the schedule. The Huskies have won only one of their last 15 games on the road, a streak dating back to November 2007.
Still on the schedule: Stanford (H), Oregon (A), UCLA (H), Cal (A), Washington State (A).
Arizona State (3-4, 1-3): After Saturday's devastating loss at Cal, the Sun Devils are up against it in a big way. They need four wins in five games -- with games still to be played against the top three teams in the conference -- because of the early season schedule that included two Division I-AA opponents.
Still on the schedule: Washington State (H), USC (A), Stanford (H), UCLA (H), Arizona (A).
UCLA (3-4, 1-3): The Bruins need three wins in an up-and-down season that has included some blowout losses, an injured quarterback and multiple suspensions. And it's looking like a big, big chore.
Still on the schedule: Arizona (H), Oregon State (H), Washington (A), Arizona State (A), USC (H).
The Pac-10's bowl picture right now, assuming the Boise and/or TCU stay in their current positions and the bowls were to take the Pac-10 teams in order ... and yes, that's a lot of assuming:
BCS Championship Game: Oregon
Rose Bowl: No Pac-10 team.
Alamo Bowl: Stanford
Holiday Bowl: Arizona
Sun Bowl: Oregon State
Las Vegas Bowl: Cal
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: No Pac-10 team
Blowouts have become fashionable in the Pac-10. For a conference with so much supposed balance, lopsided games are coming with increasing frequency.
Eight games have been decided by more than three touchdowns in the conference season thus far. Three of them happened last week. As a contrast, there have been eight games decided by 10 points or less.
Arizona coach Mike Stoops is using those games as a cautionary tale, illustrating the thin line between a good day and really, really bad one.
"I think it shows you that you can't take anything for granted and you need to respect the game that day," Stoops said. "Some of it is a surprise. Because every time you think somebody is going to make a run, or play really well and they don't play so well, I think those are great examples to show kids. That you better be prepared to play every week or you are going to get clobbered."
• UCLA will be without quarterback Kevin Prince for the rest of the year, Prince having undergone knee surgery late last week. And a Bruins team that has lost consecutive conference games by a 95-20 margin will now rely on a 19-year-old quarterback in Richard Brehaut.
• UCLA will be playing an Arizona team that could be getting its quarterback back this week. Foles returned to practice Monday. But Stoops said he is "questionable." And there might not be a good reason to rush Foles back against a struggling UCLA team, not with the Nov. 6 showdown at Stanford looming.
• Washington coach Steve Sarkisian indicated that quarterback Jake Locker will be on the field Saturday against Stanford despite "general soreness" in the words of Sarkisian.
• Stanford heads up to Seattle for its game against Washington and might not be taking one of its best defensive players in safety Delano Howell, who missed the Washington State game with a wrist injury. As usual, Cardinal coach Jim Harbaugh will give up little in terms of Howell's status, except to concede that Howell "could be out for a while." On the other hand, he's "day-to-day."
• Chris Owusu also missed the game against the Cougars with an undisclosed injury and his status is also unclear.