Pac-12 Championship Game Madness is Good for the Conference

David Marsh Editorials

The SEC West and East are basically wrapped up at this point, with LSU as the presumptive winner of the West. Georgia, after defeating Tennessee a couple of weeks ago, is in complete control of the East. The B1G West is a mess, but let’s get real here — the winner of the B1G is going to come from the East, and that will be determined the last week of the season between Ohio State and Michigan. Whoever wins that game will win the whole conference. That is of course, if all these teams can avoid any crazy upsets, which feels unlikely to happen.

Even the Big 12 looks like it is pretty much wrapped up with TCU having locked in one of the spots. They will probably go on to win the entire conference at this point, as no one can seem to stop them, despite some glaring weaknesses. Thankfully for TCU, no one in the Big 12 plays defense. The ACC is also down to what looks like their championship teams in Clemson and the University of North Carolina, and Clemson has a massive advantage through talent alone (though Clemson has some serious problems of their own).

That leaves the Pac-12, which is still full of unknowns. It is down to four teams, and this weekend is going to be an informal first round to a tournament for the conference crown. From a spectator’s perspective, the Pac-12 is going to be incredibly entertaining, as four teams have everything to play for at this point in the year — something that isn’t true in any other conference.

This is, in part, due to the new change this year that pits the best two teams in the conference against each other rather than using divisions, which is pretty boring in truth, as the North has has dominated the Pac-12 since it expanded. The divisions are still being used for scheduling purposes at this time, but that is all.

This weekend is all about winning to hold the all-important tie breakers.

Troy Franklin and Kris Hutson have been key players to Oregon’s chances of making the Championship Game.

Oregon, Utah and USC: Win and In

The winner of Oregon vs. Utah will determine one of the Pac-12 Championship Game seats. As it stands right now, Oregon and Utah only have one conference loss. The winner will most likely continue to be a one-loss team that will get a spot in the conference championship game. If Oregon wins the game, it will give Utah two conference losses and they will effectively be eliminated from the running for the conference crown as UCLA holds the tie breaker on Utah. UCLA currently has two losses, and though Utah holds the tie breaker on USC, that doesn’t matter if USC wins because USC will have the better record.

The only way Oregon sits out of the Championship Game at this point is a loss to Utah and if USC wins, as both of those teams would have a better record than Oregon.

The Battle for LA is going to be worth watching for the first time in years. Both LA teams control their own destinies at this point, and the winner effectively gets a seat in the Pac-12 Championship game. For USC it is super simple; if they win, they’re in. They only have one conference loss and if they keep it up, they won’t have to worry about tie breakers. But if USC loses, they will be out no matter what as both Utah and UCLA would hold a tiebreaker over them if they all have two losses.

With UCLA, is it much more complicated.

UCLA Chaos

UCLA sits at two losses right now, so it looks like they are out of it — but the truth of it is that they are still completely in play for a spot in the title game. They are going to need a little help, though. These scenarios both require UCLA to defeat USC, because a UCLA loss would give the Bruins three losses and completely put them out of the running for the Conference Championship.

Oregon owns the tie breaker against UCLA and this could pose a problem for the Bruins.

The first scenario is that Oregon defeats Utah. This is the favorable scenario for UCLA because it gives Utah two losses, which means it goes to the tie breaker, and the Bruins currently hold that tie breaker with the Utes. This puts UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship game in a rematch against the Oregon Ducks.

The second scenario is, on the other hand, bad for UCLA because of their loss to Oregon. If Utah were to win, Utah would get a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game as they only have one loss, to UCLA — but that loss irrelevant because they would be sitting in first place in the Pac-12. Which leads to the second spot in the Championship game having to be determined between two loss Oregon and two loss UCLA and Oregon owns that tie breaker.

This could potentially give Washington a way into the Championship Game because there would be a three way tie as Oregon, UCLA and Washington all would have two losses and each would have a tie breaker over each other, this would default to whoever is the highest ranked. If I were to guess with UCLA’s win over USC in this scenario would probably give the edge to UCLA to get into the Championship Game but this is by no means guaranteed. If Washington were to lose to Washington State the following week it would default back to Oregon.

This weekend is going to be exciting, as it acts as a semi-final to the Conference Championship Game, though the week after could prove dangerous for the winners as Oregon, Utah and UCLA all have another week of conference games after this big weekend. That could potentially make the conference championship game math a bit more complicated, but I would predict at this point losing the final weekend of conference play for any of these teams is a bit unlikely.

Oregon matches up relatively well against Oregon State. The Beavers need to run the ball, and Oregon at least has a decent run defense — and the Oregon State quarterback play has been holding them back all year. Utah should roll Colorado without a problem as Colorado is awful. Then UCLA shouldn’t have a problem with Cal, but if UCLA were to lose to Cal, they are out entirely of the running. If any chaos happens in the last weekend those tie breakers will determine who is in.

This feels like what the run-up to a Conference Championship Game should — exciting and making every game matter. The Pac-12 isn’t the best conference, but it sure feels like the most exciting conference.

David Marsh
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo By Craig Strobeck


Natalie Liebhaber, the Volunteer Editor for this article, works in the financial technology industry in SLC, Utah.


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